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Teleworking in Japan shrinks after COVID, hybrid working on rise

The ratio of teleworkers in Japan continued to fall as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes while more turn to “hybrid work” combining remote work and in-office work, a fiscal 2023 government survey showed.

The online survey, conducted by the transport ministry in October and November, found that 5,832 of the 36,228 respondents, or 16.1 percent, worked from home or elsewhere outside the office in the last year, down 2.7 percentage points from the previous survey.

Teleworking became popular during the pandemic under the government’s drive to reduce the flow of people to slow the spread of infections, but the ministry noted a slight shift in the trend.

Photo taken March 30, 2023, shows Sumitomo Life Insurance Co.’s headquarters in Tokyo with few seats and no assigned desks as it adapts to telework. (Kyodo)

The ratio was 21.4 percent in the fiscal 2021 survey and dropped to 18.8 percent the following year.

The latest survey showed the average frequency of teleworking was 2.3 days per week, unchanged from a year ago.

After the government downgraded the legal status of COVID-19 in May last year, roughly aligning it with seasonal influenza, the change in teleworking patterns became notable.

Those working remotely just one day or two days a week rose to 13.5 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively, up from 9.5 percent and 14.4 percent between 2020 and 2022 during the novel coronavirus outbreak. In contrast, those who worked remotely five to seven days a week came to 28.7 percent, down from 34.7 percent.

“Following the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a growing trend of combining going to the office and telework,” a ministry official said.

The survey also suggested that bigger cities have the highest rates of remote working.

By region, the teleworking rate in the greater Tokyo area was 28 percent, followed by 15 percent in the Kinki region covering Osaka and Kyoto, 13.3 percent in the Chukyo region centered on Nagoya, and 8.8 percent in other regional cities.

Related coverage:

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Japan left to rethink COVID grants as telework facilities empty out

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