Who´s Responsibility? – Zaitaku 4

June 13, 2011 Juju Kurihara Business, Culture, Japan, Society Tags: 1 Comment

This is the fourth series of Don´t Make Japanese Salaryman Work From Home.


at workJapanese salarymen are so used to work in this way, so it´s normal they feel strange not going to the office. An employee of Panasonic who has worked from home once said “I was paranoid that people might think that I was sitting around at home and doing nothing”.

For them, it´s much better getting on the packed train and working at the small desk even though it´s less productive than feeling paranoia. Now we can see that the biggest obstacle to expanding zaitaku (在宅/ working from home) is the principle of Japanese business; “being all together”.


Why “being all together” is so important?


Because in Japanese business system, there is no standard evaluation system. Which means there is no clear role or norm for each employee.

As it´s mentioned in the previous articule, the main characteristic of Japanese business system based on the family structure is helping each other; “mutual help”. This can be a good system but at the same time, this system clouds each person´s role and evaluation.

waHaving his or her own role and a standard evaluation system over their norm defines each employee´s responsibility. And this is quite uncomfortable for Japanese people because they feel like being blamed for their irresponsibility before people help them. With this way, it cannot be created harmony (wa/和in Japanese) between the society and there will be no family bond.


This is how uncertain evaluation system has been created in Japan. The thing is that they didn´t need it because as long as people are all together, the system keeps functioning and at the end the work will be done, and that is enough, even enough for Japanese society. Also by doing this, all of them can get satisfaction of the work is done.

On the contrary, this doesn´t work if they work from home individually. Since they don´t have their specific role, they don´t know what to do. Suddenly it becomes quite obvious that they are just killing time at home while they didn´t feel it when they were in the office. In this way it doesn´t make much sense for zaitaku.


lazySince there is no specific responsibility, it´s hard to evaluate each salaryman´s work. On top of that, the person is not in the office and cannot see him/her. Then naturally it comes up a doubt “is he/she really working?” Of course, no one wants to work from home nor the companies don´t want their employee to be zaitaku. And this is the reality in Japan.

If each one has their role and the evaluation system is clear, it doens´t matter where you work from, and zaitaku will become more common. Moreover the work productivity will increase. There is no reason for getting together for nothing. To make this happen in Japan, it´s necessary to change the concept of family bond in the business system in Japan.

The end (This series was translated version of an article of JB Press on the 31st of May 2011)



I´ve found this quite interesting. I know Japanese people are really concern about others and always care about how others think, see and say about them. But seems like they cannot live without being seen by others. Others have become so important that the presence of them seems to have become the way to evaluate themselves. Curious.

Writing this in my cosy and sunny living room of my little flat with my dog under my feet and think, how lucky I´m not in the office right now.



More about Japanese working situation

Kagome initiates no Zangyo after 8 

Service overtime work 


Zaitaku 2

Zaitaku 3

1 Comment

  1. Rina 3 years Reply

    This is a good read! Thanks for sharing this insight.

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