Japan's government rolled out its first postwar reform of employment practices last March which included a plan for tackling the nation's history of notoriously long and dangerous working hours.
The renewed calls for labor reform came after a young woman employed by advertising giant Dentsu Inc. committed suicide on Christmas Day because she was allegedly only sleeping 10 hours a week to keep up with her intense work load, leading her to become depressed.
This death from overwork, known as "karoshi" in Japan, inspired the government's new plan to set maximum overtime work at 100 hours per month. It also includes a nationwide “Premium Friday" campaign to encourage employees to leave work early on the last Friday of every month.
While the national conversation on work reform is welcomed, the methods have been met with criticism by some Japanese companies.
Kintone's parent company Cybozu Inc., which specializes in cloud-based groupware and operations improvement services to support teamwork enhancement in society, is on a constant mission to raise social awareness of the challenges faced by the work-style reforms being promoted in Japan today.
For the company's 20th anniversary, a series of three videos, animated by acclaimed director Yuji Uchiyama, explains why Cybozu is pushing for a company system that respects diverse working styles rather than pushing for a uniform culture with initiatives like "Premium Friday's" that continues the tradition of telling employees when and where to work.
The animated videos features 'Ant,' who amid a wave of work-style reform, is feeling uneasy at work. It also stars 'Grasshopper' who decides to visit Ant's office to find out what leading-edge work styles are all about.
The three episodes cover themes of Overtime Work, Women Empowerment, and Ikuman (husbands taking active role in childcare).
Cybozu's Brand Director Yukio Ohtsuki sat down with Kintone Marketing Manager Nicole Jones to share more about the project and the impact it's had on the converation of work style reform thus far.
What inspired the creation of this animation for the 20th anniversary of Cybozu?
Our advanced work style reforming compared with ordinary Japanese companies has been ongoing for 12 years. We focus on diversity and have promoted reforms to recognize various ways of working with the vision, "If there are 100 people, there are 100 ways of working."
Recently, the movement of work style reform in many Japanese companies has spread. Since we had a huge reaction by releasing a movie depicting working mother's daily life in 2014, we decided to continue a similar message campaign on this 20th anniversary year of Cybozu.
What has been the reaction so far?
The videos have been viewed over 300,000 times on YouTube. So far, there are a lot of positive voices because it is not a forced message from the country or the company, but it conveys the voice of the business person having trouble with the work reform system.
Why is this an important story to tell?
When we look closely at the content of reforms of working style that are progressing in Japanese companies, we notice that each person's lifestyle is not respected, and instead people must fit the company mold.
Since Japanese society is a highly uniform society, it is unavoidable to avoid. But it is not impossible to create the diverse work styles that Cybozu is aiming for.
Whether it's both parents working, a stay at home dad, a single mom, or whatever the situation may be, families have very different structures that require different styles work stylesm, whether that's starting their day later or working remotely. We want to build a company culture to support these different needs.
What is the most important message you want the viewer to leave with?
The essence of working style reform shouldn't be a uniform treatment forced by the company, but instead be influenced by various employee's way of living to support their well-being.
What was it like working with director Yuji Uchiyama?
Great! He's known as the original creator of "Paper Rabbit Rope," which has many fans in Japan and is still being broadcast on TV. Mr. Uchiyama is a skilled talent who can handle pictures and character's voice by himself. We learned many things in entertaining an audience by making this animation together.
You can watch the three videos below and learn more about Cybozu's 20th anniversary work style campaign here.
About the Author
Nicole is Director of Marketing at Kintone, with 10+ years experience in content strategy, campaign management, lead acquisition and building positive work cultures of empowered, purpose-driven team members. She spent seven years as a journalist, previously serving as a CBS San Francisco digital producer, NPR contributor, Patagon Journal deputy editor and reporter for several publications, including the Chicago Tribune. She's passionate about the tech for good space, social entrepreneurship and women leadership. On the weekends, you’ll likely find her putting her Master Gardener skills to use in at community gardens in Oakland.