Yahoo Japan is telling its 8,000 employees that they can work anywhere in the country and even be flown into work when the job requires it, bucking the trend of companies looking to return workers to offices in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program is to take effect on April 1 and allows employees to commute by plane, which was not previously an option, the company said in a statement yesterday.
While Yahoo is best known for its Internet portal in Japan, it is a unit of Softbank Group Corp’s Z Holdings Corp, which also owns the Line messaging app and PayPay mobile payments service.
Ninety percent of the company’s employees are now working remotely, said Z Holdings president Kentaro Kawabe, who wrote on Twitter that an overwhelming majority of them said their performance has held steady or improved at home.
“So we’re allowing Yahoo employees to live anywhere in Japan. This doesn’t mean we’re denying the benefits of the office — you’ll be able to fly in when needed,” Kawabe wrote.
Yahoo is setting a commuting budget of ￥150,000 (US$1,300) per month per worker and lifting its previous daily cap.
In-person communication will still be encouraged, as the initiative is also aimed at bolstering morale and well-being, with social gatherings to be subsidized by ￥5,000 per employee a month.
The company has had an “office anywhere” remote work system in place since 2014, but it had capped the number of work-from-home days before the virus took hold to five days a month.
Japanese companies have responded to the pandemic by embracing flexible work arrangements, which were rare before 2020 in a culture that once prided itself on direct interaction in the office and long working hours.
Panasonic Corp last week unveiled plans for a four-day workweek, an initiative that Mizuho Financial Group Inc already has under way.
Around the world, workers grew more uncomfortable about heading back to the office in the first week of the year and were much more likely to consider quitting if their employer demanded they return, a sign that companies’ efforts to get people back amid rising COVID-19 caseloads face stiff resistance.
The share of remote workers who would consider leaving their job if they were asked back to the office before they felt safe rose to 55 percent as of Thursday last week, up from 45 percent just a week earlier, data from pollster Morning Consult showed.
More than four in 10 workers felt unsure about returning to the office, compared with 35 percent who said so on Dec. 30, Morning Consult’s weekly survey found.
The findings come as Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc and other companies once again delay plans to bring employees back to their desks as the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 sweeps through the US.
The surge has led to staffing shortages with millions of Americans calling in sick, on top of those who have already quit, sapping the nation’s economic recovery.
Employers are also unsure whether the US Supreme Court will toss out a vaccine shot-or-test rule proposed by the administration of US President Joe Biden.
“When organizations don’t communicate effectively about what the future looks like, it creates uncertainty and can cause people to quit,” said Jim Harter, lead scientist of workplace and well-being at Gallup Inc. “Matching what employers and workers want going forward is essential, because work will never be the same again.”
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