Thursday, August 20, 2015

The 7 A.M. - 3 A.M. workday in Japan

At 3 a.m. on Monday morning, Eriko Fujita leaves the IBM offices in Tokyo. She rushes home to take a shower and get a few hours of sleep before she returns to her office at 7 a.m.

This is the hidden side of life at IBM Japan. For a period of eight months, Fujita, whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity, averages 18 to 20 hours of work per day, including Saturdays and Sundays. Her working hours are particularly demanding since she interfaces with programmers in different time zones, including those in the U.S.

“We don't have a 5 o’clock-and-get-out kind of culture,” she says with a shrug. While her schedule depends on the specific project, she says her typical workday lasts about 15 hours. ...

Fujita's situation is not uncommon in Japan, where overtime work has increased as firms cut workforces. About 22% of Japanese employees work 50 hours or more each week on average, well above 11% in the U.S., and 6% in Spain, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. ...

In Fujita's case, the long hours became overwhelming. Eventually, she took a three-month leave of absence from IBM.

"I had a mental breakdown," she says. "I was working so hard and not sleeping well. Physically and mentally I got so tired... I was crying for no reason. I didn't know why my tears are coming out."
--Justine Underhill, Yahoo! Finance, on making Amazon's work culture look humane