It is 16:15 on a week day, what do you do?

While abroad Japan is known for long working hours, the longer I live in Japan the more I doubt about efficiency and employee commitment. I have experienced several times that a business contact looked really disappointed or concerned, when I finish up a meeting outside of their office at 16:15. Then asking for the reason on why they might be upset, I am told that if an employee on outside duty ends their task before 17:15 the employee is expected to return to the office. Otherwise at 17:15, the employee is allowed to go directly home. While I had been happy at 16:15 that I have still a couple of hours to go to catch up with emails and other tasks at the office, for others going back to the office seemed torture.
Personally I believe most important is to get the necessary work done at the job, while trying the best to keep a work-live balance. Chances are that I work too long hours, but it gives me at the same time joy to see business growing. Seeing then with others the desire to cheat the company out of a few hours, I can only but wonder, why they even bother go to work for such an “annoying” job. Yes, most likely due to my upbringing abroad I cannot imagine to spend the biggest part of my day with a duty that does not put a smile of my face. I believe it is as well my duty as an employee – simply because I get paid for the tasks done – I owe the company actually to get the job done.
From my understanding there is a huge difference between a salary and receiving social benefits from the government. Considering the economic situation of Japan, add the necessary cost for the reconstruction after the earthquake, I really wonder why those business contacts do not feel bad about their selfishness.
I do appreciate if you can explain to me, why “let’s not end meetings before 17:15” makes sense, for the company or the individual.

Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)

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