Aug 6, 2018

Could Monday mornings be set to shine for workers across Japan?

Could Monday mornings be set to shine for workers across Japan? photo

On the last Monday of July (the 30th) 30% of staff at the office of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) took the morning off instead of leaving early the previous Friday in a trial run to explore the possibility of “Shining Monday” as a way to bolster participation in the 2017-launched Premium Friday government initiative.

Participation in Premium Friday, which encourages workers to leave work early (3pm) on the last Friday of the month, would appear to be far from premium with a report published by the Premium Friday Promotion Council Secretariat revealing that an average of just 11.2% of workers had left home early during the first year of the initiative.

In a video broadcast by TV Asahi the same day as “Shining Monday,” one of the difficulties facing workers who might wish to participate in Premium Friday is cited by METI as being that the last Friday of the month is typically the busiest. The ability then to come in later the following Monday is being explored as a possible alternative.

The idea of “Shining Monday” comes after Premium Friday celebrated its one-year anniversary in February this year, shortly after which the Premium Friday Promotion Council Secretariat, working out of the offices of METI, released a report based on surveys targeting the performance of the initiative.

The “Premium Friday 1-Year Review,” report revealed that, despite awareness of the day being at around 90% (70% of that being “highly aware”), only an average 11.2% of workers (regular and nonregular across Japan) surveyed had left home early on all 12 Fridays of year one.

The news wasn’t all bad though, with participating companies citing their implementation of Premium Friday as having motivated staff, overseen a reduction in overtime hours, and sparked better health among workers. 

In fact many of the participating companies (around 30%) chose to implement Premium Friday as a way to motivate their employees. Only around 14% of companies did so in response to requests from the government and economic organizations that first tabled the idea. 

Since the video broadcast by TV Asahi on July 30, media around the world have been quick to label Shining Monday and Premium Friday as attempts by the government to address the issue of overwork in Japan. Many reports cite the case of Matsuri Takahashi, a young employee at advertising giant Dentsu, who took her own life in 2015 in what is now officially a case of death from overwork, as sparking authorities into action.

“Don’t you want to enjoy a slightly fuller weekend?” reads the opening catch copy on the Premium Friday website as it proceeds to talk about how the average worker could meet up with friends and family, walk the streets in daylight, or add a half-day onto a weekend getaway.

While creating the opportunity for workers across Japan to leave early and engage in such wholesome pursuits might seem like a gesture of goodwill or concern on the part of authorities it also came with the hope of injecting much needed fiscal stimulus into the economy.

In the “Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform 2017” released by the Cabinet Office in June 2017, under the section heading of “Revitalization of consumption” Premium Friday is described as being, “a public-private initiative leading to the activation of consumption and to work style and lifestyle reform.” 

And here perhaps the potential for confusion and reluctance surrounding Premium Friday and any future Shining Monday is laid out -- What’s the priority? “Activation of consumption,” or “work style and lifestyle reform?”

The extra time and business tie-ups / promotions would seem to present a “chicken or the egg” type of conundrum for potential participants and consumers -- Are these bargains aimed at taking advantage of me in my free time, or are they aimed at encouraging ME to actually take advantage of my free time in the first place?

The answer doesn’t appear to be clear and perhaps this is one of the reasons only a few people are biting at the chance to leave the office early.  

We’re unlikely to bite on a shiny Monday morning either, but then the focus here would be on the previous Sunday. Instead of have us consumed by that nauseating sense of dread that kicks in at around 3pm on a Sunday, “Shining Monday” will free us up to enjoy the day in its entirety.

Perhaps though, the best way to make “Shining Monday” a success would be to give workers the freedom to call it in as soon as they wake up and realize what day it is.

Did you leave work as a result of Premium Friday? Like the sound of a “Shining Monday?” Let us know in the comments

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Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform 2017 (Jun. 9, 2017, Cabinet Office)

Premium Friday 1-Year Review (Feb. 23, 2018, Premium Friday Promotion Council Secretariat)



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