Supervisors and new employees sitting at one table for more efficient work.
Mr. Susumu Kamimura
Director General of Administrative Management Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan
Since 2015 the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication has started to implement a trial of a new Work Style model to achieve a better work-life balance. This means less paper work, less overtime work, less time spent on commuting, but more communication, more telework, and more flexibility. Mr. Susumu Kamimura, Director General of Administrative Management Bureau shares the motivations for these changes and what are the outcomes
—The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has been conducting a makeover to its office environment by introducing new sitting plan (free address system), banning paper and increasing telework opportunities. What were the motivations to implement those changes?
With a declining birthrate, aging society and shrinking working-age population in Japan, we need to improve productivity and to approve various work styles in order to keep good balance between work and family.
We planned the office makeover from mid 2014 and implemented it in early 2015.
I think our communication has dramatically improved since the implementation. Previously, for example, managers and directors had seats near the window while junior level workers sat on the corridor side. This arrangement did not allow us to hear the opinions and information given from the younger staff. But now, with the new arrangement of sitting together, we can listen to each other much better and make decision quicker, and raise productivity at the end. In addition, we can use telework in the office. We are very motivated to be a bureau in charge of administrative reforms.
Our former Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, Fumiaki Matsumoto, observed the Canadian e-government and proposed the office rearrangement in the Japanese ministries. That served as the catalyst of our makeover, which is the first trial in the Japanese Government. More than 250 people including parliamentarians and officials of local government have visited our office.
—The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is seen as an example for being one of the first to implement those changes. Do you think this new working style will become a common thing for governmental offices and also private companies?
70% of our staff positively value the office because “it activated our communications.”
One month after launching the new office, we conducted an in-house questionnaire, which turned out that 70% of our staff positively value the office because “it activated our communications.” Of course, some may become concerned during the process of expanding the makeover all over the ministry. However, we think that the new model will slowly spread to other ministries.
Some private companies have already implemented more advanced reforms than us. However, I believe that the reforms at the central government level will lead the private sector to change the way of working even more. The aging and shrinking society is a common problem in both public and private sectors. Therefore, the key solution is a sustainability―making a user-friendly environment, which would allow all to work continuously at any stage. We have to change our work styles. It’s important to emphasize that we aim to change not only an office style but also our mentality in Japan.
—The home office is now seen as a viable alternative to commuting to a corporate facility. Do you have any home-based employees? How do you see this trend evolving in Japan?
The telework system can be a good solution for gender and diversity mainstreaming.
Our ministry doesn’t have regular home-based employees yet. However, we consider it as a good model for a various work styles. For the moment only one of our employee, a woman, works from home using telework system. She can take care of her family at the same time, maintaining her work-life balance. In Japan, 30% of the government officers are women. This number yet needs to be increased. The telework system can be a good solution for gender and diversity mainstreaming.