Culture

How Japan’s journeymen suffer stress on the daily commute

As Japan struggles to reform its working culture and introduce more flexible practices, research from the Xymax Real Estate Institute shows the impact of commuting stress on Tokyo’s management class

High levels of commuter stress are having a negative impact on job satisfaction in Japan and spilling over into private lives as well, according to a research study from Xymax Real Estate Institute in Tokyo.

Xymax canvassed more than 2,000 office workers in the Greater Tokyo area between the ages of 20 and 69 on the effects of commuting stress. The research, conducted as part of Xymax’s regular studies of changes in workstyle in Japan, revealed that the longer the commuting time, the greater the stress experienced by workers.

Those travelling to the centre of Tokyo – taking an hour or more in many cases – experienced higher levels of stress than those going shorter distances to suburban workplaces. Average commute time to the workplace was 49 minutes. Men generally faced longer journey than women. Middle managers recorded higher levels of commuting stress than either more senior executives or more junior regular and non-regular workers.

‘The shorter the commute, the greater the job satisfaction…’

The lower the level of commuting stress, the more research respondents said they enjoy their job and feel engaged and productive; they also feel more satisfied with their private life.

The results not only demonstrate the devastating effects of long commuting times on productivity and wellbeing in Tokyo, but also present Japanese companies with a stark challenge to reform work practices and move away from an inflexible office model bound by time and place.

The question the Xymax report poses is how to achieve change. Some of the ideas explored in the study include more flexible and time-efficient work regimes, better workplace comfort and offering a choice of multiple workplaces to work in.

It is likely that the squeeze on Tokyo’s transport system during the 2020 Olympic Games will encourage more Japanese companies to experiment new ways of working in advance. But with a culture of long commutes, fixed hours and presenteeism embedded in the Japanese workplace, achieving lasting reforms will be a long road to travel.

Read the full Xymax report on Tokyo’s commuting stress here.

The WORKTECH Tokyo 2020 conference takes place on 2 April 2020 at the Toranomon Hills Forum. Read the WORKTECH Tokyo 2019 report here