Japanese firms use office drones to force overworking employees to go home

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Japan has been known for long-hour work culture for decades, but some companies are trying to change that. By using office drones that play a farewell song, companies want to remind overworking employees it’s time to go home, local media reported.

Telecom giant NTT East Corp. and two other companies announced last week that they are launching the service next April, the Japan Times reported. A monthly service fee of 50,000 yen (450 U.S. dollars) per drone is expected.
According to Xinhua, the drone was created by a Tokyo-based start-up, it will fly around the offices on a scheduled flight path blasting Auld Lang Syne, which is usually played in Japanese malls before closing. The drone can also film inside offices to identify employees who stay after work hours.

Will this solve the problem? Some experts doubt that, saying workers will likely take work home if they are harassed by the music, and the key issue is to cut workloads for them.
Working for excessive hours in Japan caused thousands of deaths every year, with victims mostly in their 30s and 40s. A white paper on “Karoshi”, meaning “death by overwork”, last year showed 22.7 percent of some 1,700 companies surveyed had employees who worked more than 80 hours of overtime in a month.

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An effective tool?
“Even if this robotic harassment gets workers to leave the office, they will take work home with them if they have unfinished assignments,” Scott North, professor of sociology at Osaka University, told BBC. “To cut overtime hours, it is necessary to reduce workloads, either by reducing the time-wasting tasks and tournament-style competitions for which Japanese workplaces are notorious, or by hiring more workers.”

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