Will Premium Friday change the way the Japanese work?

The Japanese do not need to be told that they overwork, as this is widely acknowledged. It is a culture where closing departments stores on Sundays is unimaginable unlike many western countries, and a full-time business employee typically works eight hours a day for five days a week plus overtime everyday. We have come a long way considering that 30 years ago, the average business person worked on Saturdays as well, but it still does not change the fact that the Japanese work a little too much.

The Japanese government recently launched a “Premium Friday” campaign that calls on people to finish work at 3pm on the last Friday of each month. The campaign aims to expand domestic consumption as the U.S. does on Black Friday, as well as change the work style of the Japanese people. During Japan’s Bubble Economy in the 80’s, people would spend Friday nights at disco clubs until dawn, creating the term ‘hanakin’. 30 years later Premium Friday or ‘purèkin’ is reviving the idea of going out for drinks and dinner earlier, enjoying sports, shopping or even starting the weekend early with a two and a half day trip.

On the first Premium Friday, which landed on February 24, department stores and fashion retail facilities offered different events and promotions at once. NEWoMan Shinjuku installed Sakura Market where visitors could get an early preview of the cherry blossom season. Cherry blossom inspired Japanese confectionaries and drinks were sold at the event. The restaurants and cafes inside Shinjuku LUMINE 1 and 2 offered promotions on alcoholic drinks. LUMINE Ogikubo held a yoga class which focused on poses to ease seasonal allergies.

Takashimaya’s Yokohama outlet joined Joinus and Yokohama MORE’s in hosting a “Suits de Hawaiians” event. Business men and women came straight off of work at 3pm to Yokohama station, where they boarded a chartered bus to Fukushima’s Spa Resort Hawaiians. The unique event offered guests to enjoy hot springs pools and meals at the resort known as ‘the Hawaii of Japan’.

Companies have also been actively involved in changing the way employees work. Softbank, one of three major mobile phone carriers in Japan, will introduce a new ‘super-flex’ benefit from April 2017 and has been promoting the ‘work-from-home’ benefit. By making full use of information technology, the company hopes employees enjoy working with ease.

Adastria, the company that operates 21 fashion brands including “LOWRYS FARM” and “niko and…”, has been working to create an environment that allows employees to work accordingly to their life stage. The company’s CEO Michio Fukuda explains “Our company is in a position to boost energy in stores on Premium Fridays, but we also hope that this initiative will reform the way our country works.”

Premium Friday began with hopes not only to boost domestic consumption, but also change the way the Japanese work. Getting off work two to three hours earlier one day a month may not change things drastically, but hopefully this will lead to the active debate of introducing summer time.