Japanese Firm To Use Drone To Force Overtime Staff To Go Home

A Japanese firm is planning to use a drone to force employees out of their offices by playing music at them if they stay to work evening overtime.

The drone will fly through offices after hours playing Auld Lang Syne, which is commonly used to announce that stores are closing.

Japan has for years been trying to curb excessive overtime and the health issues and even deaths it can cause.

Experts were unimpressed, one branding it a “silly” idea.

According to Japanese media, office security and cleaning firm Taisei will develop the device with drone maker Blue Innovation and telecommunications company NTT East.

The camera-equipped drone will take flights through the office space playing the famous Scottish tune.

“You can’t really work when you think ‘it’s coming over any time now’ and hear Auld Lang Syne along with the buzz,” Norihiro Kato, a director at Taisei, told news agency AFP.

Taisei plans to start the drone service in April 2018 as a trial within their own company and later in the year offer it to others.

An effective tool?
“Will this help? The short answer is: no,” Seijiro Takeshita, professor of management and information at the University of Shizuoka told the BBC.

“It’s a pretty silly thing and companies are doing this just because they have to be seen to be doing something on the problem.”

The issue of excessive overtime is deeply rooted in the work culture and should be tackled from a more fundamental basis, he argues.

“Creating awareness is of course very important – but this is almost a hoax in my opinion.”

Scott North, professor of sociology at Osaka University, said: “Even if this robotic harassment gets workers to leave the office, they will take work home with them if they have unfinished assignments.”

He added: “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.”

Japan has long been struggling to break its decades-old work culture where it is frowned upon to leave before your colleagues or boss.

The problem of long hours has even led to the coining of a new word: karoshi, or dying from overwork.

The habit, especially among people who are new at a company, is seen as the cause of many health problems leading to strokes, heart attacks and suicides.

In October, advertising firm Dentsu was fined for violating labour laws after a young worker killed herself. She was later found to have worked 159 hours of overtime in one month.

Earlier this year, the government introduced Premium Fridays, encouraging companies to let their employees leave at 15:00 on the last Friday of each month.

But the plan has failed to have an impact so far, with many employees saying the last Friday of the month is one of their busiest days.

Reporting by the BBC’s Andreas Illmer.

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