The Lessons Learned from Telework and
Pandemic Countermeasures:
The Impact and Challenges of COVID-19 in Japan and the Country's post-COVID Prospects

Since COVID-19 first emerged in the public consciousness in early 2020, the scope and pace of digitalization has rapidly expanded around the world. The key to Japan’s economic future lies in whether or not the country can ride this wave of digitalization to a new era of prosperity. However, the expansion of digitalization, and in particular, telework, also brings about new challenges in the realm of international economy, bringing a new dimension to globalization that will further expose white collar workers to the ravages of international competition.

Recognizing both the critical nature of meeting this moment for Japan, as well as the difficulties it will entail, the Nippon Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA) and Keio University’s Toshihiro Okubo, after having analyzed the trends across six rounds of the “Questionnaire Surveys on the Effects of the Spread of COVID-19 on Telework- based Work Styles, Lifestyle, and Awareness on Telework”, and now present the results for this paper. Our research has shown that to succeed in increasing productivity via telework it is insufficient to simply provide an online environment that connects workers and the workplace. Employers must craft clear criteria for evaluating employee performance, ensure that there exists a clear division of labor and responsibilities, and assist employees in securing a remote work environment in which they can be productive. Furthermore, even after controlling for occupation and the specific responsibilities and duties of a given job, large divides remain in telework opportunities between regions and companies of differing sizes. Equalizing the situation so that the benefits of telework can be distributed more widely will require a combination of the following: improving the ICT competency of workers, accelerating the digitalization of regional areas and corporate structures, and the reworking the employment system to better suite telework.

Professor, Faculty of Economics, Keio University / Senior Adjunct Fellow, NIRA
Atsushi Inoue
Research Coordinator & Research Fellow, NIRA
Kozue Sekijima
Research Coordinator & Research Fellow, NIRA