Japan is famous for being polite and ordered. This of course flows over into the work environment, and while foreign staff members are often allowed more leeway, it is still important to have a good idea of the difference in work culture.Any big company will have its own ethos, especially in a progressive industry like gaming where foreign influence is so strongly felt. Some traditions however are still worth keeping in mind, particularly the ones that focus on long hours, already an endemic problem in the industry.
Overtime is standard, and not always easily recognised.
Nearly all company employees work on average one to two hours’ overtime a day. While recent laws mean overtime must now be paid, it is still common for workers not to request it as they feel it is expected of them.
Don’t leave before your boss!
Some companies will see employees remaining in the office until the boss finishes, to the point they will fall sleep at their desk. This varies in its impact depending on the boss’s own commitment, but is common only in traditional companies.
Promote from the top.
Promotions are often based on seniority and as such will sometimes pass over the better-qualified individual. It is becoming less common as the ‘job for life’ culture slowly wanes, but still honorific ‘senpai’ is frequently used to denote respect to long serving peers.
A working family.
Japanese companies build a strong sense of community with drinking together a regular occurrence. Here too the hierarchy is key, with younger members tending seniors but often not having to pay as the big earners pick up the tab.
Just do it.
There is the idea that when asked to do something by a superior it should be done without question, or hesitation. Perhaps a fine work ethic but can cause problems, especially if you are the one in charge and hoping for feedback.
Though as a foreigner you may not feel the pressures of Japanese work culture, remember colleagues will. With nearly ten thousand deaths from Karoshi (death from over-work) each year and a host of mental health problems, high-pressure work environments can become stressful by osmosis.
It can be hard to get holiday requests approved, especially in smaller companies during busy times. On the plus side the Japanese government, knowing the plight of employees, has instituted fifteen national holidays throughout the year. This includes three days that make up ‘Golden Week’ (May 3-5) that many companies extend to a full week off.
Going hand in hand with the orderly society, paper work and bureaucracy are commonplace. This can sometimes even mean writing by hand.
If you feel a quoted salary may not be enough, consider looking at possible extras. It is not uncommon for a yearly wage to be almost doubled by twice-yearly bonuses. While these are taxable it does avoid it affecting the ‘city tax’ a single yearly amount paid to the local government based on earning.