Why do Japanese people hesitate to take paid vacations?
Depending on the company, Japanese people are entitled to take around 20 paid vacation days throughout the year. While most Japanese people take off public holidays (For New Years, Golden week (early May), and Obon (mid August)), the majority of people end up taking only half of the remaining paid holidays provided.
Why don’t Japanese people take advantage of their holidays? There are two main reasons.
The first is a worry around work accumulation. It is known that Japanese companies take a long time to make decisions. They won’t implement the plan until everyone agrees. Employees have to go through many meetings and discussions to get their ideas to the boss. This gives them extra paperwork and meetings. When they take long holidays, they come back with piles of work on their desks. Knowing that they will have to work 3 times as much, people tend to take short vacations and come back in order to avoid stress.
The second is a worry around showing loyalty to coworkers. In Japan, not being in the office when your boss is working, or burdening your coworkers with extra work when you are not in the office can make people think that you are not a team player. By working even when you don’t “have” to (such as overtime or during vacation days), you are showing loyalty to the company.
Luckily, Japanese companies have started trying to change this culture of overwork by forcing employees to take paid vacations and prohibiting overtime work. It’s hard to make this change happen but they are working on it. If you go to more international companies tend to value more efficiency and productivity, but if you work at a company with a large Japanese population then you might still have trouble with trying to take time off without creating workplace tension.
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