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Early July 2002 found me in Tokyo, my first visit there in three years. The hospitality was warm, but the weather was hot and steamy.

The main purpose of the visit was to give the keynote presentation, about global telework trends, at the Japan Telework Association (JTA) 2002 Telework Awards meeting in Tokyo on July 5. I participated at the invitation of the JTA and its Executive Director Mr. Norimasa Yoshida.

After his presentation I received a Special Merit Award, which reads as follows:

"I commend you for your long term contribution of the international activities to introduce telework and promote its implementation. Your achievement is highly valued and respected. In appreciation of your endeavors, I commend you the Special Merit Award of the Japan Telework Association."

The award was signed by Mr. Koji Ohboshi, JTA President.

Mr. Hitosi Hisata, JTA Vice President, presents award

My visit also included a trip to Iwaki City, two hours northeast of Tokyo, to meet with the staff of the Iwaki City telework center (TWC). This highly successful center has an extensive training program for inbound call center agents, developers of software training, and data entry operators. The people who are trained work either at the center itself or from their homes in the Iwaki area. The center is under the direction of Ms. Kazuko Aida.

The staff of the Iwaki City telework center is shown in the main call center; Ms. Kazuko Aida is at the far right, and next to her is JTA President Mr. Norimasa Yoshida.

The Iwaki telework center is housed in a former bank branch, and the bank vault is the only part of the building that was not changed when the building was renovated.

Here's what I wrote to Aida-san about the Iwaki City telework center:

"I have been consulting in the telework field since 1982, and have seen or read about many telework centers around the world. My impression has always been that these centers are usually not as good or as successful as people tell me, so I was skeptical about the Iwaki TWC before visiting it.

The Iwaki center was actually better than it was described. I believe it is the most successful example of a telework center I have seen anywhere, for several reasons:

1. The philosophy of the center is to develop business by creating new business approaches - not by simply competing with other areas by offering lower labor costs. There are new skills being developed there, new software products, and new methods for doing work that is already done elsewhere.

2. The center is very flexible - there is no fixed and unchanging approach to finding work and using available resources. This allows the center to respond to changing business conditions and to be successful where others have failed.

3. There is a very strong emphasis on creating and maintaining business relationships with companies in Tokyo and elsewhere. This business development means that there is a steady flow of work coming into the center. This helps it to continue to grow."

Our group had a long, elaborate, and delicious dinner that evening at a local restaurant. As you can see here, we were all engaged in very serious discussions about the future of telework and other important matters:

I managed to squeeze in some work while visiting the Iwaki area, despite the temptations of the local scenery. Here you can see the view from my hotel room at the Onohama Springs resort hotel, my e-mail session using the pay phone in the lobby, and working on my laptop on the train back to Tokyo.

Back in Tokyo I met with Dr. Wendy Spinks, a long-time friend of telework in Japan and faculty member at the Tokyo Science University. We went to the Tokyo Dome (or "The Big Egg" as it is known) one night to watch a baseball game - here I am with a set of the noisemakers just about everyone has to help cheer for their team.

This was my third trip to Japan and in many ways the most interesting one. I was very pleasantly surprised to see how diverse and more widespread telework is in Japan, and also to note the increasing importance of the JTA. I wrote the following for the JTA web site:

"Telework in Japan is, as we say in the U.S., "alive and well." Japan is smaller than the U.S., but in many ways your telework progress is much larger than ours is. The JTA is one of the reasons for this progress and success.

JTA is doing very important work to expand the awareness and understanding of telework in Japan. This is happening through a combination of research, conferences, training, and the exchange of information. JTA also acts as the center of a network of telework interest in Japan, and helps coordinate the activities of employers, government, manufacturers and service providers, and the academic community.

Telework is growing in many countries today, and there is always some type of organization in each of those countries that supports this growth by providing information and training. I believe that JTA is definitely one of the best examples of these telework organizations. JTA has been the force behind telework growth in Japan for more than ten years.

I would like to offer my congratulations to JTA, and to its current Executive Director Mr. Norimasa Yoshida, for the high quality of its work to help telework grow in Japan. This work helps improve the quality of life in Japan by making it possible for an increasing number of employees to avoid some of the stress, time, and cost of traditional commuting."

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