back to article Japanese tech startups testing cash incentives for office return

A pair of Japanese tech startups are taking a new approach to the challenge of bringing reluctant employees back into the office by sweetening the pot with small bonuses for in-person working.  Citing mental health concerns said to come from the isolation of working from home, Osaka-based Agileware, a project management …

  1. find users who cut cat tail

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    Extra money for the option I prefer anyway? Sign me up!

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Re: Sign me up

      Got no friends ?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It would have to be a fucktonne of a sweetner

    In my case it would have to cover 15* hours a week, plus the fuel, wear & tear and depreciation.

    Whereas I generously don't charge for WFH heat and light.

    The contrary to all this, is that WFH/flexible working is for most employees a pay rise.

    *the commute is actually 10 hours, but you need to get up at least 30 minutes earlier.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: It would have to be a fucktonne of a sweetner

      I generously don't charge my company for Weetabix and bicycle tyre wear - do I get a prize?

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: It would have to be a fucktonne of a sweetner

        If you have perfected Weetabix tyres you have another business opportunity!

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: It would have to be a fucktonne of a sweetner

      " WFH/flexible working is for most employees a pay rise"

      ...and companies who understand this are able to attract and retain the best talent!

    3. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: It would have to be a fucktonne of a sweetner

      -- The contrary to all this, is that WFH/flexible working is for most employees a pay rise. --

      I think this is one of the main points - no one seems willing to give up a pay rise - surprising really!

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It would have to be a short commute to cover the fares and commute time paid at NMW.

  4. heyrick Silver badge

    I feel as if middle management is crapping themselves

    Hands up if you feel you get more done at home, are more productive when you don't have to be in endless ego massage meetings, and can manage your own time and resources so don't need some middling manager failing at being a helicopter parent.

    I reckon most of the noise is being made by these people as the pandemic has demonstrated exactly how important most of them are to the day to day functioning of the business. Now, if only they can get everybody back into the office to argue over who has the stapler, they can go back to feeling like their value justifies their salary...

    1. Kane

      Re: I feel as if middle management is crapping themselves

      "Now, if only they can get everybody back into the office to argue over who has the stapler"

      Is it red?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I seem to remember that my company gave the office workers a small bump ($1,200/yr) with the intent of helping offset the costs of commuting to the office. That was a while ago, maybe back around May 2022?

    They've forgotten to nag us about it when they remind us of the 3-days per week in-office policy. They do manage to bring up the policy occasionally, but don't dwell on it, and don't seem intent on enforcing it either. They may have already captured enough data from when they did attempt to enforce it and large chunks of groups immediately departed. The feeling is that Execs and HR are reserving the right to bring down the hammer at some point but they must be just smart enough to not do it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll be honest....

    This is all pretty much old news now in general. In a bit tired of it all, the back and forth of it.

    Ultimately one side will win, and it won't be the employee. I also would argue that very, very few people can retain motivation or enthusiasm for a job and keep productivity high when WFH constantly.

    An office mix is good. I generally get a day a week WFH which is fine and a bit of a treat that really breaks the week up. Or if there's lots of meetings scheduled, we just do it from home (all meetings are on Teams due to company spread).

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Re: I'll be honest....

      The pre-pandemic monthly trip to the Office was something to be looked forward to.

      The loss of that (as people moved away during the pandemic) is the only effect the pandemic has had on my working.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My company told everyone to come in two days a week but didn't say which days so people come all the way into the office and still wind up having to sit on conference calls because their days aren't the same as the rest. If employers could pull their finger out and say you must be in for these specific days a week then fine, but this half arsed approach is the worst of both worlds; spend money commuting to come into a mostly empty office for crap coffee and still be subjected to MS Teams.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      My company went form 1 day per week at the office to almost fully WfH, just having some days at the office to meet and greet (depending on teams it might be monthly, others once or twice the whole year) because even the weekly day at the office would be spent, apart from talking to each other in person, which was nice, in Teams meetings with clients - and at home it's a lot easier to do that.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      "people come all the way into the office and still wind up having to sit on conference calls because their days aren't the same as the rest"

      My company, in order to avoid exactly that, has a 1-day-a-month at the office policy, which I find is a very good frequency, as once or twice weekly is too frequent for me. It's a good balance between getting better productivity at home while still occasionally having face to face time with colleagues. It's also very sensibly pretty much assumed that very little actual work will get done on this day but it's worth it for the team-building and idea-sharing aspects, and it's also highly encouraged but not strictly enforced. And of course anyone who wants to can go to the office at any time (and ironically I sometimes do go to the office, which is usually fairly empty, in order to have a quiet space)

      Works great for me!

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        If you enjoy your work compatriots so much why dont you just see them on the weekend ? Oh thats right you dont because well forcing friends on people doesnt really work.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Some times, I do, because some of the people I've worked with have become my friends. However, people working in the office isn't being done to make friendships. It's being done, ostensibly, because there's supposed to be some benefit to the work you're doing. Whether there is or not is difficult to prove, although I'm sure you have an opinion and are very sure that any other view is incorrect.

          1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

            I have no doubt you do have a friend or two at work. But lets actually count how many are NOT your friend and you never have lunch or a BBQ or ride a bke on the weekend with.

            The vast majority of peeople at work are NOT yoru family or friends, and you will never visit their home because they are not your friend.

            Cut the crap.

  8. Bebu Silver badge

    Cash in hand?

    If I were living in Osaka I would put on a suit and turn up ten days a month for USD168 even, actually especially, if I didn't work for the firm. :)

    A bit of a contrast to the likes of Besoz and co. who are probably closely studying the Justinian Code for inspiration on how to "amend" or reverse the 13th Amendment.

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Re: Cash in hand?

      Contrast ?

      How is paying someone $5 an hour a constrast to the slave conditions of the Justinian Code ?

      You really dont value your time or others, to think that a max of $5 per hour is nothing more than complete and utter exploitation.

      The reality is those people living in Osaka are probably travelling far more than 2 hours a day. For starters it probably takes 10 - 20 mins to walk to their first station and the same to leave the destination station and reach the office. The total time is probably 3 - 4 hours door to door including wait time on each end. $15 for 4 hours of time is not even $4 an hour.

      Those workers are not really working 8 - 9 hour days they are actually working 13 - 14 hour days.

  9. jmch Silver badge


    Kudos to the Japanese!! It's not rocket-science-level psychology to know that people do not like to be threatened, so it's clear that the "come back to the office or else..." mandates, while they might be effective in getting more people through the door, will be bad for morale and long-term cancer for the enforcing company. It doesn't have to be about the money per se, it shows that the company understands employee concerns and shows appreciation of their efforts. *As long as the employees are themselves free to choose, they will work more happily and therefore more productively*

    Personally having had to endure 1-hour-each-way daily commutes, I wouldn't go back to that unless commute time was counted as working hours (or the company paid for a 1st class upgrade that would allow me to have the space to do useful work on the train). But having a bit of incentive would also help to make it more attractive to go into the office once every 2 or 3 weeks (it wouldn't be more than that but it's also good to get out of the home office for an occasional change)

  10. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    Paying someone $15 to waste 2 hour commuting doesnt even cover the cost of transport. Who honestly is going to waste 2 hours a day of their life for $15 lousy dollars...lets pretend transport is free.

    These people dont even have a clue.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Japanese office reality.

    Those sums are neither here nor there. They would not encourage me back to the office and they shouldn't encourage you. Most of the comments are suggestive of people who have zero experience working here.

    1 - your commute is paid for by the company. Transport is effectively free. If you are thinking car, take a reality check right now and look at Tokyo.

    2 - Your time is worth nothing. That commute time DOES NOT COUNT. If you live 2 hours on the shinkansen away and have to leave home at 6am. then tough luck. You _chose_ to live there, it's on your neck. (so saying, at least you would be able to buy a house there.)

    3 - Overtime is free. sorry, I mean "Service Zangyo" that is those free 40 hours a week of overtime.

    I honestly had a boss tell me, "if you can't get your work done in your allotted hours then you are inefficient and should kill yourself."

    500 yen for lunch, unless they have a company cafeteria (some do) will not do much to help.

    Yes, there is the potential loneliness from WFH, but the massive benefit (unless you have to suffer with SLACK and other interrupt driven malice) is that in the average Japanese office, you will be interrupted many times an hour for the stupidest things.


    If you think there are partitions, think again.

    Empire Building is rife and talking to the wrong country can and will get you ostracised. (Unless your marching orders come from a deeply scary uber-boss.)

    Idiot cow-orker leaving his phone on his desk and going away. It promptly screams LINE!!!!! every couple of minutes.

    Unanswered phones ringing. (You're expected to use the group pick-up)

    Mr Shouty on the far side of the office answering the phone like a foghorn in heat.


    There's also the worst thing about the office. Your Cow-orkers.

    You know the ones that can SLURP SENBEI, that eat at their desks and make a cement mixer look and sound attractive.

    These are the ones whose mother never taught them to close their mouths when chewing.

    And the less said about the double-knuckle nose gold, the better. I used to hate the man sitting opposite me for all those reasons and more.

    Almost all of the men taking 20 minutes every hour for their cancer break and then complaining that non-smokers taking a break are slacking off!

    This is before we even think about what sort of actual work goes on.

    Enjoy your delusions.

    (hint, be nice to the office ladies, if you thought you had it rough, they are closet murder-bunnies.)

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Re: Japanese office reality.

      I do wish I could up vote so many more times for that (accurate in my experience) diatribe.

  12. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    Ive watched a few shows about japan, and it always seems like a large number of commuters are very unhappy, their faces look like they want to kill themselves, basically none has a smile, they all look very very unhappy. Given the high suicide rate in Japan its hardly a wonder when they are treated like sub-humans with no dignity with ideas like this.

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