Tokyo: Japan's major firms are increasingly implementing programs to enable their employees to work from home to raise productivity, meet workers' family needs and cut greenhouse gases emitted through commuter transportation.
    
The March earthquake and tsunami that threw wide regions of the country into chaos has provided a powerful incentive for companies to allow more of their employees to work from home through use of the Internet.
    
On the day of the 9.0 magnitude temblor, almost all trains in the Tokyo area and northeastern Japan came to a complete halt, forcing huge numbers of commuters to spend the night in their offices or rough it out on the floors of railway stations.
    
Then the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and subsequent suspension of other nuclear power facilities forced companies to take steps to save energy amid greatly reduced electricity supply.
    
Against this background, Teijin Ltd, a maker of a wide array of products ranging from clothing fibers to electronics and industrial materials, has moved to make it possible for some 2,000 employees working in areas serviced by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to telework by linking their homes with its offices via an online network.
   
"We've decided to take precautionary measures because it would be too late to act after another disaster strikes," a Teijin official said.
    
This summer Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp began allowing its employees to work at home either in the morning or in the afternoon. Since workers on each floor of its offices take turns to stay at home to work, lighting can be switched off on an entire floor.
    
"The new work schedule has helped save energy to a certain extent," a public relations officer at the telecommunications giant says.
    
Hitachi Ltd, which previously let some employees work from home, has now decided to make it possible for all its workers to do the same, while Internet conglomerate Softbank Corp has introduced a similar plan for its marketing staff.

Electronics firm NEC Corp has also implemented a telework plan.
    
In Japan, many employers began letting their employees telework in the 2000s to allow them to care for aged relatives or raise children.
   
The government is also promoting the trend so that workers can achieve a better work-life balance and their employers can also hold on to talented workers they might lose in the absence of such flexibility.

(Agencies)