TOKYO, JAPAN—Global businesses and modern technology are fueling an increase in telecommuting and remote working across Japan—and that is leading to greater employee satisfaction and lower operating costs. So says Hays Specialist Recruitment Japan KK. Virtual offices fit right into Japan’s telecommuting mix.

According to the latest Hays Journal, more organizations than ever are encouraging employees to work remotely. Why? It’s all about increasing productivity, cutting costs and improving employee motivation by helping workers achieve better work-life balance. And that’s part and parcel of the benefits of virtual offices.

"Rapid advances in technology such as video and teleconferencing, smartphones and tablets are taking people out of the office and allowing them to work almost anywhere, anytime,” says Christine Wright, Japan-based Hays Operations Director.

As a result, she says, the nature of employment is evolving fast, changing how jobs are structured and executed. As she sees it, modern technology allows employees to liaise with colleagues and clients from home, at client offices or further afield in business centers or Internet cafes, using the latest mobile tools. And virtual offices play a strategic role in the technological solutions.

"Many Japanese companies embraced telecommuting and remote working last summer to help address the power shortages across the Tokyo area,” Wright says. “And looking at the shrinking and aging population here, when you take location out of the equation, you widen the pool of potential candidates.”

Wright says remote working is also more environmentally friendly and time-efficient than traditional commuting, and it of course reduces overall office costs. So how do you balance the need for employee work-life balance and productivity in a virtual office setting? Wright says the key is to set clear guidelines to ensure the change in working patterns suits both parties.

“Employees working remotely must follow the same rules as those working in an office, including treating company information as confidential and keeping equipment and data safe,” Wright says. “It is also important to hold periodic face-to-face and virtual meetings to prevent staff becoming disconnected or less engaged in the company culture. HR directors must also consider how central office workers will respond to teleworking colleagues and bear in mind that some function better than others in working remotely, and policies should be crafted to deal with this."