More and more Japanese companies are relying on teleworker mental health support services

As telecommuters feel isolated due to ongoing teleworking due to the coronavirus pandemic, more and more Japanese companies are turning to online services like face-to-face counseling software to take care of their employees’ mental well-being.

Network technology company NTT Communications Corp., which currently has about 80 percent of its employees working remotely, has rolled out special software to schedule online consultations between employees and their managers.

For example, using software from Kakeai Inc., a 20-year-old worker at NTT Communications has a 30-minute online conversation with her boss every two weeks.

“It helps with day-to-day minor work issues,” she said.

Users of the software register topics that they want to discuss with their superiors in advance, make an appointment and send memos or other files if they wish.

For those offering advice, the software offers suggestions on advice likely to be sought and allows them to enter memos and documents to be shared on the screen.

Kakeai has around 100 customers including Itochu Corp., Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., NTT Docomo Inc. and Astellas Pharma Inc.

“It can bridge communication gaps better than general online meeting systems,” said Hidetaka Honda, president of Kakeai.

One from Lafool ​​Inc. The service provided uses smartphones to measure employees’ stress levels by regularly answering questionnaires on a website set up for this purpose and having access to video content with advice from healthcare professionals.

According to the company, around 850 companies have adopted Lafool’s online service, more than double the pre-pandemic number.

In a September survey of 120 human resource managers by corporate leadership magazine Gekkan Soumu Inc., about 43 percent of them said the number of workers complaining about deteriorating physical or mental health increased during the pandemic, 8 percentage points more than last year.

According to the survey, feelings of isolation and a lack of communication were the most frequently cited reasons for their deteriorating health.

There are companies that rely on technologies to analyze how employees operate their PCs or monitor their physical reactions such as heart rate and eye blinks via camera.

But Fumiko Kudo, a visiting researcher at Osaka University’s Research Center for Ethical, Legal and Social Issues, warns that such surveillance methods could pose a privacy invasion problem.

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