Dentsu highlights measures to curb excessive overtime

Dentsu has outlined the measures the company has in place to stop its employees from working excessive hours in the wake of the suicide of a young employee.

Dentsu headquarters in Tokyo

Dentsu headquarters in Tokyo

Matsuri Takahashi took her own life nine months into her career with the advertising agency after she had clocked 105 hours of overtime in a single month. A Tokyo labour department ruled at the end of last week that mental collapse from overwork was to blame.

Matsuri Takahashi

Matsuri Takahashi

The death of the 24 year-old digital department executive is not the only such incident in Dentsu’s recent history. In 1991, a young male executive is reported to have taken his life after suffering from stress related to work overload.

In response to a question from Mumbrella on action the company would be taking in response to the death of Takahashi, a Dentsu spokesman said the firm already has several initiatives in place aimed at cutting hours worked overtime and “maintaining the health of our employees.”

One is known as Dentsu Workstyle Innovation. This initiative tries to ensure that staff take one “no overtime” day per week, and an “in-principle ban” on coming in early the following morning (before 9:30 am) if an employee worked overtime between the hours of 10pm and 5am the night before.

If there is a difference of more than one between the number of hours worked recorded by an employee and the number of hours calculated from the entry and exit times recorded by the office’s automatic gates, that employee will be “immediately questioned” for the reason behind the discrepancy, Dentsu explained.

Work culture in Japan means notoriously long hours, and the country’s high suicide rate – the second highest in the rich world after Korea’s – has been attributed partly to the stresses of demanding jobs.

In a comment thread on LinkedIn beneath an article about the tragedy, Dave McCaughan, who spent much of his career in Japan working for Dentsu’s international rival McCann, argued that overwork was not responsible for Takahashi’s death. It was caused by “management incompetence and inefficiency,” he posted.

Dentsu LinkedIn suicide case


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