Japan to test mass telecommute for 2020 Olympics

Japan to test mass telecommute for 2020 Olympics

Tokyo (AFP) - Japanese commuters will be encouraged to work from home for one day in a nationwide exercise for the 2020 Olympics that authorities hope will ease congestion on roads and public transport.

Tokyo has declared July 24 -- exactly three years before the opening ceremony of the summer games -- as "Telework Day" and wants firms and government departments to let employees work remotely.

London introduced a similar measure during the 2012 Olympics with 80 percent of businesses in the city participating, according to Japan's Internal Affairs Ministry, which announced the plan on Tuesday.

Greater Tokyo, with a population of more than 30 million people -- about a quarter of Japan's total -- is notorious for its packed trains and subways during peak morning rush hours.

The plan is part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to rethink Japan's workaholic tradition, where men routinely spend long hours in the office and little time with their families.

The government recently unveiled its first-ever initiative to limit overtime in a bid to tackle karoshi, or death from overwork, and it hopes that more workers will telecommute after the Olympics finish as a lasting legacy.

"During the Tokyo Olympics, we are expecting serious traffic congestion particularly on the day of the opening ceremony," said Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi.

"We believe telework will have a significant impact in easing traffic congestion and commuter crowding."

More than 60 companies, including big names such as beverage firm Suntory, Japan Airlines and Microsoft, have so far pledged to participate.

Officials hope as many as 1,000 companies will take part, Kyodo News agency reported.