Article: Cybozu CEO Yoshihisa Aono on Remote Work, Job Quality, and the Future of Work

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Cybozu CEO Yoshihisa Aono on Remote Work, Job Quality, and the Future of Work

Forward-thinking companies navigate challenges and opportunities presented by the evolving global work landscape.
Cybozu CEO Yoshihisa Aono on Remote Work, Job Quality, and the Future of Work

In an exclusive interview with People Matters, Yoshihisa Aono, CEO, Cybozu, spoke extensively on remote work, its impact on job quality and productivity, and the evolving landscape of the tech industry in the midst of global economic changes.

How has your company's perspective on remote work evolved over the past few years?

Cybozu has allowed remote work since well before the height of COVID, so our corporate policy on the matter hasn’t changed. We believe in a business culture where employees are responsible for choosing their own workstyle, whether it’s from home or at the office.

However, we’ve observed a change in individual attitudes in recent years. Before the pandemic, even though remote work was possible, most people were accustomed to working from the office. During COVID we had to shut down the office for a while, and afterwards impose restrictions on how many employees could be there at any given time. We also put in place policies allowing our employees to work more comfortably from home, such as stipends for furniture and utilities. Many of our employees managed to build a productive work environment for themselves and decided they were better off working from home more often, even after the pandemic restrictions were lifted.

I believe companies are the most adaptable and resilient when employees can decide how they work best. A company’s greatest responsibility is allowing its employees to choose freely by providing the right environment and support. In addition to financial support and HR policies, we had already developed our own highly customisable digital workplace tool. So when the pandemic hit, employees already had everything they needed to stay connected, active and productive.

As a tech leader, what is your opinion on working from home and its impact on the quality of jobs and productivity?

Remote work has both benefits and disadvantages. The benefits include increased flexibility, less commute time, and better work-life balance. The disadvantages can be a disconnect between employees, a drop in coordination, and greater feelings of isolation. However, whether remote work is beneficial for job quality and productivity ultimately comes down to the individual employee and their team.

Since at Cybozu, we believe in empowering diverse workstyles, we do our best to minimise the disadvantages of remote work. Internally, we use our own no-code digital workplace platform called Kintone, which works on a principle of open communication and open information—reducing the risk of people feeling isolated or disconnected. We encourage transparent conversations between managers and team members about the benefits of working from home, and how often they choose to meet at the office.

The results vary by team. Some teams work perfectly well with everyone remote. In our Malaysia office, the team has decided to come to the office two days per week, while some teams meet at the office every day. As CEO, I don’t think it would be efficient for me to unilaterally decide a one-size-fits-all policy for every single employee in my company. We should dispel the notion that managers and leaders always know better than everybody else about how people should do their best work.

From a leadership and management standpoint, could you illustrate the risks that high-salaried employees are facing whilst having a work-from-home arrangement? How can white-collar workers safeguard their positions?

The employees with the highest salaries are expected to deliver the most for the company. If they are incapable of delivering, then that’s a cause for concern. However, I don’t think having a high or low salary makes a big difference when it comes to working from home. In a culture like ours, where employees are free to choose their workstyle, everyone is responsible for their own output. If a high-salaried employee is less productive than before since they started working from home, then there might be a conversation needed between that employee and their manager. If not, then I see no risks for that employee.

Managers do have to accept that a hybrid work model comes with a certain degree of risk and that micromanagement and constant monitoring are not viable management strategies. Instead, managers need to create an environment wherein employees can exercise autonomy and show initiative. I understand worries about employees slacking off, but those have existed since before the pandemic. Managers need to focus on results, as well as maintain open communication with employees in order to share and address any concerns either party might have.

Do you see a link between tech layoffs and the economic reason to replace expensive employees for more cost-efficient offshore workers?

Cybozu hasn’t been affected by the recent tech layoffs. I can’t speak for other companies, but our hiring decisions are based on talent and our company’s needs, rather than optimising cost above all else.

According to the World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2023 (WESO Trends), the economic slowdown will force the current workforce to accept lower-quality jobs. What is required to address the looming situation?

I think macro trends should be taken with a grain of salt, as they don’t necessarily apply to specific sectors or companies. Given the pace of technological innovation, I think there will continue to be a strong demand for talent in the tech sector.

At Cybozu, we encourage our employees to stay on top of current trends by supporting efforts to upskill and reskill. For example, we provide workshops and seminars, stipends for purchasing courses and study materials, and allow employees to move around internally, trying different departments and teams. I can’t speak to what macro-scale policies would be necessary to keep the global economy strong, but as a company, I think investing in our employees and empowering every individual to deliver their best work provides the most promising long-term outlook.

The WESO report also highlights that despite the overall slowdown in employment growth, shortages of qualified labour remain a risk in certain countries and sectors. Will this situation be beneficial for gig workers?

As companies become more flexible and gig work becomes less stigmatised, I foresee an increase in high-quality opportunities for gig workers in the future. However, I believe this will vary greatly by industry and position.

At the end of the day, the type of employment contract established between a company and an employee depends on the desires and expectations of both parties. For example, at Cybozu, a significant slice of our contract employees are former permanent employees who want to try new things while maintaining a connection with our company. Some individuals prefer the stability of permanent status, while others favour the flexibility of gig work. Instead of solely accommodating one group over the other, I believe there is room for companies to provide high-quality opportunities to both.

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Topics: #Culture, Business, #Work Culture

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