In Japan, It’s a Riveting TV Plot: Can a Worker Go Home On Time?

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Last month, as Americans tuned in to the final episode of “Game of Thrones,” Japan was indulging in its own television fantasy world. In this one, a woman dares to leave work at 6 p.m. sharp. The determination of Yui Higashiyama, a 30-something project manager who wants nothing more than to get out of the office and into her favorite bar for happy hour, rocks the fictional web design firm where she works. A conniving supervisor and overachieving co-workers try to foil her plans. When her team faces a seemingly impossible deadline in Episode 9, she puts aside her steely commitment to work-life balance, dramatically declaring, “I will work overtime!” Ms. Higashiyama is the protagonist of “I Will Not Work Overtime, Period!” — a modest television hit in Japan that has struck a chord in a country with a dangerously intense, at times deadly, national work ethic (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source).

It has prompted workers to talk about their own difficulties in finding work-life balance, even as Japan’s major corporations and government officials have increasingly encouraged them to ease off. In April, just in time for the debut of the TV show, a new law took effect limiting overtime to no more than 45 hours a month and 360 hours per year, barring special circumstances. And Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has promoted a program it calls Premium Fridays, asking employers to let employees leave a few hours early on the last Friday of every month. On the show, the enlightened chief executive at Ms. Higashiyama’s company encourages workers to leave the office on time. What holds her co-workers back are employees and supervisors who simply cannot stop themselves — a feeling familiar to fans of the show.

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