When work norms change – Why Toshiba supports side jobs

2021/11/05 Toshiba Clip Team

  • Diversifying values and work styles in the age of the 100-year lifespan
  • Toshiba introduces a side job system. A young HR specialist breathing new life into the company
  • Starting a side business on the side in one’s 20s. What be gained from diverse work styles?
When work norms change – Why Toshiba supports side jobs

“How will you live your life in an age when you can expect to live to 100?” 

As we enter an age of 100-year lifespans, the conventional notion of “retiring at 60 or 65 and enjoying one’s remaining years” no longer holds up. Advances in medicine, health, and hygiene have given us more years to enjoy healthier and vigorous lives. As a result, the concept of aging is changing. If people can work and lead energetic and diverse lives even at the age of 70 or 80, companies and society as a whole—not only individuals—will benefit from this increased longevity. 


However, this is new ground, and in the absence of adequate role models in Japan, many people are naturally concerned about how they will live and finance their lives after retirement. What do we spend our time on, how do we increase our savings, and how can we work to support a longer life? Looking ahead, we need to rethink not only our post-retirement lives, but also our entire life plan, envisioning completely new life scenarios. For this reason, it is important for us to have an environment in which we can choose our preferred work style early in life, and companies and society need to support this going forward.


As a part of its efforts to create an environment that enables people with differing backgrounds to feel empowered at work, Toshiba has been testing a system that allows employees to take on side jobs since 2020. Toshiba Digital Solutions Corporation (TDSL) was one of the first group companies to adopt the system on a trial basis. We discussed its implementation with Maachi Watanabe, a personnel planning specialist at TDSL, and Yuji Hikida, an employee (now working at Toshiba Data Corporation) who used the system to start a side job. Their experiences offer insight into new ways of living and working living in the age of the 100-year lifespan. 

Side jobs and multiple jobs: What led to the promotion of diverse work styles? 

In the past, most Japanese companies adopted a lifetime employment system that, in principle, prohibited employees from working side jobs. More recently, work style reforms promoted by the Japanese government, combined with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, have made work styles more diverse. More companies are gradually allowing employees to have another job on the side, or to work in multiple jobs at the same time. 


In 2018, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) created guidelines for the promotion of side jobs and multiple jobs, and revised the Model Rules of Employment, kick-starting the promotion of such job arrangements. The guidelines organize the benefits of side jobs and multiple jobs as follows. 


Figure listing the benefits of side jobs and multiple jobs. Benefits for workers. 1.Increased income  2.Acquisition of skills and experience and proactive career development  3.Self-actualization  4.Preparing for and trying out future entrepreneurship and career changes.  Benefits for companies. 1.Improved worker knowledge and skills  2.Promotion of worker autonomy and independence  3.Acquisition and retention of talented personnel  4.Expansion of business opportunities


On the down side, disadvantages (points to keep in mind) for workers include the disruption of the work-life balance and overwork. For companies, disadvantages include a greater risk of employees leaking confidential information and feeling less obliged to devote themselves to their duties. There is also the possibility that allowing employees to take on other jobs could encourage them to leave the company. In introducing a side job system, several challenges need to be addressed. Workers need to be able to manage their own work hours and health, and also follow company rules on proprietary information. Companies need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of allowing workers to take on side jobs and multiple jobs, and to understand how to prepare for and respond to foreseeable situations. 


Many companies are exploring ways to allow employees to work in side jobs and multiple jobs. What does Watanabe, who works in personnel planning at TDSL, the digital solutions provider within Toshiba Group, have to say about the factors behind the company’s decision to implement this initiative? 

An HR specialist explains why his company initiated a side-job system

“In April 2020, we reviewed our personnel treatment system to ensure that work is rewarding for each and every employee,” recalls Watanabe. “We were thinking about how the company should support employees in realizing their career plans, and we decided to introduce a system that allow employees to take on side jobs on a trial basis.”

Maachi Watanabe, Specialist, Personnel Planning, Personnel and General Affairs Department, Toshiba Digital Solutions Corporation

Maachi Watanabe, Specialist, Personnel Planning,
Personnel and General Affairs Department, Toshiba Digital Solutions Corporation

TDSL has been a pioneer in Toshiba Group in implementing initiatives, including the 2019 promotion of “Self-biz,” which eliminated the dress code and the requirement to wear suits. Trial introduction of a side job system was the next challenge, aimed at improving employee autonomy, productivity, and skills. However, as Watanabe explains, there were many difficulties with full-scale implementation.


“Because of the nature of having a side job, it is necessary to give individual attention to each employee’s particular circumstances. Based on this premise, we struggled to identify foreseeable issues while creating a framework for the trial side job system. Some people had doubts about allowing side jobs, and asked us why we needed to do it. Changing their thinking by carefully explaining the benefits of the system was far from easy. 


“Everyone experiences a sense of resistance when confronted with things that are new and unfamiliar. In order to get past that resistance, it was critical to fully convince everyone and ensure that they were on the same page. I also thought it was necessary to communicate with those people who started side jobs, in order to remove any obstacles they were facing at the company.”


Watanabe put together a group of volunteers to study the idea and interviewed its members. He also used questionnaires to survey opinions within TDSL, and interviewed people in other companies that allowed employees to take side jobs. Working with HR people at Toshiba Corporation, he helped to create a trial system that went into effect at Toshiba Corporation and TDSL in April 2020. 


In its first year, program attracted 60 people, 24 at Toshiba, 36 at TDSL. The side jobs they took on were diverse, utilizing their qualifications and skills, their business experience and knowledge, or derived from their hobbies. Over half took on challenges not directly related to their main jobs. For many, the objectives were to develop skills and achieve self-actualization. About 80 percent of participants were able to achieve these goals. 


Following this initial success, the scope of the trial was expanded in April 2021 to include Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation, Toshiba Infrastructure Systems & Solutions Corporation, and Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage Corporation.


From qualifications and skills  Certified tax accountant  Small and medium enterprise management consultant  Training instructor (using special qualifications)  Translation and interpretation  Announcer  University/graduate school teacher, etc.    From business experience and knowledge  Management consultant  Career consultant  App development and sales  Web design  Established and managed a startup  Part-time staff at an NPO, etc.    From hobbies and interests  Freelance photographer  Entertainment event management  UberEats delivery partner Writer, etc.

The wide range of side jobs found by program participants

“To be honest, it’s hard to say at this point whether 60 applicants is a lot or a little, but at least we were able to address the hopes of 60 people,” says Watanabe. “If this leads to their personal growth, enrichment of life, and attachment to Toshiba, then the introduction of the system will have been worthwhile. I also hope that accumulating successful cases will make Toshiba more attractive to prospective employees.”


One of the participants in the first year of the program was Yuji Hikida, and we asked him why he did so and how the experience has turned out for him.

Expanding personal horizons beyond current skills

When he started his side job in 2020, Hikida was working on the ”Kaometa” face recognition AI Service for media at TDSL. He had been involved in the service from its inception, and was responsible for a wide range of activities, including product planning, design, proof of concept, pre-sales, and project management. Surprisingly, he started a new company on the side at the same time that “Kaometa” was launched. 


Hikida has a favorite saying, “You can’t do anything unless you give it a try,” and in that spirit he always tries to play an active role in whatever he is involved in. So what kind of company did he start, and how did he balances working there while handling the huge task of launching a product at Toshiba? 

Yuji Hikida, Data Technology 1st Division, Toshiba Data Corporation

Yuji Hikida, Data Technology 1st Division, Toshiba Data Corporation

Hikida experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake just before he started university. It had a profound impact on him, and he has been involved in providing support to areas affected by the disaster ever since. “I’ve worked as a disaster volunteer for many years, and in that time I’ve heard countless people say they never expected to be victim themselves. I’ve always wanted to make disaster preparedness more widespread and be involved in creating a system to encourage disaster preparedness.”


With that in mind, he founded KOKUA, Inc., along with a colleague who, like him, wanted to “create a system that would reduce the damage that occurs at a fundamental level, rather than engage in activities to minimize damage after the fact.” The company produces and sells LIFEGIFT, a gift catalog featuring carefully selected disaster preparedness items. 


“In Japan, about 90 percent of people believe that a disaster will happen someday, but only about 40 percent are taking measures to prepare at home. In order to fill this gap, we produced KOKUA, a gift catalog filled with stylish disaster preparedness items that harmonize with living spaces. By encouraging the practice of gifting these items to loved ones, we aim to reduce the damage caused by disasters throughout Japan. 


Giving disaster preparedness items to someone conveys the message that ‘your safety is the most important thing,’ something that users of the catalog appreciate.”

LIFEGIFT, the gift catalog of disaster preparedness items

LIFEGIFT, the gift catalog of disaster preparedness items

The project was demanding, and in the beginning Hikida had to take on a lot that was new to him, such as securing resources, collecting funds, and coordinating with product suppliers. He constantly worried about creating a service that didn’t exist in the market, and wondered if it would really sell. When LIFEGIFT finally hit the market, however, it was featured by TV and other mass media. It received positive responses and support from many users, which led to a great sense of personal fulfillment. 


Hikida co-heads a startup while working at Toshiba five days a week. How does he juggle the two jobs, and how do they affect each other? 


“My work at KOKUA is done on weeknights and weekends. I’m certainly busier now, but I am able to balance my work at Toshiba better because I spend more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m also doing what I love, so I’m busy but having fun. 


“I think starting my side job has had two major influences on me. The first is that I have gained the ability to involve others, and the second is that I have started to think about the social impact. KOKUA’s mission is to ‘create a society in which people can easily prepare for sudden disaster.’ Even though we are a for-profit company, I feel that my work has empowered me to think about how I can make society better and take action every day, and as a result, my level of awareness in my job at Toshiba has increased as well.” 


Hikida also said that having the perspective of a startup, even at a large company like Toshiba, now allows him to engage in work using a variety of ways of thinking and perceiving. He mentioned that his boss also understands that side jobs are a good opportunity for personal growth and supports him. 


“Toshiba has a culture that encourages employees to do what they want to do. If you want to try a side job, I think it’s important to start small, instead of looking for reasons why you can’t do it. You only live once, and time doesn’t come back.”

Photo of the two interviewees


Watanabe and Hikida really convey the sense that “being able to work anywhere, with anyone, at any age” has become the norm, and that we are naturally preparing to thrive in an age of 100-year lifespans. No one knows what will happen in the future, but we are keenly aware of the importance of thinking and preparing for the actions we can take now while imagining the future. In order to empower personnel to play an active role, companies need to set up systems to accept diversity, and society as a whole needs to start moving toward the rich and diverse age of the 100-year lifespan. 

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