Time is Money (Literally): Why Punctuality is Such a Big Deal | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Time is Money (Literally): Why Punctuality is Such a Big Deal

By Guidable Writers May 13, 2017

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional)

If there is one thing that Japanese people are picky about, it is about tardiness. Even with a casual meet up with your friends, it is common sense to be on time. Therefore, for a job that pays you by the hour, being late is definitely unacceptable.  Why is it such a big deal? What should you do if you are accidentally late?

First, keep in mind that in Japan, arriving exactly at the start of your shift already counts as being late. The shift time is the time you start working: not the time you start getting ready. Therefore, it is expected that you arrive at least 5 minutes early so that you can prepare and begin your work right on the dot. Arriving early also allows for smooth switch-over from the people in the previous time slot, as well as for any crucial communications needed before you start working. Therefore, it is important that you give enough time for such preparation.

Punctuality is especially important as being late causes a lot of inconvenience to others. You may think, “It’s just 10 minutes!”; however, one person’s behavior can have a domino effect on others. For example, for the time that you are not there, another person has to cover your spot. It can also disrupt the systematic scheduling that is crucial in many jobs. In Japan, consideration for others is key; tardiness shows a lack of respect and cares towards your work and your boss/coworkers.

However, we all make mistakes. Your boss is unlikely to fire you for being late just once. But there are measures you can take to leave a better impression. For example, call the workplace and let them know as soon as you anticipate that you are going to be late. You should try to give rough estimates of when you can get there. Be very respectful and apologize once you arrive. It is best to be honest instead of making up excuses, as it will only make you look insincere. Be sure to make up for your tardiness by putting in extra effort at work. And most important of all, be careful not to make the same mistake again!

Though the perception of punctuality in Japan may be different from other countries, keep in mind the “5 minutes before” rule and all should be fine. Even if you make mistakes, as long as you remain respectful and honest, your boss/leader will be more understanding.



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