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Coronavirus

Itochu reverts to telecommuting as Japan's infections surge

Trading house moves to rotating shifts with coronavirus testing for employees

Half of Itochu's employees will continue to commute to the office, in rotating shifts.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japanese trading house Itochu decided Friday to have half of its 3,000 or so domestic employees work from home, reversing course on its return to the office as coronavirus cases surge.

Staffers will go to the workplace on rotating shifts, starting Monday. Itochu will partner with Tokyo Women's Medical University Hospital to monitor employee health. Polymerase chain reaction tests for the virus will be conducted as needed, with employees receiving the results the same day.

The policy change comes amid growing signs of a second wave of infections in Japan. Tokyo reported two straight days of record COVID-19 cases, with the tally reaching 293 on Friday.

Itochu had shifted to a work-from-home policy after Japan declared a state of emergency in early April. It had moved nearly all employees back into the office by July, seeing it as necessary for smoother communication with such business partners as small retailers.

But the recent resurgence in cases prompted the trading house to rethink this policy. The company took lessons from its earlier telecommuting experience to improve its online meeting tools, among other changes.

"We have established a flexible operating system that enables us to switch to working from home at any time," an Itochu representative said.

More Japanese businesses are switching to telecommuting even in normal times, a development welcomed by workers. Companies see it as a must for attracting and retaining talent.

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