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Keys to Creating More Innovative and Healthier Workplaces

Semana de la Ciencia 2015 de la UC3M


Young people are increasingly looking for jobs that are less harsh, more sustainable andthat involve a social contribution, even if this means working for less pay. This is one of the trends that research in Japan has uncovered, and one of the subjects that will be addressed at a round table about the future of work and the healthy workplace organized by Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) for Madrid Science Week.

Claves para conseguir empresas más innovadoras y saludables

At this event, which will be held on Tuesday, November 10th on the UC3M Madrid-Puerta de Toledo campus, the future of work and the healthy workplace will be discussed on the basis of recent studies analyzing the labor situation in Spain and Japan. “They will help us debate what we can learn from the Japanese to create more innovative and healthier workplaces,” explained the professor that is coordinating this activity, Oscar Pérez Zapata, from the UC3M Department of Business Administration. Zapata researched these topics in Japan through a project promoted by the Japan Foundation.

Japan is the forerunner of many economic, social and technological dynamics that decades later became established in Europe. “In the research, we look at what is happening at work and in companies in Japan, where they have been pioneers in the organization of work (for example, “just in time,” light production, total quality and the “Z” theory). And more specifically, we have sought to better understand Japanese trends in the triangle consisting of dedication to work, innovation and health,” said Zapata.

To achieve this, they carried out a qualitative study in Japan, interviewing employees (above all qualified young people) of Japanese multinationals that are also present in Spain, experts in human resources, university scientists and authorities at the new government research center in Japan to address the disorders associated with overwork. In an effort to design better policies, the research center examines claims filed in the last five years (over 2,000 a year) because of health problems related to overwork.

The Japanese were the first to innovate on the basis of maximum dedication to work, with very long workdays and minimal vacations. After several decades, it seems this has had a large impact on health, the birth rate and families, calling into question its sustainability. In fact, the Japanese government, within what is known as “Abenomics,” is taking a very active role in trying to change Japanese business culture, regulating working hours, mandating increased vacation days or setting stop-work times, among other measures. “Meanwhile, in Europe, although we have a different legal and labor framework, we are nonetheless following the Japanese pattern of working more intensely,” said Zapata.

The Japanese case reveals other trends that are also found in Europe, such as companies which are changing their corporate culture so that the most innovative talent that young people offer is not lost to brain-drain. “Japanese youth are changing their priorities and are looking for jobs that are less harsh, more sustainable and that involve a social contribution, even if this entails lower pay,” said Zapata. Those interviewed note that they don’t want to go through what their parents went through and stay away from jobs they consider toxic. Also, this is tied to the idea that the health of young people today seems especially vulnerable to stressful jobs, which pose more potential harm to mental health.The round table will be moderated by Yuko Morimoto, the Director of Asian Studies at UC3M Carlos III International School. Apart from Prof. Pérez Zapata, contributing to the discussion will be Shoji Yoshida, Director of the Japan Foundation in Madrid, Tomás Zumárraga, Director of the Japanese business association Shacho Kai, and José Ramón Gutiérrez, from Esden Business School. These speakers will also present the results of another study on Japanese companies in Spain. The event is backed by the company Dubitare, the Shacho Kai Japanese Enterprise Association and the Japan Foundation in Madrid.

This event is part of the UC3M Science Week, which this year has thirty free science-related activities. Running from November 2nd to November 15th, Science Week offers guided visits, workshops, open-door conferences, talks, contests, etc. Further information:

Further information:

o The Future of Work and the Healthy Workplace: What Can We Learn from the Japanese?
o Tuesday, November 10th, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
o Campus de Madrid-Puerta de Toledo de la UC3M. How to get there
o To reserve seats send an e-mail to