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    Supervisors of Employees who Took Paternity Leave Talk about Creating Organizations for Taking Leave Easily

    Supervisors of Employees who Took Paternity Leave Talk about Creating Organizations for Taking Leave Easily サムネイル画像

    [Notice] Effective October 1, 2023, LINE Fukuoka has changed its company name to LY Communications. Articles published on or before September 30, 2023 were written with our former company name.

    At 7.48%, the rate of fathers who take paternity leave in Japan is still low compared to other developed countries. Japan is promoting the use of paternity leave by making revisions to laws related to childcare leave.

    According to an investigation by Japan's Cabinet Office, the leading reasons men gave for not taking more than one month of childcare leave were not wanting to cause issues at the workplace (37.2%) and a company atmosphere of not recognizing childcare leave for men (32.9%)¹, so the key to promoting paternity leave seems to be company management creating a workplace where it's easy to take childcare leave.

    Previously, we asked two fathers who took two and six months of paternity leave about whether they felt any guilt about taking leave, how they spent their leave, and the impact that taking leave had on their careers. In this issue of LINE Fukuoka Press, we sat down with their supervisors to ask them how they really felt about managing employees who take paternity leave, nurturing the culture in their departments, and tips for business management.

    If you're currently a manager, or worried about how you'll be evaluated and can't take the first step to childcare leave, this article may be for you.

    ■ Status of paternity leave at LINE Fukuoka (for Fiscal Year 2020)
    Percentage of employees who took paternity leave: 46.2%
    Average number of days taken: 102.6 (Median value: 90 days)

    Note: Masks were only removed for photos.

    Thoughts about receiving childcare leave consultations

    The two of you have experienced fathers taking paternity leave for the first time in your departments. What did you think when they consulted you about it?
    Momota :When Mr. Taira decided (to take paternity leave) and came to talk to me about it, I thought it was quite impressive. At the time, no other employees had taken paternity leave in our department, so we decided for him to be the model case for taking leave.
    Matsuo :I was honestly just happy for the new parents. (Mr. Tanegashima) had previously told me about his desire to take childcare leave, so it wasn't really a surprise.

    Creating an organization that functions even when someone is on leave

    A lot of fathers are concerned about placing a burden on their department, which is why they don't take more than a month of paternity leave, but both of your employees took more than a month. Please tell us how you created organizations that function even with someone on leave and building a culture that makes leave easy to take.

    Momota:Teams that continue to succeed have the unique characteristic of "maintaining high performance even if someone is out." I'm careful to "design" work (by making sales method templates, for example) so that we aren't dependent on one person for their skills or the tasks they perform, and other members can pick up the work if a certain person isn't available.

    Matsuo:I assume that there will be sudden projects and absences in our department as well, so I always visualize our work, organize tasks, and sort things out.

    To make it easier for people to take time off, I'm instilling an awareness of our obligation to "take time off" within our department by having every member share their plans for taking paid leave with the team each month. I work to create a culture where taking leave is a matter of course by proactively taking leave myself.
    That's a good point. If it's difficult to take regular paid leave but someone takes a day off and the department can't function, it's hard to say, "I want to take more than a month off" for something like childcare.

    According to a report from an investigation in the status of employment equality between genders, the most common issue that businesses face when fathers take childcare leave is "securing a replacement."²
    ²Results of the Investigation on Equality of Employment for Men and Women: https://www.metro.tokyo.lg.jp/tosei/hodohappyo/press/2021/03/25/documents/20_01.pdf

    You both said that you're making efforts to build organizations that can fill the gaps when someone steps away, but during the period when these fathers took two or more months of paternity leave, how did you operate your teams? Did you find a replacement?

    :I'm Mr. Tanegashima's supervisor, and he took two months of leave, but we went about our work without recruiting anyone. We divided his tasks among our other members and also organized their original tasks so they wouldn't be taking on too much of a burden. I took over his managing work, so I also organized my own tasks.

    Momota: I'm Mr. Taira's supervisor, and he took six months of leave, but we also divided his clients and tasks among our other members.

    This placed a heavier load on our members, but by having multiple people provide support, I think we were able to keep that to a minimum. It made me realize once again that our department has wonderful teamwork. I'm truly grateful to the members that were there at the time.
    If a member is away long-term for something like childcare leave, continued operation is possible by splitting up their tasks among the current team members. However, if you were trying to improve your achievements, I think a replacement would be essential. What are your thoughts on that?

    Matuso:Right. Due to the unique nature of their work, some departments may not be able to keep the increased workload to a minimum just by eliminating dependencies and reorganizing work, so a replacement may be necessary.

    In the case of our department, if it's difficult to cover something with just the resources we have, I talk to other department leaders and adjust things by having them assign someone.

    Momota:We don't replace people who are away on leave, but to expand our achievements, we're always recruiting new people (including when Mr. Taira was on leave).

    There were fields where Mr. Taira could shine after he came back, so we didn't open up his position and role. The members who are still around and the newly recruited members gave their best, so we didn't have any problem with our sales achievements dipping.

    If you have target figures for the team, the remaining members will have to make up ground to meet it. Were any of your members worried about their quotas going up? Please tell us if you came up with any creative solutions to that issue.

    Momota:We don't force targets on our team members. Ultimately, we set them based on our past achievements as well as taking business potential into account.

    It's important to set goals that everyone is satisfied with, and as we consider with on-site leaders how they can be achieved, the team members involved do their best every day.
    So by "designing" work that isn't dependent on one person from a skill or task perspective and gaining understanding about goal-setting, you were able to continue expanding your sales achievements even while Mr. Taira was taking leave.

    On the other hand, if you don't have enough members even when you can't recruit new talent, managers have to work to make arrangements with other departments...it sounds tough!

    Evaluating childcare and work

    Even if you have a culture within your department that makes it easy to take leave, for employees whose prioritize their work, it's hard to get on the same page with someone who is on leave or has reduced working hours. We imagine that there may be cases where these employees feel the situation is unfair since they have to stay late all the time. If a situation like this arose, how would you handle it?

    Additionally, are their different criterion for evaluating employees who are raising children and have to balance their work and private lives compared to employees who work long hours without taking a leave of absence?

    Matsuo:First of all, I typically evaluate based on results. Our attitude towards work is based on "LINE STYLE"³ (which serves as a guideline for how we work at LINE), and we use it as the axis of our evaluations.
    The company requires employees to take time off, and Article 36 of the Labor Standards Act does so as well, so we don't recommend long overtime hours or senseless devotion to work. Instead, we ask our employees to think about work from the perspective of what they can achieve within an eight-hour workday.

    If they're working overtime, it means they have a lot of tasks or their tasks are complex, so we judge the situation from multiple perspectives and rethink the work they're taking on.

    Momota:Of course, I'm very grateful that we have employees who prioritize their work and aim to achieve the team's goals, but working long hours has an impact on your health. Regardless of family structure, we strive for working arrangements that allow everyone on our team to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

    So if you recommend maintaining a work-life balance to all employees rather than asking those who can work long hours to do so, then there might not be a sense of inequality regarding how long certain members work. We also feel that having clear evaluation standards for "attitude towards work" is an effective way to spread a healthy work-life balance.

    Some employees may still be unable to take the first steps towards childcare leave due to concerns about the impact it may have on their evaluations or promotions, but how does leave actually impact their evaluations?

    Matsuo:I personally took 15 months of childcare leave, so speaking from my own experience, employees won't be poorly evaluated "because they took childcare leave."

    However, when you have a child, you can't just return to your previous working arrangements like nothing happened. So I think it's important to build trust within the office before your child arrives.

    I took leave when I was a manager, returned as a regular employee, and then stepped back into a managerial role when a new department was created. I was also working shorter hours, but I was conscious of putting out eight hours' worth of results in a six-hour workday.

    If you can demonstrate your value to the company and gain credibility, I think you'll be able to create your ideal no matter what environment you're in.

    Since returning to work, Ms. Matsuo has continued to build her career, moving from manager to department head, and finally center head all while juggling childcare. Focusing on building trust and delivering results seems to be the key to managing your career and childcare.

    A manager's job is to "figure things out"

    From what we've heard, you adjust work for your team members and request cooperation from other departments, so it seems like employees taking childcare leave places quite a burden on managers. How do you perceive that "managerial burden" that accompanies an employee taking a leave of absence for something like childcare?

    MomotaMost people think that a manager's job is just to manage, but that same word also means to figure something out to get things done. Our job as managers is to do something about unforeseen situations, so it actually makes me think that it's finally my time to shine!
    "Paternity harassment" (where fathers are bullied for taking childcare leave) has become a social issue.
    As supervisors who have had employees take paternity leave, what are your thoughts on paternity harassment?

    It’s a risk management issue. This just happens to be about childcare leave, but there's no way to know when someone's going to have to take a leave of absence due to sickness or needing to care for a family member. A manager's job is to manage risk so that their department can continue to operate even if someone is suddenly absent.

    No leader should ever avoid their own responsibilities and injure the pride of an employee by telling them that the department can't function without them.

    Momota I agree with Ms. Matsuo. I think employees will perform better in an environment where they're able to take childcare leave to watch the growth of their children closely and care for their spouses who may be struggling after giving birth rather than one where they can't take childcare leave and neglect their private lives.

    A department where members can work together for many years also leads to department stability, so I think creating an environment where employees can value their private lives is the first step towards that stability.

    MatsuoCompanies are public institutions, and are responsible for creating a future for society. By uniting and supporting employees in raising their families, we are creating the future. Raising children isn't done just by parents; it takes an entire "village," including supervisors.

    I'm in the same team as Mr. Tanegashima who took leave, but when he showed us pictures of his baby through our LINE group chat while he was on leave, it made me feel like we were indirectly helping raise his child by taking on his work.
    If we consider paternity leave in the long-term (such as from the standpoint of an employee's future performance and our responsibility as an institution to create society's future), we can see the significance of departments supporting employees who are raising children.

    Reflection after the first employee in their department took paternity leave

    After your first experiences with an employee taking paternity leave, is there anything that you wish you had done differently?
    Momota When Mr. Taira came to me to talk about childcare leave, he asked me if he was "allowed to take leave," and the energy surrounding his question was very heavy.

    In my team, there still weren't any precedents for people taking childcare leave. So when he asked, I wish that I had spoken to my team and told them that it was fine for fathers to take childcare leave as well.

    MatsuoAs a manager, I value understanding the personalities and conditions of my employees, but when I read Mr. Tanegashima's interview and learned that he was prepared for a "small career change" when he returned from childcare leave, I realized that I still have a lot to learn about how they feel.

    Because there aren't many precedents for paternity leave, it seems like there's a lot that supervisors have to take into consideration. By building a well of these considerations, we're confident that LINE Fukuoka will become a company that lets employees value childcare and their careers, regardless of gender.

    After hearing what our two supervisors had to say in this interview, we were pleasantly surprised by their sincere attitude towards not just their employee's work but also their lives so that they can create organizations that let everyone work without pushing themselves too hard.
    We felt like we're more able to openly consult our supervisors about childcare leave or working arrangements, because when everyone can work comfortably, it leads to stability within their department.

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