To support each employee in balancing work and family life, Sony actively promotes the use of schemes such as childcare leave and vacations and reduced working hours. We asked three employees about the convenience and benefits of using the schemes, their situation after returning to work, their current lives, and their tips for balancing work and family.
Harada: I was quite worried about taking childcare leave at the time of my first childbirth, but I was very encouraged by the advice I received from senior colleagues about raising children and returning to work. When I was anxious about whether I would be able to balance childcare and work, I clearly remember the positive words of someone who told me, "Raising children is a great way to forget about work and refresh yourself, while work is a great way to forget about childcare and refresh yourself." During my leave of absence, I used internal job posting program to transfer to a different department. This scheme allows employees to apply for a department or post of their choosing by electing to take up the challenge of a job where they can further demonstrate their abilities. My supervisor understood childcare issues, and managed things to ensure that my workload did not become too heavy during child raising. Working while raising a child was difficult because I was not used to it, but in dealing with the work I was assigned, I was encouraged by a workplace atmosphere that proactively accepts diverse work styles and provides support for achieving results.
Ikuta: I decided to take childcare leave right from the start because I wanted to fully participate in child rearing together with my wife. I also took leave for another reason. My wife works, too, and her career is at a similar level to mine, so we wanted to be equals in parenting as well. With the support of those around me, the procedures and adjustments at my workplace went smoothly. My boss also joined in encouraging me to take childcare leave. I used the scheme twice: for three weeks immediately after the birth, and for another three weeks four months after the birth. As I took less than a month off on each occasion, and things in the workplace were relatively calm at the time, there were no major concerns relating to work. I was also able to take leave without any worry because my boss told me that he would handle any problems that might arise.
Arai: As it happened, very few people in my department had experience of taking parental leave , as far as I knew. For this reason, I couldn't find a close there were no senior employees nearby to serve as role models, and it was difficult for me to imagine how I could balance work and childcare. However, I did not feel anxious because my supervisors and colleagues encouraged me to take leave and welcomed me back warmly when I returned to work. After taking childcare leave for my second child, I used the reduced working hours scheme for about three months. Since the childcare and housework burden was heavy immediately after returning to work, I would not have been able to continue working successfully without this scheme.
Ikuta: What I liked about taking childcare leave was that I was able to spend ample time with my newborn child and watch him grow. As I got to know my child better, this further strengthened my love for him along with my awareness that I am his father. It was also good that, as a couple, we realized the importance of raising children together. I especially felt this in the three months between the end of my first parental leave and the start of my second. When I was working at the company after the first time, I found that, unintentionally, I had very little time to spend with my child and became increasingly unaware of what was going on. And since infants grow quickly, parenting methods change daily. You quickly lose touch with childcare if you don't do it every day, which increases the burden on your spouse because you find you can do less and less. The second time I took childcare leave, I was able to participate in childcare again and learned to understand my child better. Taking childcare leave twice was definitely the right decision as I discovered new things each time.
Harada: I believe I was right to take childcare leave because it enabled me to spend substantial quality time with my child. Of course, spending time with your child is sometimes great fun and sometimes tough, but I am happy I was able to experience parent-child communications that is only possible at that time.
Arai: Like my two colleagues, I found the best thing about taking childcare leave was the ability to spend more time with my children. When I was with them, I was surprised to discover an even deeper love for them than I had ever imagined. I also used the reduced working hours scheme, but at the time my schedule was so busy with work, childcare and housework that I couldn't find any other option. The reduced working hours scheme was essential for balancing work, childcare and housework at that moment.
Ikuta: Telecommuting is currently recommended because of the COVID-19 pandemic and is extremely helpful in terms of balancing work with childcare. More specifically, telecommuting allows me to use the time I formerly spent on commuting for childcare and housework instead. And since my wife and I can be both at home at the same time, it is easier to share childcare and housework more flexibly. My wife was on childcare leave before the COVID-19 pandemic, so she handled most of the childcare on weekdays. We had roughly divided the housework between us from before our child was born. My wife does the cooking, and I handle the cleaning, laundry, and other chores. Because of the pandemic, teleworking was already firmly established by the time my wife returned to work, so she and I have been working from home since. The schedule varies from time to time, but I generally feed him breakfast, read him a story, and change his diapers in the morning, while my wife takes him to nursery school. After picking him up from daycare in the evening, things depend on each other's schedules for the day. We go to pick him up together if time permits. There is no change in the way we divide up the housework: my wife does the cooking and I do the rest. As we like to spend as much time as possible with our child, my wife and I have been talking about getting home appliances that help reduce the amount of time we spend on housework, such as a robot vacuum cleaner, a front-loading washing machine and a dishwasher.
Arai: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way my husband and I work, specifically in the sense that we telecommute for the most part. The biggest change is that I now have more time in the morning than I used to. I think the amount of time I spend with my family has increased by more than 30 minutes in the morning. Before the pandemic, I left the house first, so it was my husband's job to drop the children at daycare and mine to pick them up. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, my husband drops them off and picks them up later unless he has an online meeting or something scheduled, which is really helpful. Having my husband at home has made it easier to arrange my working hours better than before. When it comes to dividing up household chores, I am in charge of preparing meals and my husband is in charge of cleaning the bathroom and washing the dishes.
Harada: We work from home as a couple, too. The only change is that my opportunities to cook dinner have been halved. I used to prepare all meals, but now that my husband is home more often, he cooks for us later in the week. I think we share housework and parenting more or less equally. I am in charge of preparing meals, laundry, picking up our child from school, and looking after her. My husband has been making all our child's lunches since she started elementary school and supervises studies and lessons. My husband is also in charge of decorating the Christmas tree, displaying the hina dolls for Girl's Day on March 3, and taking the lead in the general cleaning at year-end. He usually leads with the housework and childcare, so I can take up the various challenges I face at work. For example, I can go on long training courses or take overseas business trips without worrying because my husband is at home. Without my husband's support, I'd probably decide not to go to start with.
Ikuta: I also think that Ms.Harada's comment on her husband's taking the lead is particularly important for balancing work with childcare and housework. I don't consider myself to be just a supporter at all. I'm fully involved as a concerned party. It's much more interesting to take the initiative, not just with childcare or housework. It's boring to think you're doing something just to provide support, and stressful if it takes a lot of time and effort. Being proactive makes life more enjoyable.
Arai: I completely agree with what my two colleagues have said. Raising a child is not just a matter of a husband supporting his wife, but something that a husband and wife should do together. Balancing work and childcare will not work well the moment either one of them feels they are overburdened. If we are both proactive in taking initiatives, the workload will be better balanced and its negative aspects reduced.
Arai: Before I had children I often went on overseas business trips and did quite a bit of overtime. But my life priorities and values changed after I had my children. My family is important to me, and I am important to my family. My work is important, too, of course, but I have come to think of my family and myself first, then to consider how best to balance my work and my family. Using the childcare leave & vacation scheme and reduced working hours changed my original career development plans and schedule, as well as my priorities. I sometimes think I might have been able to advance my career a little faster if I hadn't taken childcare leave. However, I think delivering good results while using the childcare leave & vacation scheme and reduced working hours opens up new opportunities for career advancement. I also think you need the cooperation of your partner to achieve solid results and build a career while parenting and providing nursing care.
Harada: I also took a year of childcare leave and eased off on my work for two or three years, so my career development plans definitely marked time for a while. But there were some positives. First, I was able to change the way I work. When my child was born, I decided to transfer to a new position using internal job posting program. My intention was to take up new challenges in a job that would allow me to give fuller rein to my abilities while balancing work with childcare. During my childcare leave, I thought long and hard about how I wanted to work in the future with a view to finding a new workplace. It was a good opportunity for me to rethink my work and workstyle. Second, my work productivity has improved. Raising a child inevitably shortens the time you can devote to work. I have learned how to embrace working methods and a mindset that allowed me to work more efficiently in this environment. This continues to help me in my work today.
Ikuta: I don't think taking childcare leave affected my career at all, possibly because my leave was relatively short. As Ms.Harada said, balancing work and childcare limits my working hours more than before, so I've become more conscious of delivering the required results in a shorter time. I used to think that it didn't matter how much overtime work it took me so long as I got results. Now I think a businessperson with a family is someone who does things efficiently and gets results on business time. My priorities for career development also changed. I used to want to work overseas, but now I think in terms of building my career in Japan for a while so that I can be with my family.
Arai: It's important to be able to change your thinking and your feelings if you want to balance childcare and work. If something is on my mind at work, I tend to bring it at home with me, so I try to remember the importance of switching on and off. I am always aware that it is even harder to switch between work and family when working from home because there is no boundary between those two. You must also avoid trying to do everything by yourself. People juggling childcare and work often find themselves running out of time or even becoming overwhelmed. If this happens, you should immediately ask for help from your partner at home, or from your team members or boss at work. People who see from close up that you are doing your best will be compassionate and cooperative.
Harada: I think the secret to balancing childcare and work is to be enthusiastic about both. When I'm with my child, I forget about work and enjoy myself to the fullest. When I'm working, I forget about parenting and devote myself to it. I believe you can balance work and family very well with that kind of attitude. Also, working while raising small children every day really wears you out. You begin to fret that this situation will last forever, as I did, but actually it will end eventually. The situation changes as the child grows. The burden of childcare will definitely decrease, and you will be able to make time for yourself and do the things you want to do later. That's why you should enjoy the time you spend with your child while you can.
Ikuta: As I raised my child, I realized it was important not to overdo things. You mustn't try too hard. I used to work hard at my job, even if I had to push myself a little. There were times when I became unwell as a result, but I was able to get through them by taking a temporary break or reducing my workload. However, if you add childcare to the mix when you don't have the luxury of time to begin with, and you overdo things for either childcare or work, one or the other will suffer and you will soon find yourself unable to manage. To maintain a balance between childcare and work that will be sustainable into the future, I try to do my best for both, and take it easy once I get tired. The understanding of one's colleagues becomes increasingly vital with time. I am happy that many people in my workplace have similar attitudes towards childcare, especially since this makes it easier to work as a team. In addition to maintaining ties with those who are currently raising children, it is essential to continue proactive communications with people who are not directly involved in childcare so that they learn to understand what's involved.