Your company is paying for you to take a pleasure trip! Awesome! You’ll be spending all weekend with your boss and coworkers! Not so awesome.

Japanese society places an infamous amount of pressure on people to keep working. This is, after all, the country where there’s a special phrase you’re supposed to use to apologize to everyone who’s still in the office if you’re actually going home on time, or even just doing less overtime than they are.

But it’s not like companies are completely oblivious to the strains those long hours can put on their employees’ mental health and emotional happiness. So as a sort of thank-you for all their hard work, many companies in Japan, especially larger or more traditionally minded ones, organize, and pay for, trips for their employees. That’s a nice little perk, right?

Except there’s a catch: you’ll be taking that trip with your coworkers. In Japanese they’re called shain ryokou, which literally translates to “company member trips,” and they’re just for employees, with no friends, family, or romantic partners tagging along. On the simple end of the scale, company trips can be as basic as a day-trip to a local sightseeing destination, but there are organizations that opt for overnight trips, and sometimes even overseas travel.

To clarify, these aren’t team-building or leadership retreats. The itineraries are made up of leisure activities and group meals (with alcoholic beverages), and the ostensible logic is that the trips are a good way to let everyone relax and have fun while forgetting about work, but also strengthening bonds between coworkers.

However, it’s pretty hard to forget about work when you’re surrounded by the people you work with. For larger companies, shain ryokou can involve dozens, or even hundreds, of people, which of course requires participants to stick to schedules for activities, transportation, and meals. That lack of freedom to do what you want, when you want to, once again makes things start to feel like a day at the office (and yes, your boss will be joining you on the trip).

▼ “Why yes, that is a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji, Mr. Serizawa. I’m sure my wife and kids would say the same thing if they were here.”

Worst of all is that company trips aren’t usually scheduled in lieu of normal work, but instead eat up the weekends they’re held on. So if you spend a solid week working, then the weekend on a trip that feels like work, there’s little chance that you’ll come into the office the following Monday feeling refreshed and enthusiastic. Then you’ve got another five days to slog through before finally getting a day of free time after 12 days on your company’s timetable, but by then you might be too mentally exhausted to do anything other than loaf around the house before going back to work again on Monday and wondering what the point of it all is.

So really, it’s no surprise that in a survey conducted by Japanese job-hunting site Career Connection News, the vast majority of respondents said they’d love to opt out of shain ryokou. 65 percent of respondents said they “absolutely hate” company trips, with only 8 percent saying they look forward to going on them.

▼ In other words, 92 percent don’t want to go.

But if so few people like the trips, why do they keep happening? One reason is that while it’s easy to profess your hatred for them in an online survey, many Japanese workers feel far less comfortable telling their true feelings to their actual employers. “If you don’t go, it ends up having an effect on how the company evaluates your performance and worth to the organization,” said one 30-something respondent who works in accounting consulting. “It’s something everyone in the company knows.”

The biggest reason shain ryokou still exist, though, is that a lot of higher-ups genuinely believe them to be beneficial. The loudest grumbling about the trips comes from mid and lower-level employees, but many high-ranking Japanese executives honestly think that leisure activities with professional colleagues is a great way to open up channels of communication, deepen interpersonal understanding, and create a cooperative, conscientious office environment.

However, the counterargument is that turning your circle of coworkers into an all-encompassing social unit is exactly the sort of thing that upsets any semblance of work-life balance for the last few generations of Japanese adults. Younger workers are more likely to crave time with their family and friends on their days off, especially as more married women in Japan continue to work and more fathers take an active role in child-rearing. Luckily for them, shain ryokou are becoming less common than they were before, but for the time being, these unpleasurable pleasure trips are still often part of working in Japan.

Source: Career Connection News via @Nifty News via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3) (edited by SoraNews24)