Roy Lee, from the Indonesia Business Development team, watched the news warily as ever more stories appeared earlier this year about the growing outbreak of novel coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19). But despite the increasing seriousness of the epidemic, Lee was surprised when the LINE Plus office in Korea starting telling people not to come in to work.
"In Europe, people don’t go to work when they’re sick,” said Lee, who grew up in Germany. “But in Korea, it’s different. Everyone always goes to work.”
But now, that deeply held workplace culture is changing. The rapid spread of COVID-19 is transforming how businesses operate all over Asia, and at the forefront of those changes is LINE Corporation.
Starting in late February, LINE extended a work-at-home program to everyone at its offices in Japan and Korea, telling thousands of employees both countries to stay home if they can. Since then, LINE’s remote-work policy has grown as the COVID-19 epidemic has spread around the region, as the company has worked to keep its employees safe in the face of this dangerous outbreak.
The need to change workplace culture
Remote work has been on the rise in much of the world for the past decade, but that’s a trend that has been slower to catch on in Japan and Korea, where workplace culture often demands people’s physical presence.
While governments in both countries have been pushing telecommuting for some time, the corporate culture in both counties meant change has been slow. In 2018, a survey by Japan’s interior ministry found just 19.1 percent of workers found such an option acceptable, and only 8.5 percent of workers had ever tried it*.
(*http://www.mlit.go.jp/crd/daisei/telework/docs/29telework_jinko_jittai_gaiyo.pdf – Japanese only)
But COVID-19 has forced both countries to find alternatives to the old ways.
Fortunately, LINE has been able to keep its offices functioning with minimal disruption. The LINE messenger and voice call features are already helpful for letting people work without going to their offices, enabling them to keep in touch with coworkers, bosses and clients.
Additionally, services like LINE Group Voice Call and LINE Group Video Call are able to handle large meetings of up to 200 people at a time, giving companies a convenient way to offer a remote work option while COVID-19 is a threat. In fact, LINE voice calls — both 1:1 and group calls — have seen their global usage double since February, while Group Video Calls rose 25% in Japan in February, an indication of how demand has grown.
And while changing how people work can seem daunting, one recent internal survey conducted by LINE showed that, while people may miss the ergonomic office furniture, employees are just as productive working from home.
Putting people’s health first
In addition to moving to work-at-home, LINE has instituted a range of measures to help keep the public safe through this outbreak. LINE is making more OAs available to governments so they can have an official channel to keep people aware of the latest information about COVID-19 and related health services.
People can use LINE Healthcare—a medical consultation service—for free for a limited time, and LINE is offering health information to students, to help them stay safe. Furthermore, LINE LIVE is available for event organizers for a greatly reduced rate, providing a safer alternative for large events, rather than meeting in person.
Continuing to stay vigilant
With public health officials urging the public avoid large gatherings and travel to lower exposure risk, a large portion of the working population is choosing to work from home and stagger their shifts. Similar steps are being taken in LINE’s other regional offices, too, with temperature checks, hand sanitizer and other preventative measures in use.
And in all regions, LINE is using its services to help keep educated about proper health protocols, so they can keep safe and keep their neighbors safe, too.
In Japan, LINE NEWS and LINE Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Official Account has been instrumental in providing real time information on topics related to COVID-19. In Korea, users can receive updates on the current COVID-19 numbers via LINE Disaster Alert Official Account, based on statistics provided by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). And in Taiwan, a Ministry of Health and Welfare OA uses a chatbot to remind people under self-monitoring to report their body temperature (instead of the government needing to telephone everyone individually). Official Accounts in Indonesia and Thailand are also providing updates and important information on the situation.
As a part of society’s infrastructure, LINE believes it has a responsibility to support its users, employees and all other stakeholders alike in the event of an emergency. We intend to continue to do all that we can in order to live up to this undertaking.
For a more complete list of what LINE is doing to respond to COVID-19 in its various offices and markets, please see this report: https://linecorp.com/en/pr/news/global/2020/51