Choose the work style best for you now
Infotainment Systems Business Division
Since joining the company in 2009, Satoshi Tomita has been responsible for mechanism design of products for automakers, and he is planning to take childcare leave a second time for the birth of his second child. It will be for 8 months, much longer than the 4 months for the first time. “There are no worries for the people taking childcare leave. Instead, it is the members left behind who have worries,” laughs Tomita, self-assured. This is a time in life to prioritize devoting time to his beloved family, and he is practicing the work style that is best for him, based on understanding and cooperation with the people around him.
Decide how things should be based on the goals you need to pursue
—— Are there many opportunities to cooperate with different departments in your work on product development?
Yes. My job is to work with the customer to create the things they want, so I communicate with the contact people at automakers, with the electrical designers, software designers, and sales people inside the company, and when mass production is approaching, with the contact people at the factory and the quality control department.
—— When creating new value, there can be situations when different viewpoints clash. What do you do at times like these?
My own ideas and those of the members close to me are not necessarily correct. It is only natural that people in different positions or occupations have different ways of thinking. Ultimately, I make sure that we are not straying from the goals we must pursue as a company before deciding whether we should take in their ideas. This is because even for decisions that can put a heavy burden on the design department if you only look at the immediate short term, there are cases when it is more efficient or better for both sides in the long view. Of course, it is tough when you need to make it work somehow and resources are limited.
A happy, balanced work style varies from person to person
—— So, what does work-life balance mean to you?
The first time I heard the words work-life balance, I thought it was a movement to recommend reducing working hours to have more private time, but when I actually tried taking childcare leave, I realized how to make a ‘balanced work style’ varies from person to person. For example, some who loves their job feels happy when they are working, so taking their work away is nothing but misery.
Before taking childcare leave, it was normal to work overtime every day, so I did not have time think seriously about things like that, but when I went on childcare leave, I had a life where the whole day was my own, from when I woke to when I fell asleep, so I got time to think about what should be the top priority in my life at the time. As a result, I came to the conclusion that, while I did not hate my job by any means, the best work style for me now is to take the time I previously spent working overtime as a matter of course and devote it to my family.
—— Now, even after returning from childcare leave, you have a firmly established style of finishing work at a fixed time. Have you come up with any ways to increase your performance within standard working hours?
When you set the premise that you cannot work overtime up front, your way of appraising work changes. While I make efforts to increase my productivity, I now stop at the minimum necessary work, to phrase it in a slightly negative way. For example, if I have been improving the quality of a part beyond what is necessary, I stop when it seems good enough and will not affect downstream processes, or assess my workload before deciding whether to take something on. I also make adjustments to ensure that work is not individualized to me. In other words, I increase the parts that can be delegated to others. My first time taking childcare leave was an opportunity for the members around me to grow and mature a level or two, so thanks to that, I now feel secure in delegating when necessary.
—— Do you ever feel insecure or awkward about taking childcare leave or not working overtime?
It may be thanks to a convenient talent for insensitivity, but no. Of course, I may feel apologetic and grateful, but because it is an important time in my life, I do not hesitate to ask. In exchange, when the members around me want to take vacation time, I send them off in good spirits. Fortunately, it is customary to allow vacation time company-wide, not just in my department, so I think it is a very comfortable working environment.
Taking childcare leave is an opportunity to be mindful of diversity
—— As the first person to take childcare leave in your department, what do you think is needed to encourage male employees to take childcare leave going forward?
Working every day to build a relationship of trust with the members around you is important. To put it simply, a sense of solidarity. Everyone has times when they cannot engage with their work in a positive way, unrelated to taking childcare leave or not. Understandably, their output drops off as well. Though it certainly may be necessary to seek to improve your results and efficiency, everyone has hard times, so to maintain diversity, I think it is important to be accepting of each other, including our ups and downs. If people do not have the time to think about these things, they never change. So, I recommend taking childcare leave in that sense as well.
—— Being mindful of diversity because someone told you so may be difficult in practice. It seems there are many things that you only understand for the first time when you experience them yourself. Finally, please tell us about any challenges you want to take on in the future.
Right now, I am making childcare my top priority, so it is hard for me to give an instant reply about specific goals in my work, but I would like to create a product on my own that can change the lives of our customers, or even society as a whole. Japan is a small market, so I want to aim for something that will sell globally and contribute to business growth. I plan to take my second childcare leave from August to March, so I think it will be an opportunity to reexamine my work style again.