Japan turns to drones, earsplitting sound to force overtime staff to leave

The horrendous noise produced by the drones aims to tackle Japan's back-breaking work culture.

Screenshot via YouTube

A drone which hovers in the air will shriek and produce sounds designed to forcefully stop employees spending too much time at work has been unveiled in Japan.

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The "T-Friend" is an autonomous drone which "strengthens the security of the office space at night, but also urges departure by regular patrol," according to Taisei and Blue Innovation, the makers of the device.

While blaring music and uncomfortable sounds may indeed deter sticky-fingered burglars at night, the true reason for the drone is to prevent Japanese employees from spending every waking moment at their desks.

Japanese culture has long honored loyalty to bosses and companies, dedication to work, and competition is fierce to land and keep jobs in cities such as Tokyo.

However, these traditions have gone too far in the last few decades, with a reported 21,897 people in 2016 alone committing suicide. These figures, however, do not include johatsu, "the evaporated," which are people that vanish and leave their lives due to reasons including debt, failed exams, and the loss of jobs.

One of the main reasons attributed to high suicide rates is mental illness, such as depression, which is still a stigma in the country -- and combined with long hours, heavy competition and working to exhaustion, the problem has become chronic.

In recent years, however, rates of suicide have fallen as the Japanese government has taken action, and part of this change is working culture reform.

Japan currently has the longest working hours in the world, and in a recent survey, nearly a quarter of Japanese firms said staff worked over 80 hours overtime a month, and 12 percent had employees breaking the 100 hours mark.

There is even a term in the country to describe working yourself to death, known as "karoshi."

According to Taisei, the T-Friend may help lessen the mental strain some employees put themselves through by forcing them to leave at the end of the workday.

"It has effects such as restraining overtime work and can be used to improve workplace environment for reform of workers," the company says. "We encourage employees who are present at the drone patrol time to leave, not only to promote employee health but also to conduct internal security management by periodically visiting at night."

As well as pushing staff out of the door, the drone can also be used to take photographs of those still in the office, which may help companies manage overtime more effectively.

In the video below, the drone is blaring out "Auld Lang Syne," a Scottish tune used in the country to announce the closure of stores.

Taisei has also teamed up with NTT East Japan to create a cloud storage system for the drone which will store images, footage, and flight logs.

Companies which wish to adopt the technology will pay roughly $4,500 a month, according to the Japan Times.

The drone is not a solution for revolutionizing the work culture itself, but if forcing employees to leave helps their health -- mental and physical -- it's worth a try.

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