Dear Metropolis,

I work in an international office and normally I love it, but … I guess sometimes I can’t get away from feeling that certain “Japanese cultural norms” at work are very stressful to me, as well as my co-workers. However, how we deal with it is different. There’s a culture of unpaid overtime that my Japanese colleagues obviously don’t like but give in to. I have a family and a long commute, and thus I go home on time. I realize this could cause some bad vibes with the people I work with, but it’s not something I am willing or able to do. I don’t want them to have to pick up my (imaginary) slack, but we are all overloaded with work with no way of getting a new team member. I feel guilty, but I also feel that I’m in the right in a culture of wrong and it’s stressing me out. Is there anything I can do?


Dear Overworked,

I can see that you’re feeling extremely stressed by the work culture that exists in your company. You’re attempting to maintain a healthy work and life balance by leaving work on time to get home to your family. I realize this has left you with feelings of guilt and concern about what your co-workers may or may not think with regards to your commitment to the work. Sadly, many others like you also struggle with the same thing, and it’s not limited to Japanese culture or companies. You feel stuck and are unsure of what options you have. I’m wondering if there are any other co-workers who might be experiencing similar feelings and how comfortable you would be discussing this with them. If you have an HR department, they might be able to run some lunchtime activities around stress management and work-life balance, or have someone speak on the topic. Finding ways to avoid burnout such as exercise, healthy eating and sleep are also very important in managing your stress levels, and often taken for granted. It sounds like you’d like some sort of support and acknowledgement that you’re not alone in this. The TELL Lifeline is open every day and our trained counselors are here to listen to your concerns and help consider what your options might be.

Answer courtesy of TELL. If you need to talk, they’re here to listen. Call the TELL Lifeline at 03-5774-0992 from 9am-11pm, 365 days a year. Or visit their website at

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