The Japanese government has announced it is launching “Premium Friday”. On the last Friday of every month, employees will be encouraged to leave their work at 3pm to go shopping. The aim is to give the working population some well-earned down-time in a country with some of the longest working hours in the world, while also giving a boost to the economy. But what does this mean for brands in other markets? Mintel’s global analysts share their views: Delon Wang, Manager of Trends, APAC Stress is a word on everyone’s mind, from children struggling with more homework to adults who are constantly worrying about personal liabilities. With the improvement of communication channels, people are also rarely switching off, checking emails before they sleep and waking to read updates from social media platforms. While overwork has been making headline news in Japan recently, around the rest of the APAC region, countries such as China and South Korea are also markets where overwork is becoming a serious issue. Government organisations and multinational corporations are likely to increase scrutiny over work practices to ensure that work hours are kept in check. Mintel Trend Slow It All Down is a great example of how, as lives become faster and more hectic, there is a wider appreciation for slowness as a counterpoint to speed. Brands are launching products that help consumers lift their moods or relax them at the day’s end. Lunchtime sleep pods dotting financial centres are also another great example for workers to take the breaks they need. Meditation sessions and impromptu yoga classes are other examples of how consumers need that short time-out so as to better manage work-related stress. Japan’s new “Premium Friday” is aimed at encouraging employees to leave the office at 3pm, in the hope they will go shopping or seek entertainments that will help them recover from long working hours, and instead inject some much-needed consumer spending into the economy. It may also, implicitly, be a way of helping working-age adults to find the time, and the inclination, to help alleviate the nation’s declining birth rate! Catherine Cottney, Manager of Trends, EMEA The job market has become ever more competitive thanks to people putting off retirement and a continual flow of highly qualified graduates. As such, employees are often more than willing to try and prove their worth by working late into the night. At the same time, smartphones are now so ubiquitous that it’s easier than ever for staff to keep on working even after they’ve left the office. Although this willingness to always be available might be beneficial for businesses in the short term, especially as many economies continue to struggle, this behaviour means that people are failing to fully disconnect. This blurring of boundaries between work and personal life can have a detrimental impact on overall well being and lead to an increase in stress and anxiety as is examined in the Mintel Trend Totophobia. “Premium Friday” could help redress the balance by actively encouraging staff to leave the office. Although there is no escaping our constant connectivity, this campaign may give workers the permission to forget about their work for a weekend at least, something which relates back to Mintel Trend Switch Off. Giving them a practical alternative to being in the office could also distract them from thinking about work-related matters or digitally checking in when once they finish their retail therapy. “Premium Friday” is part of a wider movement we’re witnessing as governments and businesses in Europe have also started looking for ways to help their staff achieve a better balance. On 1st January 2017, France announced an employment law that aimed to address the “always-on” culture that sees staff answering emails during their evenings and weekends. We’ve also seen companies embrace playful methods in a bid to discourage people from working beyond their allotted hours. For example, a design studio in Amsterdam installed desks that retracted into the ceiling at 6pm in order to help employees establish a healthy work/life balance. Stacy Bingle, Trends Consultant, North America While consumers in the US and Canada have yet to see a government mandate guiding them to work less, the harried, fast-paced global culture has its effect here, too. Schoolchildren to Boomers often feel weighed down by long hours, high stress and a tense societal climate, leading to a growing need to occasionally slow life down. Perhaps nudged by the stress in their own lives, some school administrators are making efforts to arm kids with coping mechanisms from the start. Days could begin with “mindful moments” or recess could be preceded by AmaZEN, a video-based tool for teachers in the US to integrate yoga and mindfulness activities into PK-12 classrooms. Adults, likewise, are reaching for anything and everything – from adult coloring books to meditation classes – that will help counterbalance the fatigue of daily life and help them relax. In Las Vegas this January, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) added a Sleep Tech Marketplace – an area chock full of smart beds, sleep trackers, and other slumber-inducing gadgets and gear – for the first time ever, a sure indication that consumers are desperate for rest. Whether we would ever see a formal, top-down directive, like Japan’s, in the US and/or Canada remains to be seen. But the overall movement is so profound that we could start to see companies take notice and follow in the footsteps of pioneers like Zappos, which bestowed zen upon all of its employees by giving them an extra paid day off on Leap Day 2016. What is generally certain, though, is that North American consumers will welcome any sort of break that comes their way with open arms. Delon Wang is the Trends Manager, Asia Pacific at Mintel. He oversees Trends content and Trends client servicing for the region. Catherine Cottney is Manager for Trends – Europe at Mintel and works at the forefront of detecting trends, innovations and consumer behaviour from across the globe and manages a team of contributors in the Asia-Pacific region. She has provided comments on topical issues and events from a Trends perspective for a number of media outlets and publications including BBC Radio 4ʼs Today programme, the Financial Times and Women & Home. Stacy Bingle is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. Stacy joined Mintel in 2013 bringing with her an exciting blend of CPG, agency and marketing experience. Her time is spent traveling the US and Canada engaging clients across global CPG, Beauty and Financial Services in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward. You might also be interested in: Thought Bubble: Amazon Go launches in the US, but does it hold potential worldwide?