Stressed out, overworked, or just over it: Workers in Japan who want to leave their jobs — but don't want to face the stress of quitting in person — are paying a company called Exit to tell their bosses that they won't be back.
People hoping to never set foot in their workplace again pay Exit $450 to help them quit their full-time jobs; those who have had it with part-time work can pay around $360. And as Alex Martin reports for Japan Times, "Repeat clients get a [$90] discount."
Based in Tokyo, Exit is part of a startup run by two childhood friends, Yuichiro Okazaki and Toshiyuki Niino. They started their company last year, and it is reportedly turning a profit.
"There's definitely demand out there," Okazaki told Martin. He added, "Personally, I'm perplexed as to why people find it hard to quit, but I do sense that this atmosphere is prevalent in Japan."
While the company's message stresses the new potential of changing environments, its logo — a figure running out of a door — suggests it is also aware some clients are simply desperate to get out of their current situation.
On its website, Exit lists cases in which it helped clients, many in their 20s and 30s, leave jobs that ranged from sales and Web production to a restaurant chef. Some said they didn't fit in at work; others cited issues with supervisors or a move for personal reasons.
The "retirement agency" says it helped them avoid the anxiety of quitting and blocked their bosses' attempts to get them to stay.
For decades, Japan's work culture revolved around the idea that people should spend their entire careers at a single employer. But that sense of deep loyalty has shown cracks in recent years. Workers' priorities have shifted away from their jobs, and they now have more options thanks to Japan's low unemployment rate, which has sat at or below 2.5 percent for all of 2018.
"The number of people who changed jobs has risen for seven straight years, reaching 3.11 million in 2017," The Wall Street Journal reported in March, citing data from Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
Still, the number of Japanese workers changing jobs represented less than 5 percent of the overall workforce in 2017, meaning that it is still relatively rare for employees to go full-on Johnny Paycheck on their bosses in Japan.
For those who decide to take the leap, Exit is there to help.
The company acts as a buffer between the departing employee and the now-former company. After informing bosses that they've lost a worker, Exit relays basic requests, but it doesn't get involved in complicated matters such as possible severance payments. Often, the former employee and ex-company communicate only via mail after Exit has stepped in.
"Quitting jobs can be a soul-crushing hassle," Niino tells The Japan Times. "We're here to provide a sense of relief by taking on that burden."
Under Japan's labor laws, employees who want to quit their job are required to give two weeks' notice. While Exit's customers often use holiday hours or other leave to fulfill that quota, the notice — and the delivery method — fall far short of the workplace etiquette guidelines laid out by Savvy Tokyo.
According to the site, tradition compels many employees to give at least a month's notice and to tell their manager about their plans in a face-to-face meeting.
Etiquette also calls for a formal letter of resignation — and for departing employees to dole out an assortment of small gifts on their last day, to show their appreciation to their co-workers.
Those niceties aside, it seems that Exit has tapped into a growing sector of Japan's economy. The Japan Times reports that several competitors have cropped up, and the company has also attracted an investment offer from a venture capital firm.