Photo/Illutration Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a G-20 virtual summit at his office on March 25. (Provided by the Cabinet Office)

Web meetings are definitely not my thing. But now that I am working more days from home, I can no longer avoid them altogether.

As I am still unused to operating a webcam, I get nervous every time I turn it on. The screen would show my untidy kitchen. And should I forget to mute the microphone, it would pick up my worthless monologue.

A major home electronics store I recently visited had a dedicated sales counter for teleworking needs.

Headphones and printers for home use were selling briskly, but I was told compact webcams for video conferences are emerging as the hottest addition.

"Because of the novel coronavirus, webcam orders we have received since February are double the level of the same period last year," said Makoto Sawa, 60, senior managing director of Watec Co., a webcam maker based in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture.

With 50 employees on the payroll, the company is now running its production lines at full capacity. But it still cannot catch up with the recent surge in demand, Sawa noted.

Watec was founded in 1987. Its high-sensitivity compact cameras, all made in Yamagata, have been installed in rockets and astronomical observatories in Japan, as well as overseas.

"Telework will continue to expand," Sawa enthused. "And by remaining closely attuned to the needs of users, we hope to keep improving our products."

Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs famously said, "Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea. ..."

Work styles will keep evolving. But no matter how far the evolution goes, there will always be limits to what one person can achieve, no matter how gifted. I believe business conferences will never become redundant.

Of course, there are many professions that are by nature not suited for teleworking. Still, I can't imagine the present global trend toward teleworking being reversed in the future.

Someday, the word "conference" will be redefined to imply a meeting in which everyone participates remotely.

And by then, I wonder if the Japanese word for conference, which is "kaigi," will have been changed to "engi" or "kakugi," written with kanji for "far away" and "separated," respectively.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 9

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.