Working from Home During COVID-19: Establish a Routine


Benefits of Routine When Working from Home

We spoke with a reader about her experiences so far in this forced work-from-home situation we are in. Establishing a routine helps to work through issues that will come up. There tends to be a resistance to being forced to be at home. Working from home is a great perk when it is your choice, but when it’s forced, it affects people differently.

Work-From-Home Success Story

In my last post I mentioned two articles that focused on the lack of preparedness of many Japanese companies to transition to WFH smoothly. We interviewed one of our readers in New York who works for a Japanese company that was an early adopter of WFH. They were already in process of digitalizing a lot of their work, including already having a digital hanko (a carved stamp or seal that is used for signing documents), which positioned them for work-from-home success even before the crisis began.

After working through the initial challenges, she realized that she could keep her daily routine as if she were going into the office: her morning exercise, breakfast, dressing for work, and then sitting down at her “desk” (kitchen table) to start her workday. She takes stretch breaks throughout the day and is able to walk away from her computer when the day is done. Her normal work schedule is from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., and she says she will not let herself work later than 6:00 p.m. She has not let working from home take over her home life.

Our reader from Tokyo, who was mentioned in a previous post, is still encountering ongoing difficulties: constantly checking e-mails at odd hours, stressing, and trying to prove she is always working. This reader is letting working from home take over her home life.

What’s the Difference?

What is the main difference between these two readers? One has been able to incorporate a routine and mindset that helps her achieve balance. The other has yet to be able to do so. Why?

I think there are several issues that could be at play with our Tokyo reader:

1. Something in her company’s culture that is feeding into this.
2. Some “fear” is keeping her from setting boundaries and sticking to them.
3. She has yet to establish a plan/routine for working from home—and a mindset.

I cannot speak to a person’s company culture or their personal fears, but I can speak to the third point.

If you are going into an office, you have a routine: You get up, get ready, eat something, commute to work, sit at your desk, turn on your computer, get to work. You get your coffee, check e-mails, decide what to handle and what to put off until later, attend meetings, do work, take a lunch break, get your afternoon coffee, work, chat with co-workers throughout the day, work your to do list, complete tasks, leave other tasks for tomorrow, end your day, shut down your computer, clean up your desk in preparation for tomorrow, leave your desk and your office, and commute home.

When you are at home, what is changing? Nothing, really, except the commute to and from work and you are not face-to-face with coworkers or clients. There is already an established routine. You are still doing everything you normally do. I think the issue is people think this is more difficult than it is. It is not a different way of working. It is a different location. The mindset you have about working from home is what will assist you in being productive and balanced.

Focus on the Benefits

The reader in NY did encounter challenges in the first two weeks, such as missing direct contact with her colleagues—this was more of a social aspect rather business—and the monotony, which led to feelings of frustration and anxiety. She was able to overcome these challenges by keeping to her routine/schedule and focusing on the positives of working from home, such as walking in the park as soon as work is done, and no longer being distracted throughout the day by noisy cubicle neighbors. She realized that she could arrange her lunch break around watching Governor Andrew Cuomo’s news briefings. This has enabled her to achieve a good balance while working from home.

My best advice is to establish a good routine, keep to a work schedule, and get in the right mindset. This will help tremendously as we navigate our way in this crisis.

Call to Action

Both of these professionals are Japanese and work for Japanese companies, and they are single with no children, as am I. I realize that I have been writing this series based on a single person’s perspective so far. I do understand that many of our readers have children, and we would like to hear from them to get an understanding of some the challenges they are facing so we can offer that perspective also.


With a background of ten years living in Japan and almost 20 years of experience working with remote teams worldwide, Yvonne Burton, president of Burton Consulting International, provides services including Technology Consulting, Business Communications courses, and Cross-Cultural Training to Japanese firms operating internationally and companies operating in the Japanese market. To learn more about Yvonne and her work, please visit

Share this article with friends who may be struggling with establishing a consistent work-from-home routine, especially if they are Japanese or work for a Japanese company. We’d love to know what challenges you’ve been facing as you work from home. Please submit any questions you may have or any topics you would like Yvonne to address by sending an email to Yvonne will post here three times a week, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn from her.


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