Working from Home During COVID-19: Your Questions Answered


I hope that you have been enjoying and learning from our new series about Working from Home During COVID-19 with Yvonne Burton of Burton Consulting International.

We appreciate all the feedback we have been getting and encourage you to keep sending in your questions. Yvonne received a question from a reader in Tokyo and would like to take this opportunity to address it in the hopes that it will help others in the same situation.

So, here’s my question on remote work. Since everything [workspace] is set by the corner of the room, the work is in mind 24/7. When I was working in the office, I was able to draw a ‘think’ line between work and private. Now because it is right there I login off-time very often . . . At 5:30am on Saturday I was back again. I need to keep my life balance but failing it. What can I do?”

– Reader in Tokyo


Dear Reader in Tokyo:

Yes, this is a question that many people have. And although there is no one answer, I have suggestions that have worked for me because I was in the same position years ago when I was running my consulting business out of my home. I, too, was working all the time. I would stay up Sunday nights so I would be there for the start of the workweek in Japan. This only made me tired, and by mid-week, I was a zombie.

Most people do not fully realize that when they are always working, multi-tasking, over-working, sleep -deprived that they are actually being less productive because they are not functioning at their optimal levels. Some people thrive under this kind of work environment, but the majority of people do not. I did not.

The most important thing is for you to decide what you want your work-from-home (WFH) life to be. Do you want to always be working, stressing, or do you want to set up reasonable boundaries for yourself that will take care of you and your work?

The reason why one of the very first tips is to have a dedicated space in your home for your work is so that you can “leave it” at the end of work hours in your mind and physically, whether it is in another room where you can close the door, or even it is just a few steps away in a corner of your living room.

The answer is actually in your question. “When I was working in the office, I was able to draw a ‘think’ line between work and private.” You still have to do the same, but your office is now in the same location as your home. It becomes more of a mental line now instead of just a physical one.

It is a mental game, and you have to take yourself in hand. This is where self-discipline comes into play. You will need to keep vigilant of your own actions and thoughts.

  1. Make the conscious effort to say to yourself at the end of your work day, “Work is over now” and step away
  2. When the urge to keep checking work e-mail during off-time comes up, say to yourself “No, work hours are over; this is my off-time” and go occupy yourself. This will not be a one-time thing. You will have to do it over and over until you start this new way of thinking and working during reasonable hours
  3. Ask yourself why you feel you have to keep checking in to work in your off hours. Are you trying to prove that you are working? Are you “afraid” your boss might think that you are slacking off because you are at home?

This is a new and different way of working, and people might feel that they have to prove that they are working.

It will take a conscious effort to come to terms with these thoughts and feelings, and it will take discipline to correct and overcome them proactively. This is what working from home comes down to. The self-discipline or willpower to work in the same way in your home as if you are in the office.

We do not know how long our forced working from home will last, but if you establish good habits that take care of you, it will also take care of your work.

Thanks, Reader in Tokyo! I’m sure your situation is true for a lot of people. 

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 burtonconsulting.biz.

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 susan@japanculture-nyc.com. Yvonne will post here three times a week, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn from her.


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