I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these uncertain—and, quite frankly, scary—times of the coronavirus pandemic. This is an unprecedented world event that has affected all of us.
If you are fortunate enough to have a job that allows you to work from home, I hope you have adjusted nicely to your new routine. However, for some people, working remotely is an unfamiliar concept, especially for those who work for Japanese companies, which are notorious for long work hours.
“Compared to American companies, many Japanese companies are not as used to allowing their employees to work remotely from home,” writes Japanese/English translator and interpreter Kia Cheleen in Shukan NY Seikatsu. “There is often a ‘We can’t see you working, so you must not be working’ mentality.”
Whether you’re working for a Japanese company or not, if you’re still having trouble with the work-from-home lifestyle, I have just the person for you.
Yvonne Burton, president and principal consultant of Burton Consulting International, has worked with remote teams for almost 20 years and will be providing a series of tips and best practices here on JapanCultureNYC. Through her company, Yvonne offers technology consulting, business communications courses, and cross-cultural training. Her clients include companies operating in the Japanese market as well as Japanese firms operating internationally.
She lived in Japan for almost ten years, first as an exchange student at Kansai Gaikokugo Daigaku University in Osaka, then as a cross-cultural trainer and business consultant to several Japanese firms. You can read her full bio here and visit her website here.
I’m thrilled to have Yvonne as part of the JCNYC family; I know all of us will learn something from her expertise.
Working Remotely: Basic Tips to Start
In this time of upheaval that the world is facing due to the coronavirus, it has made it necessary for multitudes to work from home. For some of us, like me who work in technology, this might not be a great change from our regular way of working but, for many others, it is.
I have been working remotely for years with remote teams all over the world. My every workday involved leading/facilitating/attending numerous meetings via online tools with team members across Europe, Asia, and of course, the United States. Doing this daily and for so long, I have learned some tips and tricks along the way that have worked for me. I hope they will work for you as you navigate this new way of working and performing your duties that has been thrust upon you.
By this time, it’s been a couple of weeks that most of you have been working from home and by now, you should have a space that you have allotted as your “work office.”
Tip #1: Do Create a Physical Work Space
If you have a spare room, great, but most people do not. When I started my consulting business years ago, I lived in a studio in NYC, but I had a desk in a corner and that was the headquarters of my international consulting business. It is not the size of the space; it is what you do in it that matters.
Set up a corner of a room, a desk or half of your kitchen table as your work area. That is where your work computer, any papers, printer, work items should be housed. Keep area tidy because a cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind I find. And most important, make sure you have a good chair to sit in to keep proper posture.
Do not sit on the couch with your laptop on your lap with papers strewn about and think you are going to be focused and productive. It might be fun for a while, but it is not a sustainable way to work.
Tip #2: Do Create and Keep to a Work Schedule
- Wake up as you usually would if you were going into the office.
- Find a way to now utilize the time you used to spend on your commute. Most people will try to sleep more, but if you do not need to, use this time to add something new to your morning routine. There are not only the physical aspects to working from home but with issues we are facing, maintaining mental health is vital also. Exercise, read, plan out our day, or meditate. Do something that you enjoy to take care of yourself as you prepare for the workday ahead.
- Get dressed even if it’s only from the waist up if you are going to be on video calls. A lot of this is about mindset, and being dressed puts you in the right mindset for work. You will feel more normal, more balanced if dressed for work.
Do not roll out of bed 5 minutes before the start of work and stay in your pajamas. I did that in the early days, and I was oftentimes unfocused and always felt myself lagging—and it showed.
These are general tips that hopefully you are all doing by now.
In upcoming posts, I will be offering tips on leading and attending online meetings, issues that arise and how to manage them, time management, accepting what cannot be changed and how good communication is the key to making this all work.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Yvonne will post here three times a week, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn from her.
To learn more about Yvonne Burton and her work with technology consulting, business communications, and cross-cultural communications, please visit burtonconsulting.biz.