In her previous two posts, Yvonne Burton of Burton Consulting International wrote about corporate and work culture in a time of crisis and a focus on technology. In the third part of this week’s trilogy, she addresses communication.
Technology is only a part of the challenges facing Japan and many of its companies. What is communicated in normal times and especially in crisis plays a large part in any success. For remote workers, communication is even more important than usual.
As we can see played out on television, lack of clear, informative, and instructive communication in times like these can be devastating.
At a company level, the consequences are dire also. If a company’s work culture is typically lacking in “good” communication, this will cripple them and add tremendously to inefficiencies, especially when teams are working from home in times of crisis.
It has been my experience that many problems can be solved or lessened with open communication. A great idea can be available, but if it is not communicated to the right persons who can develop that idea, it will be of less benefit. A great solution might be reached, but if it is not communicated correctly to the right persons for implementation, it might not be as great as it should be. Simple problems can escalate into chaos if communication breaks down or is not the right kind.
What additional communications are taking place these days? Communicating work-related tasks is one thing, but what about communications that take care of workers as they are alone at home working in this crisis, which has them worried and fearing for their health, work security, and how their world has changed? How are managers alleviating their workers’ concerns?
I read in a newspaper article that a boss is concerned that if he allows his workers to WFH, they might not be focusing on work or, in other words, are slacking off. To communicate this to your workers in any way, whether directly or indirectly, is an awful way to lead.
I do understand that Japan does not have a culture of working from home, and that due to this crisis, there was no time for companies and workers to ease into it. This made the transition more abrupt than it should have been as there was no gradual phasing in and no opportunity beforehand to adjust mindsets.
When Leadership Communicates
That is why it is imperative for leadership to have a plan and communicate it clearly to workers.
An associate of mine, who has always worked remotely for an international conglomerate, says that her company is having daily meetings with all employees worldwide during this crisis. This allows management to update employees, check in, take questions to address any concerns, and most important makes employees feel that they are being kept updated on ever-shifting information, valued, and heard. This keeps morale up and everyone connected.
How workers manage WFH is partly up to the company’s leadership. How a company takes care of its workers and relates with them is important at all times, but in times of crisis, it is vital.
When there is upheaval at work, workers need open and honest reassurance and guidance from management. This will set the tone of, “Yes, I am working from home, but I am still a part of the team.” Instead of managers fearing that their workers are slacking off, communicate with them and offer encouragement, listen to concerns, and support them in working from home. A good manager inspires and encourages; that is what will lead to trust on both ends.
It is up to both workers and managers to keep the lines of communication open to build and sustain a successful work from home environment.
Next week, I will be talking with people about how they are managing working from home six weeks into the NYC lockdown. Please write in and share your experiences with us.
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.
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