Bringing your work home with you
How to set up yourself to work from home
Times have changed: many of us have swapped train passes for ergonomic chairs, business suits for business-casual apparel.
Though some companies resist the transition towards work from home (WFH), others have embraced it, encouraging or mandating employees to stay home and stay productive. While there will be a period of adjustment, there are things that will help adjust from the cubicle to the comfort of your living room.
Ironically, for many, the best part of working from home is the worst part of working from home: being at home!
Now, I'm sure no one misses the crowded commute of rushing for the morning train, but it can be challenging to sit in your perfectly set up living room waiting for your next Zoom conference to begin.
Experts recommend setting up a designated work location in your home, which will give the impression of a "workplace" for you to "commute" to. My apartment is pretty small, but I've cleared out a corner for that purpose. It doesn't have to be fancy, just an area that will help you get into a working mindset.
Now comes the fun part: shopping!
Efficiency experts recommend investing in a proper desk and good-sized monitor among other things, but the one piece of equipment that I'd personally recommend is an ergonomic chair.
I've been working from home for about two years and started working in a simple kitchen chair. I was experiencing back pain, shoulder cramps, and I couldn't explain it. Then I invested in a proper "gaming" chair and the difference was night and day.
If you are going to be spending any significant stretch of time in a chair in front of your computer at home, save your money elsewhere and invest in a proper chair. Your body will thank you, trust me!
I would recommend searching on Amazon.co.jp or Rakuten for a vast assortment of chairs - that's where I get mine!
It's one thing to have the right pieces in place, but it's another to know how to use them. Working on location creates certain habits - when to leave for work, slacking just a bit on the road or while waiting for meetings - and those habits may or may not transfer well to working at home.
It used to take me about 30 minutes by train to get to my former place of employment. I was able to check a few emails during that time, but more often than not I was listening to music or just reading up on the news.
Without the commute, I set up an hour in the morning at home to simulate the transit time between home and work
I also use organizational applications such as Todoist or Trello to create basic workflows that I can easily follow during the workday. I also set alarms on my phone to give me a sense of how much time I've been taking for any particular task.
IRL (In Real Life)
So how does working from home actually play out in Japan these days? Compared to other countries, like my home country of Canada, Japanese companies are much more reluctant to adopt WFH policies, for a number of reasons.
To this day, Japanese business is still very much paper-based; handwriting is a valued skill and personal stamps are still required in many situations. In-person discussions and negotiations are preferred, even expected, to online communications. This is all to say that it will take time for companies to actually get used to WFH.
My experience has been that there are leaders who extremely accommodating and trying to adjust to the new COVID reality, while others stubbornly insist on in-person meetings, since "that's the way it's always been done". For companies that have moved to WFH, I think you'll find that business people and organizations are struggling to build an online work culture.
After all, much of the etiquette that Japanese business people are familiar with does not translate well to the online environment - try bowing or exchanging business cards over Zoom!
My advice would be to be patient and try and maintain the same level of politeness that you would when with Japanese business people in person
Working at home can be a blessing or a curse. With a few proactive adjustments, you'll be able to enjoy your new reality working from home.
Kevin is a professional writer with experience in music, education, news media and entertainment. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in English before moving to Japan for work. He's lived all over Japan, spending time in Kanto, Chubu, Kinki and Okinawa.
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