In light of recent events, many of us find ourselves at home working. In Japan, a state of emergency has been called for the entire country. We can expect even more companies in the coming week to make the move towards remote work/telework as the state of emergency is set to go at least until May 31st.
But how are you supposed to concentrate at home?! For a lot of young working people, we live with our families or in small one room apartments. In other words, the kitchen is 5 steps away from the bed, your stockpile of SNACKS is always at arm’s length, and working at home might mean you are literally sleeping, working, eating and chilling in the same place all day.
Needless to say, staying productive in these circumstances can be super difficult! Depending on the type of company you work for (a foreign company or gaishikei 外資系, or a Japanese company, nihon kigyou日本企業) your work culture and work demands are likely to be very different. We tried to cover everyone and provide some useful tips for getting the most productivity out of your work at home.
1. Make a To Do List Everyday
So this is essential, especially if you are an employee who does a lot of self management, or mostly shares tasks with other employees. Making a To Do List everyday not only helps you organize your time and prioritize tasks, it’s also a great way to kick boredom from the start. I like to create two categories within my to-do lists. One list will contain the tasks with hard deadlines. This e-mail needs to be sent out by 5pm. This report needs to be completed today so I can ask my supervisor to proofread and I have time to make edits before our big video meetings tomorrow. And then, you will have other tasks that are more long term. If you’re finding ‘extra’ time in your work day due to a decrease in in-person meetings or simply because not all of your work can translate to remote, carve out chunks of time each day to tackle long term projects.
2. Create a ‘Work Space’
Okay, a big challenge for those of us in one room apartments…But! It’s possible. You’d be surprised to see how small changes in your apartment layout can really transform your mindset for work. A good way to get yourself focused and ready to work, is to try and create division between your work area and the space where the rest of life happens. If possible, devote a table or desk to work and work alone. When lunch comes around, shutdown your computer and eat somewhere else. Even in a tiny apartment, being able to devote one corner to work will make a huge difference. And one big tip: try NOT to work in bed. Keep the sleep space sacred. Check out our recent article Telework Series: Making a Home Office in a Tokyo One-Room Apartment for ideas and an example of how you can set up your home office!
3. Learn How to Have Efficient Digital Communication with Your Team/Bosses
This is an area that takes a lot of finesse in managing, particularly if you work in a traditional company with a strict hierarchy. Chances are, you’re used to attending meetings where the only point is for you to be present, appear like you’re concentrating and provide an audience for the higher-ups (is this too cynical? let us know what you think in the comments below). In this case, you might not be used to being in a position of taking initiative and being assertive at work. But remote work is different. While in an office setting, it is possible to speak directly with coworkers to confirm tasks and get immediate approval, a lot of time can be lost when doing the same exact thing while remote. Here are some tips for being efficient with your communication
- Avoid e-mailing or messaging your co-workers or supervisor with small requests, particularly things that can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Preparing a list of things you need to get the go-ahead on will save both you and your team time, and allow you to spend less time waiting and more time on your actual tasks.
- If there’s a problem, bring it to your boss’ attention, but also suggest possible solutions. This is another important tip for saving time. Proposing solutions from the start is a great way to narrow down possible action to take rather than waiting to be invited to think about things. It’s also a great way to show your boss your capable in a way that could be awkward if you had done so in the office.
- Even if they don’t ask, provide daily debriefings. Transparency is key when you don’t share the same space with your work team. It’s better to overshare than undershare to show your boss your taking the time out of the office just as seriously as you were when in. This is also a good way to avoid misunderstandings down the line should something go wrong or fall through the cracks.
- You might not be meeting in person, but it also goes a long way to ask your co-workers casually how they are holding up. Not only will you be adding a little cheer to someone else’s day, but it’s a good way to open up the lines of communication so that co-workers do feel free to consult and message when work requires it.
- Take initiative. If you have new ideas for a direction your company might want to go, now is one of the best times to share your perspective. With the economy being unstable in the moment, and unpredictable in the months to come, several companies are thinking of going in new and different directions. While of course, we wish this weren’t the case, it also means this is a time our managers and supervisors are feeling more open than ever to new ideas for building things up in the future.
4. Wear Real Clothes
Sweatpants can be a real temptation…But it’s totally true that wearing clothes, they don’t even have to be business casual, but something that feels like real clothing, can help you change your mindset and get into work mode. Not only with the clothes shape your mood, having the routine of getting up, getting ready and eating can help provide structure in what would otherwise be a day of monotony.
5. Give Yourself Breaks
This is also something that might be hard to do in the office, but it’s a great way to boost productivity at home. During your lunch break, consider taking a short walk (with proper social distancing of course!) look out the window, meditate for a few minutes every couple of hours to recenter yourself and get back into concentration mode. Meditations of all lengths, even as short as 5 minutes number in the millions on Youtube, and we recommend finding a channel to follow and stockpiling. Consider finding a few you like and creating a playlist to go through during the week!
Exercise is also a great way to refresh yourself midday. 15 minutes of yoga during lunch or write before starting the work day will make a huge difference in your concentration for the day.
6. Listen to Music For Stimulation
Maybe your company discourages this, but now that you’re home, free reign. You can use a good soundtrack to set the pace and destress and help you concentrate. Need a recommendation? How about this lofi mix? Great for fans of Nujabes.
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