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A Remote Worker in Japan’s Guide to Increasing Productivity

Working hard or hardly working? Read on for tips to increase productivity as a remote worker in Japan

By 5 min read

Remote work used to be an elusive working style before the start of the pandemic. I’ve been one of the lucky minorities where remote and hybrid work has been my norm. I happen to be a part of the group that embraces it, even if I enjoy socializing with people in the office.

One of the biggest challenges, when you start working from home, is the issue of productivity.

The big question recently is how do we give ourselves that creative boost and extra motivator while working from home? Here are five tips for finding balance and increasing productivity.

1. Designate spaces at home

Create that space for you to work by designating spaces.

For most of us living in Japan, space is in high demand. It might seem impossible to separate the work section from your private space, but there are ways to play around. Separating different spaces through designating furniture for different uses will help you to unwind without physical reminders of work.

In my case, my workspace is set up right in front of the bay windows leading to the balcony. This space was strategically chosen so there’s ample sunlight flooding in till sunset, a view of the outdoors, not to mention being right next to the electrical sockets. When the work day ends, I keep my ergonomic chair (one always has to protect the spine when work is mainly on the computer) in the closet, along with all my work equipment including the laptop.

2. Plan around distractions

Find your optimal time and plan around distractions that will take you away from focus work.

Everyone has an optimal time when they can focus better and churn out things faster. Whether this is in the morning right after that first cup of coffee or in the afternoon post-lunch and having that refresher. Find your optimal time.

Another tip would be to compartmentalize your time to work on tasks without having your train of thought interrupted by meetings. For instance, if you work better in the afternoon, perhaps meetings could be scheduled around the mornings while afternoons can be for clearing that task list.

Some people also focus better with the help of meditation apps such as Headspace, and Calm, which offer “focus music”. The rhythm of the music and the calming beats surrounding you may help you to focus better and keep your mind solely on work.

3. Find spaces that allow you to be creative

Head outside to find inspiration when you just can’t churn out new ideas at home.

Some days you might find it difficult to focus or even feel like you’re at a loss for new ideas. If it feels impossible to be productive, get the creative juices flowing by heading out to find your day office away from the home. There are an abundance of options, ranging from coworking offices like Andwork Shibuya in Tokyo, BasisPoint in Nagoya and Osakan Space in Osaka.

You could also opt for any of the many cafes around the city with free Wi-Fi and electrical sockets.

I prefer coworking offices to cafes, as most have an all-you-can-drink option with snacks for munching on and individual desks for focus work. Cafes can also be tricky if you have meetings, as some might have loud background music overpowering your voice. However, working from cafes near your home might also be a great option when you just need a breather for a few hours to get started on that new proposal.

4. Soundproof yourself or your apartment

Investing in headphones could help keep the noise level lower to avoid disturbing your neighbors.

Soundproofing is not a known quality in Japanese apartments and homes. This can be a huge problem if your neighbors have to put up with the constant sound coming from you – meetings or music. This can also be true for nearby construction or noisy neighbors finding their way into your meetings.

To prevent calls from the apartment management, invest in good headsets that block out sounds and are also comfortable to wear for long periods.

After experimenting, I found my own optimal selection by relying on two options: earphones for music and a pair of headphones for calls. A popular budget favorite would be the Jabra Elite 45h, noise-canceling wireless headphones that are also lightweight enough to lug around.

Alternatively, if you love DIY projects you could find soundproof sheets that you could install onto the walls as a weekend project. It might be quite a bit of work, but if you love playing music or having meetings, soundproof sheets like Zeon or the cheaper alternative might be great options.

5. Find a routine that works for you

Whether you’re a planner or love to play it by ear, find a routine that works for you.

Working from home can suffocate and be significantly unhealthy if you are in a tiny apartment. Find a workaround and plan it around your work hours to set routines to periodically get you out of the house, even if it’s a run to the supermarket or a brisk walk after work to unwind.

Get those steps in by setting time up for yourself by heading to the gym at lunchtime or a yoga mat to do home exercises.

A great time to plan around is mealtimes, where you could head out for a bit of fresh air before the rice cooker starts singing to signal that your rice is cooked.

Hybrid and full remote work are fast becoming popular working styles. We’re still amidst an ongoing experiment where we try to balance the social part of office life and the efficiency of not commuting to work. In the end, however, it’s all about finding your own balance and what works for you and a job that agrees with you.

Japan can be tricky because of the tiny spaces, but finding what works for you makes for a fun project after hours that may benefit you in the long run.

What are your tips for working remotely? Comment down below!


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