The coronavirus pandemic has prompted lifestyle changes across the world. Many schools and restaurants closed temporarily, and companies mandated their employees to work remotely. Since then, workers around Japan have discovered the benefits of working from home, and some hope this lifestyle can continue in the future.
Others are facing several challenges—noisy neighbors, lack of motivation, a non-existent division between work and leisure—and want to go back to the office.
We surveyed around 200 readers to see how they were feeling about working from home in Japan.
No commute is the No. 1 benefit of remote work
Working from home means more time for yourself during the day and greater flexibility around how you spend that precious time. The ultimate benefit of working remotely, according to a whopping 80% of our readers, is not having to commute, while 33% also enjoyed not having to spend time getting ready for work.
It’s hard to love getting up early just to be stuffed in a rush-hour train to the city, after all. Many survey respondents said they had more time to focus on learning Japanese, exercising, and relaxing in general.
Commuting wastes my time, the office is stressful and noisy.
Others were able to take pleasure in the simple things in life: 45% of readers love being able to sleep in longer and just roll out of bed to work. One respondent said they loved getting up at the last second and “jumping from my futon to my PC in one go.”
Readers working from home also benefited from having more control over their schedules (30%) and being able to work from anywhere (22%), while social distancing, of course. Another perk (and maybe the best one) for remote workers is not having to sit next to annoying colleagues at the office!
Distractions at home
Not having to get dressed for work is pretty cool, but 50% of readers reported getting too distracted at home, while only 15% reported being more focused. Whether it was the TV, snacks calling their name, video games, or annoying cats, some readers just couldn’t keep it together.
Other common struggles readers faced while working remotely included having trouble staying motivated (37%) and experiencing loneliness (31%). Respondents who experienced one or both challenges were more likely to prefer the camaraderie of the office over working remotely.
With the lines between work and downtime blurred at home, 26% of readers struggled with unplugging after work.
For jobs in fields like education, media, public relations, or human resources, high levels of collaboration and communication between team members are essential, and 27% of readers felt unable to collaborate after transitioning to remote work.
With the lines between work and downtime blurred at home, 26% of readers struggled with unplugging after work. It’s pretty hard to have a work-life balance when your office and home are the same places, especially for people living in tiny apartments in big cities like Tokyo.
The unprecedented situation COVID-19 has put us in exasperates these challenges as workers are made to stay home rather than given the option. “It’s not really working from home, it’s isolating from a pandemic at home while working,” as one reader put it.
Define your workspace and make sure your environment is as distraction-free as possible.
This feeling of not having a choice coupled with uncertainties around how long the virus situation will last has no doubt prompted higher levels of reported loneliness. Many people are struggling to adapt without knowing when they can return to the office.
Trust us. We’re feeling the coronavirus blues right along with you.
If staying mentally healthy has been a challenge for you during the isolation, don’t be afraid to speak with someone or seek help. There are tons of resources available like TELL, BetterHelp, and the mental health counselors at Japan Health Info.
Helpful tips from readers
From thoughtful advice to the downright hilarious, here are some of the best tips for surviving remote work from readers themselves.
- Keep a proper schedule to make sure you can stay on top of tasks, but also unplug from work
- Define your workspace and make sure your environment is as distraction-free as possible
- Keep in touch with co-workers (and friends and family too)
- Take breaks that don’t require a lot of brainpower. Shower, clean, cook, go on a walk, do some yoga, or have a nice long stretch
- Spend time outside getting fresh air, exercising, or just strolling around the neighborhood
- Roll out of bed at the last minute and get dressed only from the waist up
- Repeat words of encouragement like “Fighto!”
One survey respondent summed up their helpful tip in one word, “Beer.”
More companies should allow remote work
Out of the 26% of respondents whose companies are not allowing them to work from home, an overwhelming 90% wished they could move to a remote work option in the future.
“Because I don’t see the point of coming in,” one reader said. “Commuting wastes my time, the office is stressful and noisy…and I have back pain from having to sit at a desk. My work could be done from anywhere, which is awesome and makes me dream that I could move around while keeping my job.”
Another compelling reason? “Because by nature, I am an introvert and I hate being around and interacting with people.” Well said.
Remote work becoming the “new normal,” even post-COVID-19, is not too hard to believe.
Many readers also expressed the need to reduce the spread of the coronavirus by working from home, if possible. Both working at the office and commuting in crowded trains create huge health concerns and make workers feel unsafe. Companies dismissing these concerns and requiring workers to come to the office give the impression that they don’t care about their employees’ safety.
The people have spoken! Regardless of whether readers were pro-remote work or pro-office, they agreed that having the option to divide their workweek between a few days doing both would be beneficial to them and their companies.
Preparing for a post-coronavirus future
Remote work becoming the “new normal,” even post-COVID-19, is not too hard to believe for several reasons. Companies that have already invested in new technology to move their workforce online may continue to use their new resources. Moreover, employees who have settled into working remotely may now challenge the traditional nine-to-five (or Japanese 10-to-god-knows-when) workday.
One forward-thinking survey respondent saw the benefit of preparing a remote-work labor force for future times of crisis. Situations such as earthquakes or typhoons that have hurt the Japanese economy in the past, for example.
Only time will tell whether remote work in Japan will become the standard after this storm passes.
What has your experience been working remotely? Are you a work-from bed or diligent worker type? Let us know in the comments.