5 Tips for Tokyo Parents Working from Home

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A parent’s job never ends, meaning that, sooner or later, you’ll have to find a way to square it with your other job, the one that pays the bills. For all those working at home right now because of the coronavirus, that time is now, every day from Monday to Friday. While not having to commute to the office is great and all, many people, especially parents in Tokyo not used to any of this, are struggling to find a balance between their professional and parental duties. Here are some tips that may help them with that.

Dress for the Job

Parenting is hard work but one of its perks is that you can mostly do it in your pajamas. This should end now. Accidentally joining a work video conference while wearing a raggedy T-shirt aside, putting together a home “work uniform” will help get you into a proper work mood. A nice polo shirt and comfortable pants are enough as long as you only wear the ensemble while working. Over time, this should be a signal not only to your brain but also your child that when you’re wearing these or that clothes, you are in work mode.

Kids are great at picking up visual cues and if they go to school in Tokyo, they’ll be familiar with school uniforms and will quickly realize that, let’s say, Dad’s navy-blue shirt quite literally means business.

Up Your Schedule Game

Even if kids understand, it doesn’t mean they won’t complain, so be sure to schedule playtime with your child. Try to make it the same time every day. Kids are creatures of habit and after a while and with some encouragement, they should start to realize that you can’t play with them the entire day. On that note, children also have their preferred nap times, and that’s a great time to get some work done, so make sure playtime does not interfere with that. Finally, ask your boss if you can start your remote work early. The earlier the better, like when the kid is sleeping. And speaking of bosses…

Don’t Come to Your Supervisors with Problems, Only Solutions

Management is not easy. Well, good management certainly isn’t. It takes a certain ability to read the office and feel out the employees’ mood to do it right. Of course, none of that is possible with remote work. Compounded by the fact that Japanese middle management is generally older and often not very tech-savvy – you end up with irritated bosses. So while they might be struggling with setting up a Zoom call, the last thing they want are more problems to deal with.

If your work schedule interferes with your parenting, approach your boss with ready solutions, like more flexible hours or helping train other people to lessen your workload etc. Just don’t make your higher-ups figure it out because a frustrated “No” is just so much easier.

Recreate Your Office at Home

Video calls are a double-edged sword of the telework world. At most Japanese companies, they definitely require a suit and tie because of the old-fashioned attitudes towards work that still permeate the country. Plus being watched all the time can unnerve some people. For others, though, it’s exactly what they need to get any work done. If you find that a polo shirt isn’t enough to switch your brain to work mode, don’t worry. Some people just need to be in a certain environment for certain jobs, just like there’re some people unable to use a toilet besides their own.

Being in a virtual video-call office might be just what you need, but if that’s not possible, there are other things you can do like going to YouTube and looking for recordings of ambient “office sounds.”

Cut Yourself Some Slack

If this is your first time simultaneously parenting and working from home, it will not be easy in the beginning. You will screw up in one area sooner or later. And that’s alright. The easiest things in the world are hard if you’ve never done them before.

Try setting up a slower pace for yourself from the start. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, go to your boss with a solution like doing a bit of overtime later on. Foreigners working in Japan are actually in a uniquely advantageous position here. Tasks at Japanese companies are rarely set in stone, except for foreign employees who often have very specific tasks. This makes it easier to shift things around as long as they still get done on time, and this lets you be more flexible with the time you spend with your child, which is the number one priority. Just make sure to mute your mic beforehand.

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