5 Challenges of Working From Home in Japan (And How To Overcome Them)

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Days start a little later as there’s no need for that morning commute. Work goes a little smoother as you’re surrounded by your own possessions in an environment that is completely under your own control. No doubt about it, working from home can seem like a reward. However, it has been almost a month since Japan declared a state of emergency amid the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak, and Prime Minister Abe extended it for one more month.

Many of us have come to realize working from home is a rollercoaster of emotion. And like many sudden life changes we go through, it can affect our mental balance — immensely. In order to help you cope with the situation, we’ve put together a (short) list of the main challenges you may be facing now as a full-time worker stuck at home, with tips on how to address them and remain calm despite all odds.

1. It’s Hard To Stay Focused

While staying focused at the office can be difficult, staying focused at home comes with its own challenges. As homely comforts come with homely distractions it can be almost impossible at times to stay focused on the task at hand, between a bed, television, game systems and thin Tokyo apartment walls, it’s a surprise that any work gets done during work hours. The neverending distractions from family, friends and loud neighbors blaring anime-pop will make you yearn for the days of office desk work.

Working in blocks seems to be the best way to counteract this challenge, an hour of focused work followed by a 10-minute break might just be the best workflow for the current situation and for those with noisy neighbors perhaps noise-canceling headphones and other gadgets can help make your home a more peaceful work space. Experts also recommend sectioning off part of a room to create a personal work space where all office work is dedicated.

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2. You Can Never Fully Log Off

After a long day of remote work, and with all systems logged off it’s time to wind down for the evening, or is it? With everyone working from home on different working schedules you can never really switch off, be it replying to that important e-mail that has just flashed up on your phone at 10pm or answering the call to a client who just can’t wait until the morning to receive that PowerPoint, one can never truly log out. This becomes doubly insane working in Tokyo, as Japan’s legendary overtime culture does hold some water. The crazy hours some employees keep may end up pulling you back into the office just as you finished brushing your teeth.

When your home becomes the office it’s hard to completely switch off and relax. A good way to disconnect yourself from work is to untether your personal phone from the company Slack group and keep all of your work notifications set to your own working hours. For those wanting to take it even further get lost in a good Netflix show or better still, switch off the laptop completely and try your hand at some Japanese cooking. This may finally allow you to log off, and take the break you deserve.

3. The Joys Of Commuting

Crowded trains, constant pushing and the lack of personal hygiene from a few travelers make some morning commutes a nightmare. What joy is there to be found on Tokyo trains before 9am? As one 34-year-old salaryman, and lover of his morning commute, informed us, “My morning commutes sets up my day. I can center myself, reply to emails and prepare for the day ahead.” This is the time we listen to podcasts, occasionally study Japanese or get an early start on replying to work e-mails, our morning commutes are actually an essential part of our daily routine, allowing us center ourselves before a long working day ahead.

Now, without them, morning can feel a little slower to start plagued by confusion and drowsiness. A remedy for this is to perhaps wake up a little earlier and start the morning with a few home exercises. Realizing a new morning routine was necessary to cope with stresses of working from home, one American acquaintance took up morning taiso exercises. It’s a good way to stay healthy during this lockdown and provides an alternative way to keep oneself centered before a long working day.

4. Staying Healthy

Staying healthy during this time seems simple enough, with people cooking more meals and not being able to eat out as much as they would previously, but on every street corner in Tokyo is everyone’s weakness. The convenience store. Although they can be found anywhere in the world, Tokyo’s convenient bastions of solace offer yummy seasonal snacks. Complete with eye-popping wrapping, these rotating goodies make it even more difficult to not try that limited-time-only treat

With even the gyms closed down, staying healthy at home has become increasingly difficult but luckily the solution for this problem is relatively simple – workout at home. Starting is the most difficult part, for which TW has provided is a list of simple workouts one can do from the comfort of a cramped Tokyo apartment. For those who are more cardio-focused, there’s always a brisk run around the block.

5. The Simple Joy Of Going Outside

While those staying at home with family have an entire set of challenges, experts say that those of us self-quarantining alone, the isolation can be mentally draining. Those daily trips to my local coffee shop have been replaced with a two-step trip to the kitchen, and a pour-over coffee for one. Yes, the outside world seems like a long-forgotten memory. With most chain stores closed or only offering a takeout option, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find reasons to leave the confines of our own homes. However, perhaps it’s not the coffee shop aesthetic we crave, but the outside world. We should all use this time to maybe explore our own local communities a little more.

One friend said he paid a visit to the local yakitori stand for the first time in years, and each skewer tasted a little more satisfying knowing they were helping a neighbor. We all have that one local restaurant we’ve been meaning to go to but just have never had the time, and with everyone stuck at home for the foreseeable future what better time than now to support your local business.

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