In this three-part article series, we discuss the essential qualities businesses must have when transitioning to a new way of working.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought business leaders an opportunity to transform their organizations. Requirements to work from home forced organizations to forego their physical offices and move employees into remote work.
As we enter a 'new normal,' Japanese businesses are holding onto the idea that work doesn't actually have to happen in the physical office.
With the initial move to remote work, business leaders struggled with the questions, how do we know if people are working? Can we trust employees to get the job done, even if they are working from home?
Out of fear that productivity would be jeopardized, some organizations implemented tracking systems to monitor their teams. Other companies even insisted employees keep their camera on while working, so their boss could 'check-in' at any time.
However, strict monitoring isn't necessary to have a productive workforce at home, and trusting employees builds a better company culture.
To truly embrace a shift to remote work, Japanese organizations need to re-evaluate what drives their employees to reach business goals.
If individual goals are clear to an employee, and the alignment between their achievement and the achievement of organizational goals is reinforced, employees are likely to want to stay productive and do their part for the business.
Looking at the way goals are defined to employees, allows businesses to change their mindset from being process-oriented, (focussed on what steps the employees took to reach an outcome), to results-oriented (concentrated on the outcomes employees achieve).
A change in attitude is critical for businesses applying lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis when it became apparent that flexibility in business is more important than ever.
If organizations can shift to a results-oriented mindset, business leaders do not need to be concerned about the physical location of where work is taking place, but rather whether or not their employees are delivering results aligned to the company's goals.
Moving to remote work is having broader cultural changes outside of individual organizations—for example, the practice of kuki o yomu.
Kuki o yomu or "reading the air" is still very much part of Japan's business culture. It is a tradition most Japanese people encounter in their everyday lives.
According to an article by the BBC, "Reading the air is a constant exercise, and misreading the air can blow business deals or ruin relationships." (Ref 1).
Kuki o yomu presents a unique challenge in remote work.
When we rely on technology for day-to-day conversation, indirect communication inferences are nearly impossible to pick up on. Context disappears when we are not interacting within a physical space.
Interestingly, while there hasn't been an explicit attempt to make a cultural transformation away from kuki o yumu, moving to remote work has taken the focus away from this cultural norm. The context of the situation has become less important than when an employee achieves results.
Overall, while businesses navigate remote work, being less dependent on the process or the traditional context and more focussed on concrete deliverables, is key to embracing our new normal.
Randstad Professionals & Engineers