It has now been a week since Nazobako/Invite Japan began working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Like many throughout Japan and the world, we have had to make massive shifts in the ways we work, the ways we connect with one another, and the ways we live our daily lives. The changes are physical and cognitive, social and mental. They are testing us as individuals, as a company, and as a community of support. So far I have done my best to share what I think of this situation, this moment in time, as lucidly and as honestly as possible, and I will continue to do so. Sharing our feelings with each other, being open and trusting towards others is so important in a time like this, when the reflex is to shut down and close inward.
With this in mind, I would like to share some of the thoughts of my colleagues, one of the main support networks I have right now, about their experiences working from home and dealing with this unprecedented situation.
As somebody who doesn’t love to be alone or stay at home for too long, working from home has two sides. The first is really positive. My morning routine is quite refreshing. I get up, open my windows, make my breakfast of avocado toast while listening to some music. Then I log in to Zoom so I can join the morning meeting and see my beloved team. Getting rid of the stress of commuting to and from work is giving me a lot of extra hours. I live quite far away from [Nazobako], so I have at least 3.5 hours of commuting per day. It’s worth it and I really do not mind, but I would be lying if I said that I do not enjoy not having to commute anymore. Also having a Monday-Friday schedule is quite nice, and being able to have my weekends with my boyfriend is awesome as until now we never had the same days off.
As for the second aspect, I would like to talk about loneliness and anxiety management.
Since the start of our Work From Home routine,at some point during the day I hit a low-energy point where I feel lonely, the music does not help much anymore and I just wish I could be at the facility–hearing Guillaume and Lee’s debates, getting pranked by Kazunori, chatting with Wataru and of course welcoming our customers. I am also grateful for Slack so we still can chitchat virtually and feel a little bit less alone. So, yes, I tend to feel lonely during the day but I think of myself as lucky because I am not lonely for long, as I live with my boyfriend. My best friend from France lives alone in her little flat in Montreal, and must feel much different than I do. I still have the urge to see my friends and go back to my habit of wandering around the narrow streets of Tokyo, but that can wait.
The worst for me would be anxiety management. Until the official postponement of the Olympics, I tried my best to keep my anxiety contained. I kept seeing how things were in France, and my family was worried that I was still going to work as usual, but I always said “Don’t worry, it will be okay”. Inside I was thinking “Will it really be okay though?”. The situation at work was getting harder–dealing with cancellations, days with very few or no customers and my coworkers’ anxious states of mind. I always knew that I wasn’t somebody who could manage anxiety easily. But now that the world is in a very anxiety-prone state, I am also feeling…well not that great. I try my best to focus on the bright side as always, but some days are more difficult. Usually when I feel bad, I go out and take pictures. But now I try my best to stay inside as much as I can. It’s important to protect each other and stay inside. Last Thursday, though when I got out for the first time for 30 minutes) after six consecutively gloomy days, I was the happiest I had been in a while. I was moved by the beauty of nature, the feeling of the sun on my skin, the wind around me and the chirping of the birds. It felt like a reward. I came home, motivated and one hundred percent charged… The world is struggling right now, but we are gonna make it through. Let’s keep on shining.
Our lives have changed quite a lot–our daughter’s school has been closed for a month, [Nazobako] has closed too for safety reasons, and my coworkers and I are all trying hard to work from home. From my social distancing nest, I try to look for ways that I can be of help to my colleagues, and to balance their skills and needs. I’m always relieved to see their faces during our meetings in the morning, and to know that they are healthy and safe. As for me, I’m staying away from Tokyo at my family home in the country for the moment. I have more time, now that I don’t have to commute anymore to work. So I can spend more time making bread and prepping food for my family, or gardening and working on my other hobbies–I can relax more while still getting my work done.
I moved to Tokyo in 1996 and fell in love with the city. My adopted home is full of energy, efficiency, variety, innovation–all of which I have been able to explore on foot. Moving about town without a car has been one of my go-to answers for why I’ve lived here so long (and why I intend to do so for years to come). I don’t think I could live somewhere without a transportation network as good as the one here.
I have barely taken a train ride in more than a week. My daily hops across town to see my friends and keep up with the city have gone away. My circle has closed inwards. We are fortunate in Tokyo that we are still able to move around a bit, but that has mostly been in the form of walks to the store and not much else. In relying on my home rather than my city, I find that long dormant skills developed as an only-child latchkey kid growing up in the middle of nowhere have suddenly snapped back into use. While I am fully capable of being alone and taking care of myself, it is not why I have chosen to to live where I do.
I look forward to freely moving about again. I will gladly accept whatever changes have to be made in order to someday get on a train without thinking about the consequences. The shared experience of public transportation is something that I value, and keeps me connected to my city.
This is our second week of work from home. Personally, it was kind of uncomfortable at the start, but I think I am getting used to it. I miss welcoming our customers at Nazobako Tokyo and making sure they leave our facility with a smile on their faces. It’s funny, but I had dreams about some of our rooms–Zen and Samurai Espionage– on the first day of our work from home. And I think It’s sad that people haven’t had the chance to enjoy our new Ninja! Theater of Mysteries room yet, but don’t worry we will be back!
Despite all the bad news that we are getting from social media and the news, I still remain positive. I don’t focus on the negative side of the Corona virus outbreaks. I see Covid-19 as an opportunity in many aspects: more time with the family, more time to read my Bible, more time to improve my skills and learn new ones. I come from the Philippines, the land where most of the people smile, the land of perfect hospitality culture and very positive vibes.
Right now, there are people dying, losing jobs, and many horrible things are happening if you go on your smartphone and read the news. But also, right this very moment, there are people being born into this world that will be loved, people smiling, laughing and being kind, people hugging, people innovating and discovering new ideas, taking action and achieving their dreams, people helping and giving to others. Right now people are overcoming adversity, and making miraculous comebacks.
If we are going to turn on our mobile phones and take in all of what’s wrong in the world, then we should also absorb all of what’s right…it’s important to create our own balance: feed, grow and nurture all of humanity’s love and beauty. Whatever you focus on, feel and expand.
Working from home, in a space I feel comfortable in, allows me to take my time with the projects I am working on, and to really think over my ideas.
This is my first experience working from home, so at first I had no idea what it would really be like. In the past week though I have gotten a bit used to it, and I can actually get things done, but in a more relaxed sort of way. I can listen to the music I like while I work on things, so in that sense I can maintain my motivation throughout the day.
Of course, there are negative aspects as well.
No matter what I am being asked to do, I am always for working from the same space and having to be just as efficient. However, sometimes when I am in an email exchange from home, I have to wait on the other person’s response before I can progress with my work, which is frustrating. There are also lots of distractions.
Overall though, I think this whole situation–where a lot of people are having to work from home, and businesses are setting up video meetings and using messaging apps like Slack and LINE to communicate–these changes will have a lot of benefits for how “work” gets done and how it is defined. There may be a lot of work that might be better suited for home, and some that still isn’t.
Never in my life have I had so much trouble anticipating what the next day, the next week will be like. It’s a strange situation. Some are hooked to the news 24/7, building up fear and stress. Some just don’t care, and some, like me, just don’t know where to look, who to listen to, or what to read. Even though I didn’t go out that much before, the fact that it is now potentially dangerous to do so is a completely different paradigm.
So there’s that. And then there’s work.
At Nazobako, our core job is to welcome people and provide them with an unforgettable experience. So to have that taken away from us is a shock; we have to learn how to work without the contact and constant feedback from our customers. We have to learn to search inside ourselves for inspiration, review on our own little screen what we’ve seen and experienced, and try to bring forth a new light, a new product, a new puzzle.
Fortunately we live in the era of easy and fast communication, so keeping contact with our colleagues is only two clicks away. We work alone, but not in complete isolation. We can ask each other questions, we can see each other on the screen, we can react, share, laugh and work together.
I am grateful for our boss, Yamada-san, for all the work and dedication she’s putting in to keep our jobs safe. I am grateful for my colleagues for being supportive and caring when I feel down, and for cheering me up when I need it.
We all fear that this will tear us apart. But I have hope that, in fact, it will bring us together more than before. Maybe in a different way, maybe less globally. Perhaps there will be more local interactions and local production, so we are not so dependent on other countries’ production, while still keeping our arms and mind open to work and share with everyone. I hope for a better future, for me, for my company, and for the world as a whole.
Stay safe, stay home, stay strong, stay connected.
The team at Nazobako/Invite Japan