The global workforce continues to face uncertainty and unprecedented changes due to the novel coronavirus. On one hand, companies face unique challenges such as maintaining productivity and ensuring the health, wellness, and security of their employees. On the other, professionals all over the world are worried about job security, the effects of sudden social distancing and sudden remote work as well as the impacts of the current situation on the economy, the workforce, and our working habits.
Some may find these uncontrollable issues quite overwhelming and we’d like to help quell these uncertainties by providing some advice for professionals to cope with the demands and challenges brought about by the current situation.
Here are some ways to deal with remote work, unemployment, and social isolation:
1. Your health should be your number one priority
When working remotely or social distancing, staying active and eating healthy may be difficult to achieve. Since most gyms are not operational and since you don’t get to commute to work, you get less physical activity, which could also influence your cognition and therefore, your work performance. Given the current health and economic climate, we should underscore the critical need to continuously strengthen our cognitive functioning and immune system in order to win the fight against the novel coronavirus.
Since you are working remotely, use the time you save commuting to prepare healthier meals and work out. If you are having difficulty staying consistent, try scheduling virtual exercise sessions or virtual healthy lunches with your colleagues or friends to help motivate each other.
2. Prepare for the uncertain to reduce anxiety and stress
According to Global Web Index’s report, Japan falls fourth as the country most concerned about the current situation with 48% of Japan’s surveyed population “extremely concerned” about the crisis.
Since we all find ourselves in uncertain times in an environment “extremely concerned” about the outbreak, one of the best ways we, together, can win against this crisis is preparation for the unknown.
Potential unemployment and job security are the biggest concerns of the global workforce given the current situation. However, the effects of the current crisis may vary from country to country and international news outlets may have a tendency to skew our perspectives on its effects in Japan. One way to reduce your anxiety is to find reliable sources of information that are specific to your country, and preferably, to your industry as well.
Although there is talk about massive unemployment across the world, the Statistics Bureau of Japan’s most recent labor force survey indicates that the current unemployment rate is 2.4%, only .1% higher compared to last year’s and still one of the lowest across the globe.
If you are still concerned about job security and are worried about unemployment, connecting with a recruiter will give you much more control over the situation. Companies are still actively hiring and a good candidate will always get a great offer no matter the situation. We encourage you to prepare for the uncertain by exploring your options, getting as much job market and industry insights from your recruiter of choice so you could feel more secure and more in control in these uncertain times.
3. Invest more time to upskill
One of the positive things about remote work is that it has allowed us to save a bit more time every day. If you spent close to 2-3 hours a day commuting, you’re saving 10-15 hours a week. Imagine what you can do and accomplish in 10-15 hours.
While you have this much luxury of time, take this as an opportunity to evaluate your career assets and identify the skill gaps that are keeping you from getting that next promotion or your dream job.
A good way to evaluate your career assets is by looking at job descriptions of positions within your industry that are one to two levels higher than yours. List up all the required skills needed, which could range from hard skills, certifications, language ability, experience, etc. By doing this, you get a bird’s eye view of the skills needed within your industry and career path.
You could also connect with a recruiter who specializes in your function and industry. Recruiters look at hundreds of job descriptions a week and speak with hiring managers directly. They are well versed in the industry's benchmarks and know what it would take for you to reach the next level in your career. Speaking with them would give you access to information that they have accumulated throughout their experience in recruiting.
Once you have this knowledge, find online courses that would help bridge this skill gap. There are numerous e-learning platforms you could choose from. We’ve collected a quick list of platforms for you here:
Coursera – This e-learning platform with 3,000+ courses collaborates with 190+ universities and companies including Google, IBM, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, and many more.
EdX – Gives you access to 2,500 + online courses from 140+ institutions like MIT, Harvard University, Berkeley, and many more. Some of their most popular subjects are computer science, business & management, language, engineering, data science, and humanities.
Pluralsight – If you’re in the tech and creative industry, this e-learning platform is for you. It hosts various courses on Software Development, IT Ops, Data, Cloud Computing, Machine Learning / AI, etc. They currently have a #FREEApril Campaign, allowing its new users to try their platform for free for the month of April.
Here are other e-learning platforms you might want to check out, too:
Alison, Linkedin Learning, Udemy, Skillshare, Udacity, iTalki, Verbling
4. Establish that boundary between work and home while working from home
Remote work has disrupted the majority of our daily routines. The lines that used to separate work and home are now completely blurred. Since work is a few steps away from you, i.e. your study, your dining area, or even your bedroom, you’ll find that you’ll have a tendency to easily lose track of time, quickly spiraling to you overworking, which may burn you out and have negative implications on your motivation as well as performance at work.
Since you’re at the confines of your own home, you’ll indulge yourself a little with more breaks. However, these staggered breaks could interrupt your momentum and may even lead to you extending work longer than necessary just to finish your tasks. Try to establish a schedule and daily work goals before starting the day. Sticking to these will help keep you on track to managing your time better. If uncontrollable external distractions prevent you from doing so, don’t beat yourself up. That’s the benefit of working from home – the flexibility it affords us.
It may take a bit of time to adjust, but with a consistent routine that resembles what you’ve been doing at work prior to working from home, you’ll be able to manage your time more wisely and somehow, still have that boundary between work and home reestablished.
5. Don’t let the news consume you
It’s so tempting to keep watching, reading, and listening to the news given the current crisis we’re in. However, recent studies have shown that “repeated media exposure to community crisis can lead to increased anxiety and heightened stress responses.”
Although we need to stay informed during a massive outbreak like this, controlling the frequency and the reliability of the sources we’re reading is vital to maintaining our well-being.
Here are some links to reliable sources, which you could check once to twice a day:
- Ministry of Health and Labor Japan
- World Health Organization
- Tokyo Information
6. Social distancing isn’t social isolation
Socialize, socialize, and socialize more. Despite the preventive measures in place, use the power of the internet to connect and reach out to friends, family, relatives, and coworkers. Continue to engage in activities that you would normally do with them – but online.
If you enjoy having coffee, lunches, or dinners with friends or coworkers, set up a video call during your coffee break or host a live demo of you preparing lunch or dinner. If you enjoy shopping, why don’t you set-up another video call while browsing through online stores? If you’re used to attending events, there are now a ton of webinars and online events that could feed this need. If you used to work out together with friends or colleagues, you could still do that with the help of any device and the Internet.
With your imagination, you could replace any activity with social-distancing-friendly ones.
7. Help and be compassionate
The current crisis is a trying time for everyone, which is exactly why now is the time for us to be more understanding and more compassionate towards one another.
Don’t let the negativity outweigh all the positive things that we could all do to improve the situation. Together, we will win this battle against this crisis.