… average productivity of employees when working from home relative to at the workplace is 68.3%
Hmm, I wonder. The number rises to %80 for IT.
But… two thoughts. First, we’re still just learning to work remotely.
Second, I think there’s a good case to be made that Japan’s work culture presents a more challenging fit for remote work.
With a nod to Erin Meyer’s book The Culture Map, we can make some generalizations that’ll seem clear if you have experience in Japan.
Japanese culture is extremely high-context, all about saying something without saying it. Negative feedback too. Sometimes a Japanese, “Ah ha, that could be a good idea, it’s interesting” might be translated by my Dutch friends as, “That’s the worst idea I’ve heard in my life and I grew up surrounded by morons” or the American, “Uh, let’s look at some other ideas too,” all depending on the tone and circumstance in the context of the interlocutors’ particular relationship.
Yet for example Reed Hastings in his recent book describes how clear guidance and goals are usually required in Japan as people may feel uncomfortable taking initiative and making decisions without approval from leaders and group consensus. Therefore, and it’s my experience also, many Japanese people seek consensus while being at the same time quite hierarchical and all the while not wanting to say what they want to say but greatly preferring to rely on innuendo, inference and reading the room. What’s more, their trust at work is more relationship-based than, say, Americans, who tend to compartmentalize trust into individual tasks. So without a decent relationship to begin with, although someone has a great idea or suggestion to make, it might be very hard to get them to make it, and with high-context communication being hobbled by the low bandwidth of remote comms, it might be lost in transmission.
None of this seems like the fertile soil in which remote work will easily blossom.
On the other hand, it seems that Japanese culture tends to be such that once someone understands a situation and promises to do something, it happens and happens really well, so maybe there is a way for remote work to flower in Japan after all, bringing us back to my first suggestion, which is that as societies we’re just at the very beginning of learning how to work remotely. My guess is that doing it well will require structural changes in how work is organized.
Maybe the Basecamp people are closer to finding a right way to do remote? But if you read David Heinemeier Hansson’s books, it’s like the polar opposite of Japanese culture. Low context, direct negative feedback, no nonsense just-say-it style.