3 years have passed since COVID-19 changed lifestyles not only in Japan but globally. We’ve been through many and large changes with sometimes backlashes and inconveniences, but are adapting to the “New Normal” life. This again has been changed in Japan in March (exactly when I’m actually writing this!). But this change is nothing unusual. In the past, smartphones were introduced invading the share of cell phones (foldable phones in Japan), and many companies brought in cashless payment as an alternative option beside the ordinary cash and credit card. Changes with COVID-19 and its lifestyle is just one of those human activities. But, as a business person, our interest should be, “so how’s this going to affect the business in Japan?”
Once the “New Normal” was introduced, the first thing that changed (at least in Japan) was the option of working from home. In Japan, a new word “workation” was invented, meaning remote working from a vacation site. Many coworking offices were established throughout Tokyo, physical offices were reconsidered with all the work from home investment was made, and online and virtual reality collected attention to be implemented in business. All was to reduce the risk of infection. We won’t discuss if this really had an effect, but companies did try many things out, and now our risks and difficulty of working from outside of the office are so much easier than before. And this perhaps will continue to be a standard even post COVID-19. We all now have the knowledge and experience of working online, and this has opened our options to work with people we couldn’t before. Yes there are still work that requires face to face meetings, or business that is just more efficient when you do meet in person, but “online meetings” and “working from home” will always continue to be an option in the future. Some companies might say “You must come in office if you want to work” and that’s just fine as well. The sense of unity and passion still thrives best in office with coworkers, and confidential information is best kept in office rather than online. But companies and company leaders will always have the option of implementing working from home, with merits like “reduce office prices” or “hire employees living far from HQ”.
Another aspect that made its place in the New Normal is masks. They were needed no matter business or private. This was a tough habit to get into since in the United States, masks are for disasters (like COVID-19) or people who work in contaminated conditions. But in Japan, masks are more common and a daily thing to use especially in the pollen season in spring and autumn, or to prevent influenza in the winter. Japan has lowered the danger level of COVID-19 in mid March, and masks have become a choice and decision of one from a necessity. Same rule applies in business, but the question is, is it better manners to wear a mask during meetings?” Many people feel uncomfortable to change, some might even hate it. But that doesn’t mean you need to wear a mask. It's the pollen season when I’m writing this, and perhaps many people are wearing a mask regardless of COVID-19 or not. You may even have one on if you live in Japan. But with a mask on, it’s somewhat difficult to read facial expressions, or might be difficult to listen to what they are saying. If you want to take off masks in a polite manner, go to a place where they serve you beverages, or even ask them “Would it be alright if I take my mask off?” The question can easily start an icebreaker conversation, and it also gives permission for them to take off their mask, since they might feel the same uncomfort as you.