Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.
Perhaps it wasn’t obvious until it was absent, but we draw a lot of our work-related energy from interaction with our co-workers. On any given day, before the pandemic hit, we might have found ourselves at our desks, perhaps losing focus, mind wandering. But a quick check-in with teammates or a casual chat with a nearby colleague and we were snapped back into reality. Simply put, having other workers around us physically helps us keep our energy up.
Not so long ago, with all the right precautions in place, I visited our office for the second time in around six months. I realized how much I miss the office! Human beings are community-based animals so going 100% virtual is really tough. If we keep at this long-term, I’m afraid we’re also in danger of weakening our corporate culture.
Even though the space is still mostly empty, it was like a welcome shock of energy to meet directly with members of the team.
Without that human element of being in the office together on a daily basis, we must find other ways to engage our mental energy. We can’t simply wait for the post-pandemic future; We can’t afford to slowdown innovation; We need to find our energy now.
Here are some ideas that might come in handy:
In times of turbulence, mindfulness is key
Mindfulness practices feel more relevant than ever in times like this. I’ve been aiming to meditate daily, sometimes on video calls with colleagues as a way to encourage us all to commit to making the time for this. I’ve been reminded by Marc Benioff of Salesforce and other leaders about how many benefits can flow on from this. Marc talked about cultivating a ‘beginners mind’, or shoshin,’ at a conference where we shared the stage ‘because it’s how you come up with innovation: The best place to learn about innovation is Japan.’ The iconic rockstar Yoshiki was also onstage with us and he echoed those sentiments, explaining that meditation “is vital to my process.”
Exercise regularly: physical energy can trigger mental energy
Others look outside themselves for energy and inspiration. If a daily workout is part of your energy routine and you can’t get to the gym due to health restrictions, you can look for other ways to engage in physical activity. Try a new exercise video, join others in livestreamed workout class or take a break outside. This summer, we invited Rakuten employees, their family and friends to dial in online for a traditional Japanese morning session of gentle stretching. Whatever you prefer, it’s clear that physical energy can trigger mental energy.
Find motivation in entertainment
Finally, consider your entertainment sources. This is somewhat counter-intuitive — we think of entertainment as the reward we seek after work. But in some cases, it can serve as the energy stimulus we need before or even during work. In our Tokyo offices, the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra’s music in the corridors and elevators created a sort of oasis for the mind between meetings and time at my desk. You may have a style of music or art that sparks your creativity. As a sports fan, even without access to live matches, I can find inspiration in the incredible teamwork, creativity and hard work on display during FC Barcelona or Vissel Kobe games, baseball, basketball or professional tennis matches.
The key is to remember to reach for these methods of inspiration. The energy we draw naturally from our workplace and our coworkers may not be available to us now. Consider your own energy needs and think about what you can do to emerge from these challenging times with strength and optimism.