Working from home: Employees offer insights on the challenges and possibilities

To help curb the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus, companies and organizations around the globe have turned to telecommuting. This has led to an unprecedented number of people working from home — and for many remote employees, a period of uncertainty and adjustment.

Rakuten implemented precautions early on to prioritize employee safety while ensuring business continuity. As part of these preventive measures, the company has encouraged employees worldwide to work from their homes.

While telecommuting allows for more flexibility, especially during challenging times, and can boost productivity, it can also introduce a wide array of challenges. These range from the difficulty of establishing a good work station and communicating effectively with your team, to tackling loneliness or even anxiety.

We spoke to Rakuten employees from around the world to find out how they’re working from home — and to learn their strategies for success.

Working from home in Japan

Rakuten News Network, the company’s official source for internal communications, crafted a video on creative ways Rakuten employees in Japan have devised to further enhance productivity. The video showcases new ways to keep connected, stay healthy and engage everyone on the team.

Keep a routine. Dress for success.

“I have been working from home for a few weeks now and have learned a few key lessons during that time to keep up the business-as-usual-feel. Most importantly, make sure you set a morning routine as normal: dress for work (or a more comfortable version), put on make-up and head to a workspace. Keep your work routines at home – like having a ‘work’ mug, making tea before starting and stepping away from your desk regularly.”

– Abi Jacks, VP Marketing International, Rakuten Advertising – Brighton

Remember to move

“Since you’re not at the office, it may be a bit difficult to be prompted to move. Set a timer. Move around. Be careful not to sit there for too long. Watch your diet. Don’t be too tempted to grab those unhealthy snacks. A proper diet and a bit of exercising will keep you at your best.”

– Michael Potter, VP Engineering, Global Ad Technology Department – Salt Lake City

Prioritize your mental health

“The most important thing is to take care of your mental health at this difficult time. Taking breaks throughout the day to do something you enjoy, connecting with colleagues over an informal video chat to have coffee or lunch together, or going out for a walk and asking yourself, “how am I doing?” throughout the day, are some ways to help improve your mental health.”

– Andrea Lekic, Talent Development Lead, Rakuten Kobo – Toronto

Understand the “don’t’s”

“When it comes to working from home, many of us know the ‘dos,’ but knowing the ‘don’t’s’ is just as important. Don’t work from bed or a sofa because it’s not only bad for productivity, it’s also bad for your back. Don’t work where you can be easily distracted, like in front of the TV while watching the news. Avoid working near a kitchen where cooking is in progress! The noise, the smell and all that goes on in the kitchen can disrupt work – even if you’re an expert multitasker.”

– Narendra Narayana, COO, Rakuten India – Bengaluru

Have fun!

“On my team, we utilize 30 mins of what would usually be commute time for new product ideas. We meet at a daily creative huddle, not linked to any current projects, to keep things interesting, engaging and retain the creative spirits. But it doesn’t have to be all work and no play — we’re also introducing fun little challenges to keep everybody motivated. For instance, we’ve started a competition on the craziest work from home moment that the team then gets to vote on.”

– Dipanjan Basu, Head of Product and Engineering, Rakuten Europe – London

When working from home, Rakutenians found it helpful to have a dedicated work space, dress for success, maintain routines.

Try out the Pomodoro technique

“I use a timer, hourglass or kitchen clock (an app is fine as well), set it to 25 minutes and do my tasks in short time intervals. In between, I reward myself with short breaks, a sweet treat or social media time. Another positive psychological effect: You can see that even unpleasant tasks come to an end. Of course I didn’t invent this method — it’s called the Pomodoro Technique. This way, you divide your work time into several intervals and can track your personal time management. Small steps can also lead to success!”

– Milana Kogan, Senior Communications Manager, Rakuten Germany – Berlin

Find channels for interaction and exchange

“Since we’ve switched to working from home, I’ve been organizing daily morning coffee chats with my team over a video chat. It helps us start our day in a somewhat regular way, gives opportunities to address work related questions as well as personal or work from home issues, support each other and sometimes to simply share some jokes and laugh! Every second day we also invite some guests from other teams to join us for a coffee chat.  It really helps us keep our one-team-spirit that is essential to a productive and healthy remote work. Just grab a coffee and log on!”

– Jurgita Kolonsinskaite, Head of Human Resources, Rakuten Europe – Barcelona

Make sure you have the tools you need to succeed. (Oh, and having a cat as a co-worker doesn’t hurt either)

“The foundation of every work from home experience is a productive set up: Get yourself a dedicated workspace, preferably with a window. You need sunlight. It should also be calm and exclusive, so you can continue to use the other rooms of your flat or house to take a break and enjoy family life. Make sure you have all the equipment and tools you need — and obviously a stable and fast-enough internet connection. Once settled in, get yourself an agenda and a clear to-do list for the day. You’ll be more productive with directions. And last but not least, I can definitely recommend having a cat as a co-worker.”

– Fabian Gumucio, Director South Europe, Rakuten Kobo – Paris

Be kind to yourself

“It is okay to not be okay, and it is okay to not be at your most productive during self-isolation/quarantine. I keep seeing all these updates on social media about using this time to be creative, prolific and cross things off your to-do list. This is great if, like me, you find reassurance in having a very busy calendar and doing multiple projects. However, I am aware that many find these ‘commands’ stressful — despite being well-intentioned. So, this is just to say that whatever you are or aren’t doing is more than fine. Be kind to yourself and focus on alleviating your pain however you can.”

– Trish Pomar, Director, Digital Marketing, Rakuten Advertising – Brighton

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