Manage episode 373814739 series 1283444
Japan has always been a country which has adapted to weather and seismic conditions. Traditional housing was built on the assumption that earthquakes would less easily destroy wooded houses with built in flex points. High-pitched roof angles allowed snow to fall more easily from the roof and prevent the snow’s weight from crushing those inside. Things have changed though and we now have typhoons going as far north as Hokkaido. When I arrive here in April 1979, that possibility would have been unthinkable. We have massive flooding of low-lying areas, which until relatively recently, could survive heavy rains. Japan is also becoming unbearably hot. Cities like Tokyo have lots of concreted surfaces, not that many trees and the heat at ground level is becoming more and more intense. The NHK news today was reporting an average temperature for Tokyo of 36 degrees centigrade. While I was driving around, my car temperature gauge was showing 39.5 degrees for outside the vehicle and trust me, it was red hot on the street level. This is the summer environment our people have to work in.
Energy bills are going up dramatically, to a Government approved 42% increase in some cases, for this summer. Global energy cost increases are now being are passed on to consumers. Remote work has shifted the cooling bill to the individual. There are many cases of older people suffering heatstroke, because they felt they couldn’t afford to use the air-conditioning, due to the high cost. This is also a formula for trouble for those working from home. The idea is that you can be more creative working from home, than in the office. During Covid it certainly made sense, from a safety point of view. The “creativity” part, well, I don’t know about that idea. I don’t think it easy to be creative at home, when the temperature outside is super-hot and you are not using air-conditioning to save money.
I have told my team to come to the office and use the air-conditioning there. We pay for it anyway, whether there is one person or everyone present. I also recommend commuting much earlier when it is cooler and the trains are less crowded. Cool biz is absolutely a must in this heat and I don’t see any need for jackets anymore. Salespeople are the one group in the organisation who want to visit clients, face it face, regardless of how hot it is. That means heading out into the heat to do so. While face-to-face is ideal, this heat tells me that virtual meetings which were okay during Covid for sales meetings will be okay now too.
As the leaders, we have to adjust our expectations to how much productivity we can expect from our team in these hot conditions. It is hard to think well and clearly when your brain is frying. Moving fast and expending lots of energy is not a good idea, when it is so hot. We need to leave earlier for appointments and pace ourselves for the heat. The heat makes us feel lethargic. As the boss, we have to accept that now during these exceptionally hot summer months, our team will be affected. We have to adjust our expectations about both the quality and quantity of work we can receive. Carrying on as usual makes no sense and any team working for a boss who has not addressed the productivity expectation issue during extreme heat, will find that the team will not be as motivated.
This is the era in Japan of high demand for staff and high demand from staff for improved boss EQ levels. Being unwilling or unable to adjust expectations to accommodate the heat is bound to be a stimulus for some people to seek another more caring boss and we know people leave bosses not companies. This may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back this year.
There are only a limited number of things a boss can do for staff in this heat. If there is a requirement for staff to work from home, then for these hot months of the year, the company can add some additional monies to help with the increased air-conditioning costs at home. Effective means should be sought for paying this allowance as otherwise the staff just pay increased tax. Being flexible on the hours being worked in the office also helps. Starting and finishing early makes sense and bosses need to adjust the company rules about working hours during the summer months and make this a permanent arrangement, because this situation is going to continue forever.
Adjusting work goals and targets is another important aspect of boss accommodation for the daily reality of working in extreme heat. Speed and quality of non-sales staff can be looked at and changes made. For salespeople, the monthly targets during summer have to reflect the new reality. Just dividing the annual sales target into equal monthly allocations makes little sense. There are always certain months of the year when sales are going to be down and this is no accident. For example, January (Oshogatsu) , February (a short month) and August (Obon) are often slower months in sales because of the fewer workdays. Bosses have to make some tweaks to the sales targets for these months and now additionally for the other summer months, to reflect this new extreme heat reality.
Obon has traditionally been a holiday time in August and perhaps the length of leave during Obon can be extended by another week or so. Clients are also taking time off during Obon, so this makes good sense to squeeze another week into the holiday schedule. Getting staff to take their holidays is always a strange struggle in Japan, but with this increase in heat, I think bosses need to work on their persuasion skills to encourage staff to take more time off over the summer than previously.
This extreme summer heat In Japan is the new normal and we all have to look for ways to adjust to it. Our staff expect it and we have to look for every area where we can make adjustments and make those permanent adjustments as well.