The dos and don’ts of doing business in the age of Covid
Covid has crashed economies, seen millions placed in lockdown and triggered an unprecedented surge in home baking. It has also changed the world of work: here’s a dos and don’ts guide to help you navigate the new normal of business interaction in Japan...
DO Get comfy with your mask
Even when the virus recedes, face masks are likely to be with us for the foreseeable future. They’ve long been accepted as a public health measure in Japan, so it’s vital to make sure you’ve always got one on you. The drill in a business meeting is not to remove your mask until you’re sure the person you’re talking to is comfortable with it, to keep adjusting it regularly when talking, as it tends to slide up or down and, if you wear specs, to bring a cloth to polish them if they get fogged up.
DON’T Forget your card
Business cards are still exchanged in Japan with great reverence. And if you’re worried that people won’t remember you without seeing your face you can always take things to the next level by putting in an order at Nagaya Printing, who for ¥1,500 will create you a custom-made face mask with your business card printed on it. Guaranteed to leave a lasting impression – even if that impression is of a person with a phone number instead of a mouth.
Respectful and hygienic, the bow is a strong contender for the world’s new favourite way to say hello
DO Embrace the bow
The pandemic has given us an object lesson in the merits of traditional Japanese bowing over handshaking as a means of greeting. Respectful and hygienic, the bow is a strong contender for the world’s new favourite way to say hello. Don’t worry if you don’t understand the exact nuances of the manoeuvre: just remember to bend at the waist, look at the ground, keep your arms at your side and follow up with a smile. The only change wrought by the pandemic is that people now stand slightly further apart while bowing.
If you don’t speak Japanese, you can still please your colleagues and business partners by throwing in some phrases in the language
DON’T Let standards slip
We’re all au fait now with the basics of Zoom etiquette: position your monitor so you’ve got a nice clean background (even if the rest of your room is a riotous mess), be smartly dressed from the waist up (even if you’re wearing egg-stained sweatpants below camera level) and stay focused and alert (even if the meeting leaves you bored rigid). In addition, we’ve heard tell of some companies in Japan insisting that employees enter online meetings before their boss or client as a type of “welcome”, keep their screen locked to the top of the meeting window at all times, and wait for them to leave the meeting before they do. While not universal, it’s probably worth following them to show respect.
DO Learn some phrases
If you don’t speak Japanese, you can still please your colleagues and business partners by throwing in some phrases in the language: with that in mind, we’ve set down translations of some of the most-uttered expressions used in online meetings…
You are on mute! - Myuto ni natte masu yo!
Can you hear me now? - Kikoe masu ka?
Can you see my screen? - Watashi no gamen wa miemasu ka?
I’ll try turning it off and turning it back on again - Ichido keshite mite mata tsukete mi ma su
DON’T Fix morning meetings
When it comes to face to face meetings in Japan, wherever possible it makes sense to schedule them in the middle of the day to avoid commuter trains. While crowding is not as bad as it used to be – many companies now have lots of employees who are working remotely, and others have put in place staggered commuting – you’ll still have the best chance of a quiet carriage if you set your rendezvous for midday.