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190: Get Ready For Your Productivity Nosedive

190: Get Ready For Your Productivity Nosedive

Get Ready For Your Productivity Nosedive

Brace yourself for everything to take a big hit. Speed, attention to detail, output, results are about to fall off a cliff. No this has nothing to do with currency rates, trade regulations, tariffs, gunboat diplomacy or anything Donald Trump is about to do as President. This is here in Japan, right now and mainly relevant in the major cities. This is when JPY750billion is about to get taken out of domestic consumption, lowering the nation’s GDP by 0.6%.

Roughly one third of your team in Tokyo are going to become a lot less productive, as they battle with the demon pollen plague that hits every spring. Cherry blossom time has had the gloss taken off it substantially, since the cedar pollen levels have risen to such grandiose heights. Those pinky-white buds herald the onset of a living hell. It is hard to concentrate when you are crying and your eyes are so itchy you think you are going to go crazy. Just to offset these maladies, you can insert massive intermittent bouts of sneezing. The tissue box will get a hammering and those tissues will start attacking the fine membrane under the nose, so that it hurts like blazes.

For those really suffering, they won’t even make it to work, because going outside is a killer. This means less shopping, restaurants in the evening and beers after work. It means masks, goggles, eye and nose drops, doctor visits and keeping indoors as much as possible for months. The disruption to the workplace is real.

Tempers become shorter when people are irritated and in pain. They are less tolerant of others as they double down and focus on themselves and their woes. Cooperation is lessened somehow, as they are not so generous with their attention. They are less creative, because their brains are on fire trying to deal with a hostile intruder that is attacking their nasal passage microsites.

Anyone suffering from kafunsho or pollen allergy who has a detail oriented job is going to make more mistakes. Others will take longer for tasks and re-work frequencies will go up. Those in the creative industries are going to be less creative. Your rhythm is completely out of kilter and the concentration muscle has atrophied. Those in the sales army are struggling not to sneeze all over the client and to keep it all together during the sales call. Sales technique and customer focus are AWOL.

How do bosses deal with this modern pollen plague? They usually carry on as if everything is as per normal. They expect the targets to be achieved, the logistics to keep working perfectly and everything to carry on as if we were not under siege. On the other hand, during influenza outbreaks people disappear for a whole week, one by one, as they infect each other. The workplace looks like a ghost town. A few hardy types keep it together, until the troops rally and return. The outputs are directly affected.

This is accepted however as a serious health issue and bosses are understanding about the health ramifications, missed numbers and targets. The difference with kafunsho is that this is the death of a thousand lashes. You don’t get to take a week off and recover. You don’t recover at all, because the symptoms stick around for months. You have to turn up, but only a shadow of your former self is actually turning up. It is time to accept that the months from February to May, up until around Golden Week are going to be a disaster. This is a full quarter of a year we are talking about here – no small thing. Statistically kafunsho affects one in four Japanese, but the actual rate is much higher in the big cities, because of the toxic combination of pollen and pollution from cars. I said one in three and that is a guestimate, based on my observation of what is happening every year in Tokyo.

The cedar and cyprus pine trees are at their maturity peak now, which is why you see heavy clouds of deadly yellow pollen on television, being whipped up by the wind. News reports track the spread of the pollen from south to north and nominate days when levels are very high. This is not going away anytime soon and so we have to adjust our expectations during these high infection months. And it is an infection – the pollen gets into your eyes, nose and throat and creates severe inflammation and distress.

So bosses – be sympathetic with your team members who suffer. Adjust your production number estimates down during these months. Keep a sharp eye on accuracy levels for key parts of the business. If you are not a suffer, become a fellow traveller. Be caring for those members of the team who are doing it tough. Be fully genuine about it, because there is nothing more irritating than being patronised to, by someone who has no clue what you are going through. This is when the boss’s real commitment to the team is shown, on stage and for all to see. Get it right this year!