09 June 2010

Basketball, and then some

Woke up the usual time. Got to class just in time. Left class to go back home for the last of my Nilagang Baboy for lunch. Got back to the office around 2pm. Then guess what. The short-term researcher had some snacks to share for everyone! The invites were sent around 2am (so I was sleeping already), and since I wasn't able to check my mail early enough, I missed it! Well, no, not really. There was still some leftovers and it was pretty good.

Anyways, I played basketball though I was a little cautious because of my knee's condition. It turned out that not exerting so much effort helped - my shooting from long range was greatly improved!  We won 1 of the 2 games, and almost won the other game.  It was 29 points going for 30, and the other team was just 22 or 23...  but we still lost!  But it was a good game.  Competition is heating up.  We've got bruises and all that each - I have my knee, and another guy got hit a number of times in places you don't hit...  But it was fun.

During class, the discussion was about improving indoor thermal comfort by natural and mechanical ventilation as well as air-conditioning and therefore contributing to work productivity.  But the professor cited a report where it shows that the Japanese are working as much hours as the Americans - longer than many Europeans and Canadians - but among the group (US, Japan, France, Italy, Germany, Canada), Japan has the lowest work productivity.  He mentioned that he spent a year in the US and he noticed that people were at the office only from 9am-5pm from Monday to Friday, and sometimes they would work 9am-7pm but only from Monday to Thursday.  The professor is puzzled about this, what could be one reason why the Japanese have a low productivity and yet work more hours, and so he started a discussion during class.  I shared what I think but the professor believes it has to do with the "system," i.e. that in the US there's a hierarchical-system who gives out instructions to everyone, so everyone tends to focus on their individual tasks while in Japan it's a "flat" system where everyone gathers regularly and discuss with each other to determine what to do and stuff.  So those "discussions" part take up a lot of time.  He also mentioned that typically Japanese people, particularly here at the university, would go home at 9pm (work hours officially start at 9:30am), and cited examples of people staying at their office 4 days a week every week!  Anyways, as somewhat of a homework, he asked us to think of how we can be productive during our PhD stint here and graduate in 3 years.

Now I've been a little bit surprised about all this, just a little bit.  Japan?  Low productivity rate?  Well, they are creative and innovative.  And as I always say, there's a reason why "creative" or "innovative" is spelled differently from "productive."  There's a difference.  Before this morning's lecture, one of my Filipino friends who I've met up with in Meguro after Sunday mass twice now, a former PhD student here in Japan himself and now working for a French company here in Japan still, told me how some Japanese guys tend to relax during regular hours then do most of their work after regular hours - when they're paid overtime.  Sounded so familiar.  Same case in the Philippines - well, depending on who's above and where people are from.  Right here at the office, I am able to observe at least one Japanese guy who on regular occasions I would see playing an online game or watching some movie!

I personally think it's all about attitude and "culture".  And it's difficult to teach attitude; no, not to adults.  To toddlers, sure.  And definitely, it's difficult to change culture.  As someone in charge, the best you can do is to try to motivate.  If you have the privilege, you should choose your men well.  Read Jim Collins' Good to Great, and that other book of his.

Anyways, I think having a "no-overtime policy" works; i.e. encourage work-life balance.  And encourage task accomplishments only during the specified working hours.  No ifs, no buts.  But this requires good managers.  Like if you have a bad manager who always says yes to the client's requests, overtime almost becomes always necessary.  Of you might have a bad manager who, after you've done Task A, will ask you to do Task B and Task C, only to say later that Task A is sufficient and no need for Tasks B and C.  An engineering-related good thing about this "no-overtime policy" is you save energy!  And therefore cut down on costs!  Of course, one downside here is, again if you have bad managers, you might be forced to work at home - so actually the company's costs are only transferred to you.  Blessed are you who have good managers.

I don't know why but for some reason haven't Japanese heard of the 8x5 (8 hours per day, 5 days a week) working hours limit for good health?

Another engineering-related thing that I haven't observed here is that no one's regulating the temperature!  In the Philippines, the building code says that the standard temperature for air-conditioned offices should be between 23 and 26 degrees.  Here, everyone's uncomfortable already at those temperatures!  Except me!  Anyway, what happens is the air-conditioner is on and yet we have the windows and doors open!  Again, because people have control over the windows and doors and stuff.  There has to be a standard agreed to by everyone.  Again, energy and cost savings are the drivers here.  Okay, so maybe 23~26 degrees is not applicable here.  So let's set it to 20 or a maximum 23 degrees.  Anyways, in the Philippines, I've had experiences with having officemates who feel that 26 degrees is so cold already!  So they put the temperature up to 27 or 28 degrees.  UNCOMFORTABLE, man!  Come on, I can't take off my clothes to become comfortable.  Meanwhile, they can put on some jackets or what so that we can have 26 degree temperature.  And that's the maximum as per the building code, i.e. the law!

Anyways, another experience I have is having high ceilings and generally spacious working areas (of course, not too spacious) helps in work productivity.  Here at our office, if we all extend our arms outward, we'd be touching each other.  Cleanliness is one other thing.  Because of smaller working areas here, you would tend to not see which areas need cleaning and stuff.  I wonder how the indoor air quality levels are here.  That affects health - including mental - and the ability to be productive.

Anyways, speaking of health, I haven't been feeling so well since Saturday.  As I've been mentioning, there's my knee which is still not yet 100% but it's better now (heck, I played basketball with it).  But there was something I was not able to do last Saturday morning because again we were asked to be at the bus meeting place at 9am "or else" and yet we left at 9:30am.  And starting Sunday I've been doing that once a day but I think there's still something that needs to go, but it just doesn't go!  It is so annoying.  I also wonder why this is so when I eat lots of fiber everyday anyway.  To tell you the truth, this is affecting my productivity.  And my general well-being.  Oh well, this too shall pass.

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