Western economies have embraced Japanese management philosophy for decades. From Kaizen and Kanban to “Just In Time” and Ringiseido, Japanese workplace practices have significantly influenced our contemporary way of management thinking.
Could “Boketto” (translated as “gazing vacantly”) be the latest Japanese buzzword in workplace culture? In a Western workplace culture which overemphasises hard measures such as productivity and utilisation levels as benchmarks of workplace success, could “Boketto” be a new concept that helps us shift perceptions of workplace success?. We set out below four thoughts on why this new Japanese import, might be good for today’s workplace:
1. Give your Brain a Break:
According to a research paper from the University of California – San Diego, our brains are inundated with the equivalent amount of 34GB of information, enough to overload a laptop within a week. It is a scientific fact that the frontal lobe brain networks—responsible for reasoning, planning, decision-making, and judgment—work for you in creative ways when the brain is quiet. Therefore give that brain a break to plan, decide and judge better!
2. Prioritising through switching off:
Workplace effectiveness often depends not on “doing everything” but on doing the “right thing”. “Psychological distancing”, “habits of Highly Effective people” and an army of coaches and self-help gurus place prioritisation at the core of workplace effectiveness. In a world where we are inundated with tasks from multiple channels, in multiple family and work universes, prioritisation is easier said than done. “Boketto” champions might be on to something here. To prioritise, you need to de-clutter and to de-clutter, you first need to switch off. Hold that vacant gaze out of your office window, it may be better for your career than you think!
3. Exercise for “nothingness”:
Eastern philosophy has helped introduce practices in contemporary workplaces that help with relaxation and mental health improvement. Going even further back, Ancient Greeks worshipped Melete, the muse of thought and meditation. A study in the “occupational Medicine journal” this year concluded that yoga has a positive effect in the workplace, particularly in reducing stress. In the same way that we eagerly fill our brains with those 34GB on a daily basis, it may be useful to proactively plan a bit of time for “nothingness”. That legendary lunchtime siesta may have a place in today’s working life more than ever before.
4. “Boketto” and productivity:
An article published in the Times in 2017 on Productivity, confirmed what many suspected. Mexico—the least productive of the 38 countries listed in 2015 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—has the world’s longest average work week at 41.2 hours (including full-time and part-time workers). At the other end of the spectrum, Luxembourg, the most productive country, has an average workweek of just 29 hours. Luxembourg and Scandinavian nations are evidence that more leave (32 paid leave days on average in Luxembourg) and an emphasis on employee wellbeing makes for increased productivity.
The average phone user touches their phone 2617 times a day ((https://blog.dscout.com/mobile-touches). Add to this the 77 time we check our emails according to Gloria Mark from the University of California and you have very little left in a day to think, talk and plan. In our continuously tech evolving workplaces, “time off” from our mad schedules to switch off, de-clutter and by doing so, think, has never been more important. You want to do your company and career a favour? Look outside that window, switch that phone off for 10 minutes and take your colleagues for that long lunch. The benefits may just surprise you.