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'Remaining silent in online meetings' bothers teleworkers in Japan the most: poll

A nearly empty office is seen in Tokyo's Minato Ward in November 2020. (Mainichi/Shinnosuke Kyan)

TOKYO -- "Remaining completely silent in online meetings" has come out on top in a Tokyo company's poll on the most bothersome behavior in remote working environments -- perhaps a warning to some engaging in online meetings as more companies introduce teleworking systems amid the spread of the coronavirus.

    Tokyo-based Qualitia Co., which develops and sells email security products and services, polled 1,000 corporate employees, civil servants and association staff members in their 20s to 50s across the country online on April 6 and 7.

    When asked what kind of workers are the most bothersome in a question allowing multiple answers, 15% of respondents who use online tools for meetings on the job -- the highest proportion -- selected "people who remain completely silent in online meetings." Though there are also people who stay quiet during face-to-face meetings, those people are apparently more annoying in online meetings, in which silent moments tend to occur.

    Others who irked respondents included "people with noisy backgrounds," at 13% and "people who speak while someone else is speaking," at 8%. Following were "people whose typing sound is loud," "people whose computers often freeze" and "people who keep speaking without noticing their mics are muted," at 7% each. These troubles are likely to be solved if participants are careful. There are other types of workers who are apparently highly likely to bother others, such as "people who keep speaking, not allowing anyone else to speak," at 6%; and "people who seek attention by using showy backgrounds," and "people who act as if their computers have frozen when they don't know what to do," at 5% each.

    Meanwhile, when asked what kind of workers were bothersome when it came to chat apps in a working environment, again with multiple answers permitted, the highest number of respondents selected "people who do not reply to messages" and "people who send long messages in chats," respectively selected by 13% of pollees. Following were "people who demand a quick reply," at 8%; and "people who send what they want to say and then leave the chat," "people who send unfinished messages by mistake," "people who are strangely friendly" and "people who start their chat messages with 'Otsukaresama desu' (meaning "Thank you for your hard work") like in an email," at 7% each.

    In another question about which communication tools they use in workplaces, with multiple answers allowed, the vast majority of people chose phones at 82%, followed by email at 76%, online meetings at 37% and online chats at 20%. In contrast, among those who telecommute, email was used by 93%, followed by phones at 83%, online meetings at 76% and online chats at 44%.

    When asked to pick the things that bothered them when using communication tools, 15% of them chose, "It takes time to handle emails," followed by, "I cannot write emails well" at 12% -- a sign that communicating in writing is a struggle for some people. The answer attracting the third most respondents, at 10%, was, "It is difficult to see other people's reactions in online meetings."

    Among those who telecommute, "It takes time to handle emails" and "It is difficult to see other people's reactions in online meetings" were the most common answers, at 21% each. Meanwhile another 19% each chose the responses, "I can't find the right timing to speak during online meetings" and "It's hard to catch speakers' voices during online meetings." The answers indicate that these people still have difficulty adapting to online meetings.

    Due to the spread of the coronavirus, the Japanese government declared a third state of emergency for the four prefectures of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, which is currently in place but is due to be lifted on May 11. The government was aiming to cut the number of commuters by 70% by utilizing telework systems and having them take days off during the "Golden Week" holidays. Through some 900 business groups, the government is also asking workers to thoroughly avoid crowds by taking measures such as teleworking and making use of staggered commuting. Improving the online meeting environment may be a key to achieving the goal.

    (Japanese original by Ryuko Tadokoro, Political News Department)

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