Category: Blog
Written by: Super User
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Enkais!

Drinking parties, or enkai in Japanese are aimed at both promoting communication between companies and facilitating negotiations, and are a feature common to not only Japan, but to other countries throughout Asia. However, bringing together members from different companies for drinking parties as a part of negotiations is much less common in the West. Managers and top-level officials will sometimes meet for golf in order to discuss business, but having managers and other employees get together to socialize over drinks by going to bars, karaoke, or clubs is pretty well unheard of. Japan places great stock in in vino veritas—the idea that people tend to speak more frankly after a few drinks. However, does requiring alcohol in order to speak honestly mean that conversely, people are unable to express themselves honestly during meetings?

Alcohol does have a role in business in the West. In some countries, "business lunches" are an accepted part of doing business. These are exactly what the name indicates—after lunch is finished, both parties return to the office. These are not opportunities to get drunk and party, instead they are centered towards work, and for the most part comprise discussing business over a good meal and wine at a restaurant. On the other hand, Japanese enkai are geared around having people develop personal relationships, and they may not actually involve much talking about the business at hand. Where does this difference come from? Drinking has long been rooted in Japanese culture, but this is not the case in the West, where drinking is primarily something to do for relaxation, outside of work. In the West, there are also some people who do not drink for religious reasons. The Japanese style of work parties, in which drinking to let of steam is often frowned upon by companies in the West, may well give an unfavorable impression of the staff involved or even the company itself.

Either way, make sure you don't drink too much!

Category: Blog
Written by: Super User
Hits: 191

Overtime - Pros and Cons

(This post proved popular with our Japanese readers, so here it is in English!)
One company I have been visiting since last year has recently implemented "no-overtime days."

As society changes, they are undoubtedly trying to improve the work-life balance enjoyed by employees, but I am sure that they are also trying to reduce overtime costs. No-overtime days makes sense to me — after all, who wants to spend all day at the office? In spite of this, when I asked some of the employees what they thought of no-overtime days, they didn't look that enthusiastic about the idea. "What? You want to spend more time at the office?" I've spent a long time in Japan, and frankly, this surprised me.

I worked as an IT firm many years ago, and the staff there considered overtime to be normal. Deadlines were set assuming that overtime would be used, with salaries also taking this into account — indeed employees actually counted upon overtime pay to cover living expenses. This "scheduled overtime" proved beneficial, as it meant shorter development times, faster delivery, and higher product quality. I heard this justification from a number of people.

The thing is, in many Western countries, people have a very different idea of what overtime means. Around 20 years ago, while at university, I had a part-time job working in the inspection and quality office of an anhydrous milk fat factory in New Zealand. Deadlines were always tight, and despite the factory running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, shift work meant that the workers there never had to do overtime. Requests for overtime had to get the permission of superiors, and there was the general feeling if you required overtime every day, then there was a problem with your work performance.

People do not generally consider long hours of overtime to be normal, however Western countries are seeing a slow increase in the amount of overtime worked, with the work environments in some areas starting to resemble Japan — some are seeing the benefits of overtime, in that it lets companies provide higher quality products with shorter delivery times. However, if long periods of overtime continue, creativity and concentration will suffer, and this can be counterproductive in terms of delivery dates and quality.

Both of these concepts are at odds with each other, but at the end of the day, no matter the country or the type of organization, companies are trying to increase customer satisfaction. The issue is how to efficiently make this a reality, and I have no way of determining which method is preferable.

To be honest, as a New Zealander, I must say that I don't want overtime to eat into my own free time or time with my family — I would rather work flat-out to produce quality work during my normal office hours.

Category: Blog
Written by: Super User
Hits: 409

Text to Speech software

Text to Speech software - a great way to catch errors that that otherwise might be missed. If you missed the mistake in that sentence, you could probably use Text to Speech software. Have your computer read the text back to you, while you read along. Many software packages handle this, with a couple of examples being Simple TTS Reader or Balabolka for PC, Text2Speech for Mac.

When performed in conjunction with a paper-based read-through, these programs can dramatically boost the quality of your output, and help you in determining if the text sounds natural or stilted.

Reading along with the computer-generated voice is particularly important if you have used speech recognition. Listening by itself may mean you overlook homonyms such as their, there, and they’re, etc. Reading out loud along with the computer generated speech is also very effective.