Minimalism is a word that carries a lot of weight these days, even though it’s a concept that has been around for centuries. Minimalism refers to a lifestyle that is about living with less, get rid of clutter that doesn’t add value to life, avoid unnecessary expenses, devote extra time to work on personal relationships and much more. Minimalism can be applied to pretty much any area of life from material things to personal well-being.
Though i came across the minimalism term recently, i have tried to know more about it through various articles and videos. The understanding that i have gained about the concept is that there is no particular rule laid out to follow, but it depends upon the individual to implement it to a level that makes life better. By being a minimalist, one can become more conscious about the material things one buys, in terms of lifestyle there will be a conscious effort to choose the ones that add value, in terms of managing the self ,i.e, the physical and mental well being there will be a conscious effort to choose the ones that promote physical well being like healthy food, exercise and practicing meditation to be more mindful that promotes mental well being. The list can go on and on.
Origin and Spirit of Minimalism
The origin of minimalism cannot be traced back to a single source. However in case of Japan, minimalism can be said to be derived from the Zen Buddhist philosophy that spread over from China, where it became popular after getting initiated by an Indian monk Bodhidharma. Most of the time, people are chasing fulfillment through consumerism. It’s not just social pressure that makes us buy things, it also gives us meaning and helps us struggle through the day when there are no other goals available. Buddhist philosophy, a subset of the Indian Vedic philosophy redirects our attention back into ourselves and is based on the principle of tolerance of sense perceptions.
Out of the many minimalism concepts available in Japan, i would like to mention a concept called “danshari” that has become popular around the world. This concept was introduced by yoga instructor Mashiro Oki in 1976. It is an application of the yoga training of “dan” (stop unnecessary things from entering our life), ”sha” (discard what we do not need) and “ri” (depart from an obsession with material things).
The “danshari” concept can be used to gauge many people’s behavior during the “stay-home” weeks under the state of emergency and should be applied to review and design new styles of work. Though the emergency has been lifted in Japan at present, the pandemic effect is still there due to which companies have provided employees extended “stay-home” or “work from home” options.
I came to know through news articles that, many people in Japan embarked on a big home clean-up during this period. Service companies that dispose of large items have been extremely busy. The household garbage during 10 weeks between Feb and May increased by 4.9 percent from a year earlier – an extraordinary jump. On the other hand, garbage from offices and stores decreased by a huge 25 percent, reflecting the government’s request to close or reduce their business hours. Also, according to a survey company, close to 50 percent of the respondents began cleaning up their homes – by far the top item among the things that they began doing under the stay-home period. The practice of danshari did not seem to stop with belongings. Some people applied it to improve their relationship with people whom they truly appreciate, while the rest seemed to disappear from their list.
Now back to the question of what to continue and what to throw away in our styles of work. According to a survey company, the number of people who want to continue to work from home even after the pandemic is over remains relatively low: around 20% of employed workers up to the age of 60 who have families. But another survey by a different company shows that close to 80% of those who experienced teleworking for the first time during the emergency want to continue to work from home.
One of the reasons that people may prefer the current work from home trend, is due to the long workhours that is a symbol of Japan’s input-oriented society. Until now, output has been raised by increasing working hours, i.e., by increasing input. Though there are new laws restricting the work hours, the impact has been minimal. However, the work from home trend may shift the focus from presence oriented to output oriented style of work. As per the information from a few companies, the new normal of people working from home has not affected the quality of work, so companies may go for reduction of physical footprint ,i.e, shedding of empty office spaces. Regarding other activities, many people have found online meetings to be efficient and effective, and some have started wondering whether so many face-to-face meetings are needed.
There are people who approve of danshari and people who do not approve of it. Great challenges lie ahead in applying danshari to styles of work. People need to decide what to stop (such as face-to-face meetings involving many people and no clear agenda), what to discard (numerous paper forms to fill in and approve), and what to depart from (the mass recruiting of new graduates, and so on). This viewpoint does not apply only to Japan but to the companies all over the world. This is a rare opportunity that needs to be made use of to the fullest to bring about major transformation of various aspects of organizations and society.