Adjusting to Work from Home: Key lessons learned so far and the Best practices
Technology - May 12, 2020
The COVID-19 crisis has drastically changed the workplace dynamics and more and more companies are offering 'work from home' option to their employees. The crisis has turned out to be a test for technology based remote working. Each day, employees are learning new ways to enhance productivity and effectively engage with colleagues, partners and clients using remote methods.
This test will also reveal the efficiency of organizations in managing employee tasks, project phases and meeting client objectives.
At this point of time, we cannot fully evaluate the results of this test; however, we can apply certain measures to evaluate the rate of successes. It has been few weeks since the workplace was forced to go remote and businesses worldwide have been disrupted. At the same time, we have learned new ways to do business using this model. Let us investigate the lessons learned so far.
Key Lessons learned and observations made so far
1) Post COVID-19, the corporate space is going to change forever. Businesses are investing in features that are making it more accessible and easier for its employees to connect from remote locations. Even if the pandemic slows down, it would be long before the world returns to 'normal'. As more and more people upskill themselves to deliver their work from remote locations; it would be natural that businesses would start rethinking about their investment in physical infrastructure and we might see a sizeable decrease in office spaces. Few days back, one of leaders from TCS hinted at the possibility that firms could be operating from office at 25% of their capacity; the rest would be operational remotely.
2) In order to effectively perform their duties, employees should be well engaged with one another. Emails and chats do the job in keeping us connected but they fail to properly engage us. This is the reason, demand for conferencing apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have risen exponentially. Speaking of numbers, Zoom reported a 700% increase in its daily user count in March 2020. The pandemic has literally pushed people to such platforms and firms behind these platforms are aggressively investing to make the entire 'virtual conferencing experience ‘agile.
3) On the psychological side, the shift towards remote workplace will bring about a lot of mental health issues. It is well accepted that being in an office environment and communicating with coworkers ease some stress and increases collective team spirit. This can't be attained with colleagues who are connected only by virtual mediums. Also, putting the team together in a meeting room and brainstorming on challenges accelerates the speed of resolutions.
4) This is also a learning for employees who are now realizing that they can only be successful in a remote setup if they follow certain best practices and perform self-discipline. Some of these measures include creating a separate working space and not merging it with the living space, maintaining noise control, establish breaks, consistent schedule etc. In addition, there should be a certain balance between work from home and work for home.
5) It is important for companies to establish proper communication challenges that motivates employees, infuse team spirit and reminds the employee about the sense of mission in reaching a common goal. The camaraderie that comes with working together can only be attained if employees feel enthusiastic about the workplace. During this period, it is the responsibility of managers and team leads to involve their teams in virtual team building exercises.
Few best practices for Work from Home
It is essential for employees, leaders, managers and organizations to adopt certain best practices in order to succeed in this new workforce environment. Old habits and practices won’t work in this setup. Businesses and personnel can look at the following best practices:
1) Make a quick mental adjustment
We are so accustomed to our routine that it takes time to adjust to a new routine. It is especially more difficult when this new routine involves working for weeks while not being able to go out of the house. The mental fatigue becomes evident after a while and it is important for leaders to shift to this new reality without wasting much time. The pandemic isn't going to vanish away suddenly and even if it did, it will take months for things to get 'normal'. It is important for leaders to keep their eyes focused and embrace this change rather than praying for a quick end.
2) Separate your workspace and living space.
Your living space is not your workspace! It is essential to have a partition between the two in order to establish an effective workplace practice. It will not only make you more productive at work but will also reduce anxiety and stress. For e.g. if you are working and watching television at the same time then your brain will get worn down faster and ultimately your work will suffer.
3) Take frequent breaks
It is advisable to take breaks after every hour. A short stroll down the living room or balcony will do you a lot of good. It will not only recharge your batteries but will also keep you energetic throughout the day. Sitting for hours and just taking one or two break a day will only increase the stress level. It is also very important to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.
4) Keep yourself "Tech Curious"
Technology is our best friend (and sometimes our only friend) during this lockdown period. Technology can make our work easier and help us reach our goals faster. However, we are not always aware of those small and useful features in the apps we use every day. They are there for a reason and these days we have ample time and motivation to explore the intricacies of these applications. We can look into internet, ask our colleagues and then pass on the findings. This way we will keep each other engaged and everyone's task will become easier.
5) Keeping a Journal
These are unique circumstances, and nobody was ready or trained for this. Our learning, therefore, depends on absorbing our experiences and having an open eye which would capture these experiences. Having a journal where we jot down the lessons and then communicate them broadly cannot just lift you but also your team.
Overall, this is a time of great uncertainty and the success of this experiment is very subjective. Organizations need to quickly adopt the best practices and successfully adapt to this 'new normal'. The opportunities are ample but not everyone is going to successful. In the words of Charles Darwin, the famous Naturalist and the founder of the Theory of Evolution, it is not the strongest who survive but the one who adapt themselves quickly to change.