Working through COVID-19

COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 has created a world we’ve never seen before. Billions of people are working, learning and entertaining themselves from home.

What is your work-from-home forecast for after COVID-19?

Seemingly, overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has expanded the boundaries of how far organizations thought flexible workplace policies could stretch. Even organizations with more traditional workplace cultures, such as government institutions, utilities, and universities, are directing their staff to work remotely in an effort to keep employees healthy and slow the spread of the virus.

Over the time (COVID-19), we’ve learned a lot about remote working. How to ensure it’s adopted successfully and what pitfalls you’ll need to avoid. So, we’re bringing our insights and expertise together in this blog, to help at a time when (like us) you’re probably relying on remote working more than ever.

In this blog, we intend to address the challenges facing employees and business leaders. Read on to learn how you can harness the maximum potential from home working – keeping you and your business productive and engaged. 

For the employees during COVID-19

  • Your personal well-being

Think about your personal work style – your habits and behaviors. No matter how long you’re working remotely for, it’s important to retain (and adapt) your structured habits, because maintaining your routine is important for your productivity. If you’re new to working at home, it may also be a new experience for your family members. It’s always a good practice to discuss it with them and let them know when you are working. Working from home can lead to increased screen time and less time away from your desk. So, schedule lots of breaks, stretch and if you can, walk around while you’re on calls. And don’t let work interfere with your home life, even though you’re working from home. When you’re offline, try to stay offline.

  • Your home-office environment

Next, you’ll need to think about your physical surroundings. Whether you live in an apartment or an individual house, noise and light will impact your work. Start by finding a quiet corner or work-space, to allow you to concentrate. Background noise presents a challenge when you’re joining audio conferences or team meetings. So, a certified USB headset with background noise canceling capability is essential. It sounds obvious, but don’t assume a meeting won’t require you to join and use video. If you’re planning to join a Slack or Skype for a business call, consider your “virtual dress code” and wear something appropriate. Ensure you have light shining towards you, rather than from behind – this will help your webcam deliver the best picture quality and improve the experience for your colleagues.

  • Using Slack or Zoom for Business calls and meetings

How does Slack or Zoom fit into all of this during COVID-19? Well, in place of team members seeing each other every day and spending time together in meetings or over lunch hours, companies can create bonds by utilizing technology to allow employees to spend time with each other.

In slack, employees can be active members of the online team community by updating the group as things happen. Not necessarily documenting everything but instead, keeping your team posted with informal updates about when you’re going to lunch, starting late because of an appointment, or checking in when your kid is sick. It may seem silly at first, but sharing even the smaller things, like taking a break to walk for 20 minutes or saying goodnight once you’re done for the day are great ways of building your character amongst the team and keeping trust.

Again, something as simple as updating your team with what you’re about to start working on can make the biggest difference to both productivity and a sense of connectedness.

  • Your connectivity

Wi-Fi can be impacted by disruption and bandwidth challenges so, where possible, plugin via your LAN cable. If you can’t improve your connection speed, optimize bandwidth by turning off video or consider using only audio. Other people in your home may also be streaming entertainment or playing online games, so you may want to plan or schedule your activities.

For the business leaders

  • Your employee experiences

One of the main remote working challenges is the impact on employee experience. That’s especially the case when interactions that would usually take place in person have to be conducted virtually. But you can address this by setting expectations around remote working practices even on a short-term or “exceptional circumstance” basis. This includes defining which tools and platforms to use, how to use them and defining practices that are necessary for your business continuity. Employees who aren’t used to working from home may find the change to their expected ways of working a challenge. Consider creating a support network, for example, assigning a remote working supervisor per business unit to help colleagues understand how best to work from home within the context of their role.

  • Your corporate policies

Shifting to a home working environment opens the door to personal devices and applications being used to distribute corporate assets and information.  And that increases the risk of confidential data being captured. Ensure you have updated (and enforced) your data security and corporate policies to address the use of personal devices for business purposes.

  • Your business investment

Chances are, you’ll already have tools at your disposal that can enable effective collaboration, communication, and remote working. Most workplaces will have access to Skype for Business or Slack or Zoom. 

  • Your communication and collaboration practices

As a leader, it falls on you to act as a role model for the type of remote worker that you want your employees to be.  And there are a few steps you can take to ensure you’re effectively adopting the virtues of a virtual workplace. Schedule regular check-ins with your team and ensure everyone can openly and honestly share successes and challenges. Encourage one-on-one coaching and establish a support network or mentoring system for your employees. Make sure your leadership team recognizes success stories – at both a team and an individual level. Send emails and call out contributors in calls. Set clear priorities and expectations of roles within your teams. Assigning clear ownership, deliverables, and timelines, but placing trust in your employees that once work targets are set, they’ll have the flexibility to operate in the way that suits them best.

  • Your culture

Introduce a proactive culture as part of your remote working initiatives. Encourage employees to challenge the status quo and suggest ways of doing things differently. Ask your team to come up with ways to enhance communication, conduct regular “team retrospectives” to reflect on what can be improved. Most of all, build a culture that welcomes change.

How will COVID-19 change the future of work?

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many people working from home. So you might be wondering – how do I remain productive at home? It’s impossible to predict the long-term implications of today’s sudden, massive shift to remote work, but a few outcomes are possible. One is that employees and business leaders alike will open their eyes to the value that can be unlocked when each individual has the freedom to work where and when it makes the most sense—which may be from home at least part of the time. Yet it’s just as likely that we will emerge from this period craving the face-to-face interaction that has been sorely missed and with a greater understanding of how physical space influences the way we all feel and work each day.

Keeping people at the heart of the design process

Employees perform their best when they are part of a safe, growing community that values their whole being, and where individuality and creativity are nurtured.

To wrap up, the goal is to create every workplace with people at the heart of the design process. To design spaces that support people’s physical, mental and social well being, will inspire creativity – and in turn, directly increase business performance and profitability.