With the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic all over the globe, most companies have now implemented a full-time work from home policy until further notice. While for some people this way of working is nothing new, for most of us it is a challenge we’ve never faced before. We don’t know how long it is going to last or what tomorrow will bring. Imposed almost overnight, social isolation affects our everyday communication and efficiency as we seek to continue operations and save our businesses amidst the crisis.
It’s a tough reality but we can choose to flip it around and make it work in favour of our productivity and mental health. Here are some aspects of the situation that you can focus on to help yourself and your staff navigate the transition with more ease.
If your job involves sharing an office with other people or interacting directly with customers, you need to completely redefine the way you will keep communication flowing in the new context of working from home.
This will involve extensively deploying channels such as chat or email, as well as increased volumes of phone and video calls to compensate for the absence of face-to-face interaction. Make peace with the fact that there will be some trial and error as you and your teams learn on the go and adjust to the switch. Remember – it is surely better to over-communicate at first than not to communicate at all!
The work-life balance
Is there such a thing anymore? When you are stuck at home all day long boundaries between your work and personal life get blurred. With family and children around, you enter a whole new level of potential pitfalls that can easily boil into stress and frustration. Take a careful look at your workload, both job- and family-wise, and redefine the relationship between the two. That might involve negotiating home duties with your partner, or designing a more creative work schedule with your manager that allows you to alternate between professional and private responsibilities throughout the day.
If there is no spare room at home to turn into an improvised office, designate a dedicated quiet space for your workstation and make it as comfortable as possible. This includes using a table or desk with enough space for your computer or laptop, a comfortable chair, plenty of light, etc. Don’t get tempted to use relaxation spaces such as your sofa or couch for working. That way you will retain some sense of boundary.
One of the biggest challenges that come with social isolation and working remotely full time will be faced by managers. How do you redefine what supervision means in this new weird context? How do you measure performance if your team’s output cannot be easily quantified?
With limited opportunities for directly monitoring remote employees comes the temptation to constantly check or even worse, micromanage. Don’t let yourself go there. The sudden shift from a traditional working schedule to a full-time home office alone is stressful enough for all of us. Make sure your staff have all the necessary tools and systems in place to carry out their tasks at full capacity and communicate with everyone so they don’t feel disconnected.
You have an opportunity to make your team feel trusted valuable and understand that their work is important to keep the business going forward. This will motivate them to do their work more than anything else. Be kind and forgiving when misunderstandings arise (because they will) and go with the flow.
Acknowledge the fact that adapting to change takes time and encourage feedback from all sides until your organisation settles into its new mode of operations.
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