It is 2021 now and somehow March 2020 doesn’t seem a long time back. Such was the year 2020. The year of restricted travel, home office spaces, remote work, video conferencing, zoom birthday parties, online events, and forced separation from close ones in some instances. Despite facing a multitude of challenges, we did somehow manage to get by.
The year 2020 saw one of the most radical transformations in the way we work. It is a known fact that many organizations had the concept of remote work or work from home in place even before the pandemic but were restricted to a select few employees. But ever since the pandemic started, there was swift action from most organizations to adopt a remote work culture. Even though the new work style did bring about its own challenges, they have been successfully overcome in the last year.
Introducing a new entity to a well-oiled machine is bound to bring about issues. Many organizations suffered in productivity, morale, and stress during the initial stages of remote work but these issues or challenges have brought about a change in the way we work now. These challenges have made people develop a new understanding of things that really matter. As the saying goes “with understanding comes learnings and with learning comes results.”
Here’s a list of our lessons from a year of working from home:
Remote work needs a dedicated office space
When remote work was introduced to the employees, they assumed working on their laptops from their bedroom or living room sitting on a couch with snacks on hand in front of T.V. However, after a couple of weeks into this remote work culture they were quick to find out the environment isn’t sustainable to get the job done. But, after switching to a dedicated space in the home for work we did see our tasks getting completed on time.
Having a dedicated working space simulating an office-like environment helped most employees eliminate lethargic behavior. It brings the mind to focus on the work at hand rather than scrolling through social media on mobile phones. Having a dedicated workspace also helped mitigate frequent interventions from family members as it sends a clear message to them to not disturb.
Communication is key
During the initial stages of adapting to remote work, the collective loss within a team can be attributed to miscommunication. Employees had a tough time adjusting to the new work environment. This brought forth many communication challenges. With face-to-face communication replaced by emails and video conferencing, a simple communication task that took mere seconds in person took about a minute or more. This resulted in an increase in the amount of time spent on conversations.
However, as time progressed people with the help of various internal communication tools such as Clariti, Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. achieved seamless communication with team members. The total reduction in the time spent on communication helped employees be more productive thereby reducing work stress.
Flexible work VS Structured work
Organizations prefer having a strict work structure and timings for their employees and it is true that they widely benefit from it. A common time schedule eliminates any distractions during work, keeps everyone in the same time frame which benefits collaboration and helps track productivity. While all this is good in an office work environment, remote work does bring new dynamics into play. During remote work, there are employees who benefit from a set time schedule, and some benefit from a flexible work schedule. Though certain positions require adhering to a set work time schedule as they frequently collaborate with other employees, there are some positions where a flexible work schedule is beneficial.
One key factor to consider was the environment they are in. With remote work you have disturbances such as kids, answering your front door, etc. that frequently come in between your work responsibilities. With all these factors in play, it was observed many employees benefited from a flexible work schedule. Like when the employee feels tired, he/she takes a break taking care of kids or attends to an errand in the meantime. They resume work after the break to get their task done. It was observed that most employees performed work with increased productivity and no loss of quality when taking a break of their choice. However, this did not apply to all. Some employees fared better from having a set work schedule simulating an office environment.
The collaboration between the two was achieved with the help of internal communication and productivity tools. Having established an excellent system of communication through communication tools such as Clariti, Slack or Zoom helped in getting the collaboration challenges in check. To summarize, organizations need to assess the need for a flexible work schedule for every employee based on the position they are working, team they are in and the environment they work from.
Not everyone enjoys working from home
Employers could not check with their employees before adopting a remote work situation as it was the need of the hour. A few weeks after employees started to engage in remote work, it was evident that some employees had a difficult time coping with it. The pandemic eliminated one crucial aspect of being human, the human connection. Not every employee is the same. While some thrive and flourish in a remote work environment and culture, there are people who work best when around people and with people. They are at their best when there is a human connection involved. This is why pre-pandemic remote work is much different from post-pandemic remote work. There were challenges in ensuring the wellbeing and work satisfaction of these employees. This was mitigated through various video conferencing calls, setting up wellness calls, clubbing people with similar challenges together, and so on. Additionally, this set of employees were most likely called back to work once the pandemic restrictions came to an end. It was about finding what worked best for each team member. It was important to know who performs best when given the human connection they need and who works better alone.
It was an undeniable fact that people worked a lot working remotely than they did at the office. The time spent staring at the screen significantly increased during this year of remote work. A typical burnout can be identified by when you see the productivity of the employee starting to decline over the course of time. The employee refuses to go above and beyond in their work anymore. This is because when working in an office work environment, people interact with each other without looking at screens, have informal conversations, and might even take natural breaks during the day. However, with a work from home scenario, most of the time is involved in staring at a screen even during e meetings which weren’t required in an office work environment. This issue was handled by encouraging employees to take regular breaks from the screen to recharge themselves, using technology to keep people in the loop regarding updates, reduce online meetings, and offering flexibility with the work schedule.
Good health is everything
One thing this year of working from home and the pandemic has reminded us is how well we need to take care of ourselves. In normal times health has always taken a backseat for most employees because most were busy with the daily chores of life not realizing how fragile life is. However, the pandemic has incentivized people to adopt a better and healthier lifestyle. A significant number of employees showed interest to get health checks, be it physical or mental. Some employees pooled money and hired an instructor for online group meditation classes. employees as it reduced their stress in tough times.
The past year though not easy has proved to be a useful one. The experiences acquired from employees working remote has helped organizations be well equipped for a similar scenario in the future. Moreover, organizations have also looked into the potential advantages of adopting a remote work environment for future hires. As more and more organizations recognize the value of remote work even after the pandemic, we could eventually see a permanent shift in work culture.
Vinay Wagle is the VP of Sales and Marketing at CCE Technologies Inc. CCE Technologies flagship product is Clariti, a B2B SaaS application. His articles are inspired by his proven experience in improving productivity, leadership, team management and improving work environment.