What Has Remote Working Taught Us?
When channels started flashing news of a virus driving the country towards a lockdown, everyone had one question — how long is this going to last? Weddings, celebrations, and restaurants came to a standstill, and the economy dwindled. What was supposed to be ‘just a disease’ became intertwined with our daily lives.
Offices shifted to our homes, while formal clothes gave way to our beloved pajamas and oversized shirts. Although this comfort, along with the lack of commute, was a welcome change in our day-to-day lives, remote work during the pandemic wasn’t all rosy and we’ve come a long way in adapting to the situation. The sound of utensils clanging in the kitchen or pets showing up on zoom calls are now ‘the new normal’.
As the country gears up for another possible lockdown, we are, perhaps, better prepared with lessons learnt over the past year to make work from home during the pandemic more efficient. Here are our biggest takeaways:
When chaos reigns supreme in the outer world, it is only natural that we scramble to create a sense of order and control at home. In the beginning, many of us felt free to sleep in late and work at our own pace. However, when you stop functioning like a team and focus more on individual schedules and goals, morale and deadlines take a beating while working from home during the pandemic. Flexible working hours can be successful only when a team communicates well and works with absolute transparency. For instance, if one person is sending an email to a designer at 8 pm, it’s unfair to expect the designer to work on it immediately.
Flexible working hours have been a boon to working mothers and those living with parents who need constant medical care and support. To make this work, create a fixed routine and make sure that your co-workers can access your schedule and can sync with you for time-sensitive projects. Identify your priorities and communicate with relevant stakeholders to ensure that your work is not affected by your schedule.
Creating a workspace
Before you say anything — no, your bed doesn’t count as a workspace! Working from the same room or space that you use to relax switches off your focus when it should be on. As you grapple with deadlines, the bed seems all too inviting to take a nap. If you don’t already have a dedicated work space at home by now, make that your first priority for working at home during pandemic. Get a wide desk that supports your elbows comfortably while you type, and an ergonomic chair that supports your back, neck and spine. Lower back support, in particular, is very important.
The good part about working remotely during pandemic is that you get to make own your rules and design your workspace the way you want. Add a cool stand for your phone and earphones or get that cute pen holder you always wanted. If you are fortunate enough to have an entire room for your office, get a good speaker to play your favorite tunes that get you into the work zone. It’s good to add small elements of comfort to give you joy while working from home in the pandemic.
Importance of work-life balance
One of the biggest issues during the pandemic and working from home was the loss of a work-life balance. It made employees wonder whether they were working from home or living at work. The commute that seemed to be the bane of our existence was key to disconnecting from work and entering our personal space. Now, with an increase in the 24x7 online culture, employees are finding it hard to have fixed work timings as they are expected to respond to emails and messages at all hours of the day. It’s important to learn to say ‘No’ to prevent burnout.
While flexible hours afford us a certain freedom, it shouldn’t come at the cost of someone else’s peace of mind. Set your boundaries and be transparent about your working hours, so everyone knows when they can reach out to reach you. Change the settings of your email and internal messenger apps to the ‘Do not disturb’ mode after your office hours. A top-down approach can ingrain this in the company’s work culture if leaders dissuade employees from responding to mails and messages after working hours.
Maintaining social connections
There are two aspects to this — maintaining social connections within the organization, and with your family and friends. If we were to make a list of things we missed during the pandemic, human connection would probably take top spot. Hugs, handshakes, birthday parties, weddings and social outings were so common that we took these joys for granted. Gradually, everything shifted to a virtual world as cakes were cut on Zoom calls and priests performed wedding ceremonies over video calls. However, nothing beats the joy of your whole team huddling together on a table for a co-worker’s birthday cake or celebrating milestones together.
Working at home during the pandemic made us realize the importance of maintaining social connections as we stayed stuck in our homes for months, with little or no contact with the outside world. To keep your workforce engaged and give them a breather from the monotony of tasks, organize virtual happy hours, tea breaks and social catchup sessions. Instead of starting your meetings by diving straight into work, ask about your colleagues’ weekend, personal victories and support them through these trying times.
What were your biggest lessons from working remotely during pandemic? Tell us in the comments.