Updated: Jan 10, 2022
In our last blog, 3 Workplace setups Post COVID-19, we went through the three types of working arrangements possible post pandemic. In this blog we will explore the virtual setting, in other words, if your company has decided to have you work remotely part-time or full-time. It is important you understand the four main factors you will need to work effectively as a team.
1. Infrastructure: this covers essential home office setup and virtual communication software, spyware, hardware, and network access. Many companies use VPN to ensure their employees can get into the company’s network without being compromised. The infrastructure includes having IT (information technology) support which is crucial at this stage to ensure there is little productivity loss getting employees connected virtually. Once connected, the IT support becomes the help desk for all employees and maintains the infrastructure.
2. Personality: Once you have the infrastructure, you need to become more self-aware. Are you a self-starter, self-motivator, or independent worker? Even though ~80% of the workforce went remote during the pandemic doesn’t mean that all of them were productive. Working from home does pose some challenges. You need to feel the same accountability for your work even though you are not in the office. Detaching yourself from the home distractions and setting boundaries is new for people going from working in the office to working at home. You need to become a conscientious worker.
3. Team Dynamics: now that you are all setup at home, have psyched yourself on working from home, the third element is still being able to rely on your teammates. This means there needs to be a solid relationship with your colleagues, trust, and an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Open communications can and need to occur regardless of the setting is via a virtual meeting, by phone, by text, by chatroom, or by network hub. The team should be opened to discuss issues and resolve them. There should be support for one another and the ability to rely on your colleagues even if you can’t see them in front of you. The manager, if that is you, needs to make the team’s direction clear; articulate the work to be done and have some spot check-ins to check on the employees’ mental health, issues, and progress. This does not mean having daily calls and micro-managing the employees. The manager plays more of a mentor and supporting role to their employees. Trust, clear roles & responsibilities, open communications, and mutual objectives will bind the team.
4. Routine (standard work): Finally, you have the infrastructure, the right personality, and great team dynamics. Now you need to make sure you don’t burn out working from home because there is no physical detachment. Creating an established sequential set of tasks, you need to perform daily to be effective is what I call standard work. This of course includes having a dedicated space in your home where you do work, which is critical. Following the standard work concept, you begin your day by going to your home office at the same time every day. For example, at 8am you will be sitting at your desk. This will be the exact time you will begin every morning.
On the other hand, if you need or want flexibility, then I suggest starting your day by figuring out what you plan to achieve on that day. You can always start the day by looking at your outlook calendar to see what meetings you need to be on, what was it you did not complete on the prior day, anyone you need to contact, and what is important to respond to from your inbox or voice mail. With this information you can create your day’s “to do list” and then check off the items as the day progresses.
Regardless of whether you follow a standard work process or not, DO NOT forget to put time aside for taking breaks. It’s good to stretch every hour for at least 5min if you can. My optometrist told me to keep my healthy eyes is to look away from the computer every 40 to 50 minutes. While my doctor told me to walk around the house just to stretch my legs every hour to 90 minutes. So, it's important you do not stay too long in the same sitting position.
Always place a quitting time for the day so that you don’t start working around the clock. With today’s schedules, you are expected to be 24/7 all the time but it does take a toll on your health. I have friends that tell me they feel behind in their work constantly, even when they work until midnight. In this case, the issue is not the company as much as it is you trying to do it all and burning yourself out. Stop and think, if you were to leave the company tomorrow, then what would happen? Would people die or would the company go bankrupt? Chances are that the answer is no! Your absence would create a gap and the company would fill it. So, stop trying to do it all! Just like my fridge magnet says, "Never confuse having a career with having a life!"
Focus on what is important, prioritize, and do what you can, move the rest to the next day. Everything may seem urgent, but you need to make sense of the chaos and order your work, so you don’t waste time doing multiple tasks at once and completing none. It’s important you are in control of your work so that you can perform to the fullest. Never give up control of your workload!
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