In the last few weeks, companies around the world have directed their employees to work from home to maintain social distancing and to safeguard themselves from the further spread of COVID-19.
While people welcomed the move, they are finding it difficult to strike a work-life balance.
Children interrupting a conference call, poor internet connectivity, and the blurring line between work and personal life are some of the challenges that people are facing right now. To add to the woes, employees not used to the system of working from home are grappling with loneliness, burnout, and feeling mentally drained. In fact, companies like Microsoft, Deloitte, and Procter and Gamble are reaching out to professional counselors and psychiatrists to help employees to tackle the current pandemic and the loneliness caused by social distancing.
With no immediate respite in sight, employees are compelled to realign the way they work with the existing techniques.
So, what can employees do to stay productive and thrive while working from home?
Tips on Staying Productive While Working From Home
Flexible work from home schedule and mindset
You may see a dip in your productivity levels as you work from home. There will be distractions, numerous calls from managers and team members, and some of you may also have to work across different time zones to collaborate better with team members from across the globe. Considering that this is the need of the hour, you need to develop an open mindset and be open to working in a flexible schedule to align yourself with other team members and to ensure that there are no negative implications on business.
It is easy to lose self-discipline while working from home. You may feel tempted to snooze the alarm clock and sleep an extra hour because you don’t have to get ready and travel. In fact, there have been reports on how employees turn up in home clothes for video conferences. It is advisable to follow self-discipline and remind yourself that you have to go to work even if it means working from home. Following the same routine of waking up at the same time, getting ready, and starting work at the same time will help employees to stay focused and disciplined throughout the lockdown period.
With no water cooler discussions, team lunches, or occasional walks at the garden, you are bound to feel disconnected and lonely. It is essential to stay connected, especially during these times, when there is panic all around the world. Checking in with the team members before the meeting kickstarts, working at the same time, and virtual tea sessions are some ways to keep the team members motivated. InMobi, for example, has asked managers to connect with their staff individually. Every Thursday, the team members wear caps or connect while having tea or coffee. “We are trying to ensure that we don’t lose the connect. It’s important for employees to meet and connect,” said Sahil Mathur, the global head of HR and culture at InMobi.
Verbal and written communication skills
Imagine receiving an email that has no clarity on what is expected. In the usual situation, you would walk to the sender’s desk and get your doubts clarified. But imagine the same situation while working from home. An unclear message can delay the completion of tasks. Much time will be spent on understanding, calling, and emailing people back and forth. As Kim Koga, a solutions engineer at Zesto.io said, “Sometimes I just need a quick yes or no, or a time frame of when something can get done, and our internal communication tool doesn’t cut it. I could wait hours for what could be a quick response in person.” The only way to solve this issue is to communicate clearly with the team members, leaving no room for misinterpretations or miscommunication. It will save other’s time and lead to timely completion of tasks.
Collaboration and teamwork
Several projects demand people to work in collaboration. It also requires them to manage projects on a large scale. So, how do companies ensure collaboration when employees work from home? Luckily, they can leverage collaboration tools such as Slack for communication, Zoom for video calls, and Trello to manage projects. Maintaining ongoing communication will also foster teamwork despite people working from different locations. Appen, a US-based machine learning company, for example, used a variety of collaboration tools and internal forums to drive communication and to troubleshoot common issues.
The lines between personal time and work have blurred. Employees have multiple chores to finish and not to forget numerous distractions that could lead to delay in completing a task. Focusing on work can also become challenging. Hence, time management is crucial. You must learn to schedule your time and demarcate your personal time from work time. Switching off completely after calling the day off, avoiding multitasking, and prioritizing tasks, are a few ways to manage time efficiently.
The lockdown may get extended for a few more weeks, prompting companies to seriously consider making some of their functions virtual. It can help them streamline their operations and reduce establishment costs. With telecommuting becoming popular, and collaborative tools making it easy for people to work more efficiently, we foresee more remote working opportunities in the future. Employees must take this experience as a learning opportunity to get acquainted with the future of work. The onus also lies upon companies to find ways to keep employees engaged, so they do not face burnout or loneliness while working.
Find out how to keep the employees engaged during and beyond the current COVID–19 pandemic.