As countries set to re-open their economies and financial districts this coming May, we look back on how companies were able to adapt and survive an enforced quarantine by implementing work from home to their employees. To get insight, the Viyahe team asked a few individuals around the globe on how they were able to cope with remote work and what they have learned from their new normal.
Increase in productivity
The Covid-19 pandemic forced millions of employees around the world to move their offices at home.
For both employers and employees we have interviewed, their common observation in this work-from-home arrangement is the increase in work productivity. Ellisha, who works in data analytics in the Philippines, noticed that she is more mindful of her job. “Working from home made me more conscious of my tasks since there are less distractions.”
Employees often pointed out that small talks with colleagues may be essential in establishing camaraderie. However, this also hinders them from focusing on their work.
“It’s nice to be able to concentrate on your tasks without a coworker bugging you every thirty minutes. And it’s more pleasant to entertain their requests via chat,” shares Bernard, who is also working in data for an organization based in Washington, D.C. “I work with numbers and data all the time, so I need some peace and quiet to do my job.”
With fewer distractions for employees at home, employers and managers are now able to entrust new projects to their workforce, which includes Jenny, a web developer team lead for a London-based offshoring company. The increase in productivity among her staff has allowed her to take on more projects from their clients.
“We are now at our peak season, and I am happy that we can serve all job requests from our clients,” Jenny comments. “Plus, everyone seems to be on board to carry on extra tasks. I think work efficiency is one of the blessings that came out of this quarantine.”
From a human resources perspective, Isra, an HR officer of a tech company in the Philippines, was able to assess an increase of efficiency, especially in their engineering department, remarking the timeliness and quality of their output. He and his superior also observed that employees seem to be more engaged with their online orientations and check-ins.
“At first, I thought that it would be difficult to orient our new hires through a video call, but it turned out well. They were engaged during the call.” Isra’s company utilizes Zoom and Slack for internal communication. “I believe virtual orientations allow employees to focus more on the presentation as there are no distractions when you’re facing your computer and seeing the person you’re talking to on a webcam.”
Working with ease
In a study published by Airtasker, researchers point out that having access to wellness increases productivity among employees working from home. These wellness activities include working out, practicing mindfulness or meditation, and taking a decent number of breaks.
Karen, a graphics designer from the Cayman Islands, couldn’t agree more with this study. She expresses how much she appreciates her new home-based undertaking, which has enabled work-life balance. “I like the fact that I don’t have to line up for the bus or endure my daily commute to the office. I’m just at home now, and I feel more relaxed and more creative. Sometimes I walk my dog if I need a mental break.”
The 2019 Airtasker study also reveals that one in every four employees they’ve surveyed have quit their office-based jobs because of long commutes. And as employees moved their hustle from home, signing out a little late is not an issue.
“It doesn’t bother my team if we need to extend a few more hours to finish a deliverable. I just assure them that they will get compensated for it.” Jenny points out how she managed her team to cater the growing demands of their clients. “Of course, it helps that employees don’t have to worry about getting home a bit late now or missing out on after office drinks—we’re in quarantine anyway, and that’s all we want, to be with family or our partners at home!”
Challenges on the new normal
With schools closed, keeping kids productive is a top challenge for parents working at home.
Forbes magazine declared that working from home should no longer be a privilege but a new normal, to which many of us may agree with, especially in our time and age. But no job is ever without a challenge, even if it’s a job you can do at the comforts of your own home.
“I still prefer face-to-face meetings. And to be honest, online meetings are quite a challenge for me,” Ellisha says.” Another challenge is the break time since you don’t really go on the same break time as your colleagues, and they can just call you anytime, even when you’re having lunch.”
“Challenge in communication is definitely one of the issues raised from doing remote work,” shares Jenny. “This could work perfectly fine if everyone on your team has a stable internet connection, but that has also been difficult these days.”
Working parents find the arrangement both a blessing and a curse. Many schools have already moved their lessons online, while others had to suspend their classes, leaving the young kids’ quest for learning with their parents.
“This might sound bad, but one thing I miss from being in the office is my timeout from the chaos that is my kids.” Says Dan, a systems manager from California. “I have a toddler and a second-grader, and if they can’t focus on their home activities, then I can’t focus on my work too.”
The millennial dad agreed on a shifting schedule with his wife to watch their kids. The couple implements a mandatory nap time for the young ones so that they can focus on their jobs.
On the employer’s side, the burden for remote work is more substantial. Especially when you have to sacrifice for the company.
“When the outbreak happened, we were quick to enact work from home. However, our Production Department and store staff have been greatly affected by this as they are currently non-operational. Yet, we are still providing their full salaries,” shares Hannah, an executive for a retail company in Singapore.
The company decided not to lay off staff members for now, despite the country revoking their back-to-business status due to the second wave of Covid-19 infection. Fortunately, for Hannah’s company, they were able to sustain their sales by strengthening their digital assets. “Logistics may be challenging, but at least we have e-commerce. It really is the last hope that we have to keep this company afloat until we open our stores again.”
Tools and best practices
In this digital age, businesses have the opportunity to grow their profits by using technology. Social media is a powerful tool to capture consumers, e-commerce sites are now more profitable than brick and mortars, and making a sale is just on the tip of the finger. It is undeniable that companies should also modernize their internal operations and become more flexible. After all, flexibility protects a business from disruptions, such as this pandemic.
“We were quick to beef up our online efforts to make a sale, and it worked!” Hannah says. “I’m still able to pay my staff because of these online transactions.”
“Since we are a tech company, we already have the tools for doing remote work. In fact, some of our departments have been working from home even before the quarantine was enforced,” Isra shares. “And so, it was quite easy for the rest of our employees to adjust.”
The HR officer also recommends adding a human touch among teams working from home. “We add energizers or interactive elements in our meetings because we believe that team dynamics are just as important as the collaboration and communication tools that we’ve set up.”
Aside from Zoom and Slack, the interviewees reveal that they are using Trello, MS Team, Workplace by Facebook, Air Table, and everyone’s go-to Skype for team communication and collaboration.
If there’s one valuable lesson that this lockdown and quarantine have taught companies, it is that innovation is survival.
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