“This is nothing new” maybe a phrase that you may have heard many times in the course of normal conversation and usually refers to something that we have seen, heard and are used to..
Well, here is something new to many many many people, companies, countries and industries around the world.. Something that has been suddenly thrust on all of us taking everyone by surprise..
“WORKING FROM HOME or REMOTE WORKING”
To many, this working from home is not by choice but due to the Coronavirus – COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown in many countries around the world..
Firstly, why is it sensible to work from home right now
Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of integrative biology at UT Austin and her team of researchers have been studying more than 450 COVID-19 infection cases from 93 cities in China..
The team have identified that the time between cases in a chain of transmission is less than a week..!!
The team also found strong evidence that people without symptoms must be transmitting the virus, known as pre-symptomatic transmission..
According to the research, more than 1 in 10 infections were from people who had the virus but did not yet feel sick..
“This provides evidence that extensive control measures including isolation, quarantine, school closures, travel restrictions and cancellation of mass gatherings may be warranted,” Meyers said. “Asymptomatic transmission definitely makes containment more difficult.”
As per WorldoMeter, all countries in the world are currently affected by COVID-19 some worse than others..
As per BBC reports “The WHO said it took more than three months to reach the first 100,000 confirmed cases worldwide, but only 12 days to reach 200,000, four days to reach 300,000 and three days to reach 400,000.”
BBC has reflected this very nicely below..
While preventive measures are essential, the concept of having to work from home, social distancing and isolation brings with it new challenges for both the employees and employers on how this must all be handled..
No one in the world seemed prepared for such a separation..
Even in the businesses of shipping, freight, maritime, logistics and supply chain which are considered as essential services around the world, many people are working from home due to this pandemic..
If you are one of the millions of people working from home, here are some pointers on how to manage it effectively..
Challenges of remote working from home
Some of the challenges that face both employers and employees are
Structure is defined as “construct or arrange according to a plan; give a pattern or organization to“.. For me, not just when working from home, but in general, this is one of the most important pillars of working..
At the office, you work within a certain “structure” wherein you have guidelines of what you can cannot do and where you have to draw the line before you get into trouble..
This is absent at home because at home you are the boss.. This is your kingdom and no one tells you what to do..
Well, not entirely true..
You need to remember that you are not leave and that you are still working, irrespective of where you are working from.. You as the employee have to take cognisance of this fact and remember it always – at least within your typical working hours..
While working from home could be fun, if you don’t have structure, you will end up with more emails and other work than you can handle and end up working more than what you would have at your office..
So be structured in your approach to work and follow the same structure you would as you are at work.. For example if you are used to tacking certain functions at work at certain times like a daily report or updates etc..
Or if you are used to taking a coffee break, smoke break or lunch breaks at certain times of the day at work, follow same at home..
Easier said than done you may say, considering the various distractions at home – kids, pets, husband all of whom are also on lockdown with you..
While it may not be easy, it need not be difficult..
Set up a dedicated workspace in a specific area which you can use for the duration of the lockdown.. Educate everyone in your home that this is your “office” and no one is allowed entry in that area..
At the same time, employers should expect that not all employees may have the ideal workspace set up and also that distractions will happen especially with out of school/daycare kids around with no one to watch them..
And not forgetting to set “rules of engagement” which is an integral part of the structure..
By rules of engagement I mean that there has to be a set of guidelines that needs to be set by the employers communicating to the employees what is expected of them during this period when they are working from home..
Once this expectation has been conveyed, the employees need to ensure that they do everything in their power to fulfill these expectations..
Which brings the question of Supervision and Trust to the fore.. This could be an issue for both parties because managers or supervisors may find it difficult managing employees that don’t work very well without supervision..
From an employee perspective, some of them won’t have access to their supervisors or managers to assist and for support.. This could put them under pressure as well..
In certain jobs there may not be any way of measuring whether someone worked the number of hours they say they worked from home.. There is no way a manager can verify this..
So they have to trust it when the employee is saying they were working.. Employees on the other hand must do everything possible to ensure that they don’t break this trust..
Communication between team members including management is an essential factor especially people are not available within walking distance..
Some of the fears of lack of supervision or lack of trust can be overcome through “structured” communication channels or methods..
For example, one can structure daily or weekly video chat/conference calls between management and staff..
Today, there are many opportunities for video/audio conferences which can assist with this particular aspect..
Employees must get the feeling that the supervisor/manager is available as they normally are, but only that the mode of communication is now online than personal..
Organisations and individuals can have their pick.. BlueJeans, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Zoom are great for professional and business video and audio conferencing while Whatsapp, WeChat, Skype, Telegram etc are great for quick, short, informal chats..
There are many ways of communicating and staying in touch, so neither the managers nor the staff need to feel anxious to be out of touch or isolated..
Psychology experts suggest taking breaks and in fact, the State of Remote Report 2019 by Buffer reports that “unplugging after work” was the biggest struggle that people working remotely claim to have..
This is an important aspect that can make or break this concept of remote working..
The World Economic Forum is warning employers and employees on the perils of cyber attacks when working from home.. As per the WEF, “Many cybercriminals are seeking to exploit our thirst for information as a vector for attack.
Most commonly, as with other high-profile events, attackers are using COVID-19-themed phishing e-mails, which purport to deliver official information on the virus, to lure individuals to click malicious links that download Remote Administration Tools (RATs) on their devices.”
The WEF is encouraging employers to understand the threats to the organisation and provide employees with clear guidance and equip their systems with the right security capabilities..
Equally, employees are also cautioned to be careful when using their work equipment at home and ensure a secure password protection and not click on any suspicious emails or files and also to be wary about scams..
One of the other main things that employees must do is not to use their work equipment for their personal matters and an attack could also jeopardise their personal information..
Basically remote working is a style of work that allows people to work outside of their traditional office environment which could be a home, a hotel, a ship or anywhere..
But of course it is not for anyone as a lot of the office based staff may not be used to working from home at all or do not have the facilities as opposed to some of the others in the office who may be travelling often for work or are on the road most of the time for sales etc..
At the end of the day keep these few simple points to keep in mind when you are working from home and you will be fine :
- Don’t do at home what you won’t do at work ;
- Create your own structure and routine replicating your workspace/habits as closely as possible ;
- Produce an honest day’s work either equal to or more than you would have done in the office ;
- Engage with your peers and managers regularly so that you stay in touch ;
- Communicate as often but as effectively as possible ;
- Don’t over-indulge and stay working, know when to break off ;
- Be compassionate to those who may not be handling working from home too well