COVID-19 totally disrupted how we live our everyday lives. Not only did it wreak havoc with the health of those around us but of the rest of the world. The impact it caused on businesses where many were forced to put their operations on pause, some forced to close down. In addition, the damage it caused on the world economy.
Tough Times Still Ahead
It is not difficult that negative thoughts creep in almost everyone’s consciousness during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has spread (and is still spreading). Many nations are implementing or have implemented quarantines.
Many people lost their jobs and schools are indefinitely closed. All of us were suddenly isolated from friends and family, and our co-workers. Despite this, keeping a positive mindset can go a long way in managing through this difficult time.
Now, even with the availability of vaccines to combat the onslaught brought about by COVID-19, the world still has a long way to go before we can go back to what we consider as “normal.” Until then, we have to batten down the hatches, remain calm and stay safe.
However, we cannot escape the fact that COVID-19 devastated world economies. Businesses had to adapt quickly if they wanted to stay afloat. They had to devise workforce strategies such as work from home policies for the safety of their employees. Many were also forced to invest in digital technologies to be able to shift their transactions and dealings online as well as to monitor employee’s progress in day-to-day activities.
A Positive Family Approach
The need to implement social distancing also brought in social isolation from what we are used to stay safe and remain healthy. However, this also means we are spending more time at home with our families.
This also means that being in a confined living environment during this stressful time can put a strain on family relationships. Despite this, we should be aware of the challenges and continue to find ways to maintain healthy family bonds and to focus on maintaining our physical and mental health.
It used to be that we had to make time to have some family time. Now that we are forced into this situation by COVID-19, family time has now become most of the time. This is an opportunity to spend quality time and do activities together as a family.
People at this point have likely learned to appreciate their family more due to the fact that they have to spend time with each other unexpectedly. This is a rare opportunity that we may never have again. It is highly likely that we are going to develop the need and want to spend time with each other after all this ends.
Vital to this is to consciously strive for proper communication rather than merely engaging in a conversation.
● One has to learn to talk things through, be honest and open about your thoughts and feelings.
● Learn to manage your emotions and stay calm when tensions arise.
● Listen and be attentive to what each person is saying.
● Be open and be willing to compromise but
● Respect personal boundaries.
● Do not be stingy with praise and show genuine appreciation.
● Remember that patience is virtue
● Take the time to laugh together at each opportunity you get.
Positive Impact on Workplace Culture
Lockdowns due to COVID-19 have become synonymous with work from home for most people. Though research shows that working remotely has an isolating effect, workers now have become visible due to the popularity of video calls.
Gone are the days when you tend to ignore a co-worker in the office and only speak to them on a need to basis. This has potentially united workers with the assurance that they are not alone in this struggle of having to balance work, personal responsibilities, and to some degree, family responsibilities together.
Surely, by now, many of you have experienced social media, meme or even news worthy moments when your co-worker’s kids, pets, or even their partners wearing only undergarments, or heaven forbid, in their birthday suits popped on screen during Zoom meetings. The gist is, working from home has become less stringent in observing professional presentation rules. Due to video conferencing, the virtual workspace has evolved into something more flexible and humane.
More and more people are working from home in this time of the pandemic. It also provided a window into the personal lives of our colleagues, our clients and to some extent, even our bosses. Every video call feels like we are being invited into the private space and personal lives of our colleagues in unprecedented ways.
Rather than diminishing how one is perceived professionally during video call mishaps, these rare glimpses on personal lives somehow improve workplace interactions. These moments allow employees to get to know and see each other in a new light as work and personal lives overlap. This can result in being more tolerant of missed deadlines and more sympathetic to an unconventional work schedule.
Our team here at Accentuate has been working successfully in the comfort of our homes and wherever we are for many years. Admittedly, our setup may not work for all business entities; the pandemic still had an impact on employers and employees alike. Nevertheless, like the seasoned veterans we are, we adapted quite well to this new environment.
Many companies in response to uncertainties that COVID-19 has brought, have asked their workers to work from home if not full time, at least part of the time. New work from home policies left many employees and their supervisors and managers separate from each other.
Though there are obvious positive impacts on workplace culture when it comes to remote work, there are, of course, challenges that employers and managers alike have to contend with and to understand several factors that can make working from home demanding.
Not understanding these factors may cause some high-performing workers to decline in their performance and engagement once they commence working remotely such as:.
● The absence of face-to face supervision: The concern that lack of face-to-face interaction could lead to unproductiveness. As it is, employees already struggle with the lack of managerial support and communication. Employees will then tend to feel their managers are apathetic, out of touch with their needs, and are neither supportive nor helpful in getting their work done.
● The availability and access to information: New remote workers are often flabbergasted in locating and getting information from their supervisors, managers, or even their co-workers. Getting information to help get things done becomes a Herculean task in itself that wastes time and effort.
● Working in solitude: The lack of social interaction in an office setting is one of the most common complaints of workers new to remote work. This does not bode well especially for extroverts, more so if avenues are not created for them to connect with their co-workers in a work from home environment. The detrimental effects can cause employees to feel they no longer “belong” and may result in their intention to look for employment elsewhere.
● Home distractions: Though there are positive effects to this as we discussed above, too much of it may work to the detriment of others on the call and witnessing it happen on their screens.
Faced with these challenges, there are ways to quickly and economically face these challenges to ease the transition from an office setting to remote environments. Establish steps to:
● Formulate check-ins: This may or may not be daily for every employee and several avenues may be employed such as a series of one-on-one calls if the employee works independently, or a team call for those working collaboratively. A factor to be considered is that these calls must be done regularly to assure workers that they have an opportunity to consult with you on matters at hand.
● Different communication methods must be provided: With developments in technology, it would be a fallacy to consider an email as a sufficient communication tool. A video call or even a video conferencing provides better results and provides visual cues that everyone can have similarly as if they were in the same room together. Video also helps ease the sense of isolation workers may tend to feel working from home. Video is also beneficial for complex and sensitive conversations, and it makes it feel more personal than a hastily composed email or even an audio-only call.
In circumstances when quick collaboration is needed, provide mobile-enabled messaging such as Slack may be employed for less formal and simpler communications.
● Establish rules of engagement: Similar to an office setting, managers should set clear expectations for the frequency, and ideal times of communicating with their teams. It is vital to let employees know the best method and time to reach you during the workday. It is also prudent that managers be on top of communications among team members to make certain they are sharing information, as they are needed.
● There should be opportunities for social interaction: Yes, you may be working at home alone but that does not mean you cannot have a few seconds to have informal conversations with your co-workers on non-work related topics while working remotely. A simple “How did you go yesterday?” at the start of the day can work wonders that can have lasting impact throughout the working day.
● Encourage and support: In abrupt shifts from office to a home setting, managers must acknowledge the stress this can have on employees. Ask how they are doing, listen and empathise with their struggles. Put yourself in their shoes, you might be experiencing the same as what they are undergoing.
Onward we go
COVID-19 may have triggered negativity among all of us at one point or another but we have to trust that things will eventually get better. Once it does, we now have a better understanding of our capabilities and benefit from new ways we learned in achieving goals despite adversity.