Back To The Office After COVID – Do it Right!

Back To The Office After COVID – Do it Right!

Remote work has become the norm in the post-pandemic world. These days, it’s more than just a privileged perk – it is estimated that 57% of employees work from home at the moment, while 2 in 5 will continue to do so by the end of 2021.

If you’re nervous about this transition back to the office, you’re not alone. Most businesses are worried they don’t have the necessary resources and logistics to ensure a successful return to work. Without a clear strategy in place, any “back-to-work” attempt is doomed to feel unpredictable and messy. And, it can leave employees LESS engaged than they were when working remotely.

One thing is for sure: a hybrid work model will be the best approach in these uncertain times. In simple terms, if some of your employees wish to continue working from home and the nature of their work allows it, you should make it happen, while also accommodating those employees who prefer office work.

The workplace dynamics have changed forever, and if you don’t adapt, you might lose your employees to someone who will. Still on the fence? Let’s address your doubts:

Is remote work less profitable for your business?

While the pandemic put a big dent in the global economy, remote work only had a small (1-3%) impact on productivity. In fact, it helped companies cut costs on office space and employees save money on commutes, coffee, lunch, and even outfits. Joining a zoom call in your underwear? I’m afraid this trend is here to stay.

The way workers manage their time has changed as well. Employees now have the freedom to take breaks at different times compared to the office, which may lead to a better work-life balance. However, this flexibility can leave a lot of room for interruptions – whether that’s deliveries, kids, or pets.

If you’re worried that your employees may not be engaged when working from home, ask yourself – how is productivity really measured? Attending a meeting, whether virtual or at the office, has never been a good indicator of efficiency. Instead, the focus should fall on task management and getting things done, regardless of when and where work happens.

Rather than forcing employees to be present, we should teach them how to better concentrate on their tasks and course-correct them if they’re not efficient.

Won’t a hybrid work model be confusing?

When companies started reopening their doors to their employees, they noticed new patterns of behavior. Unsurprisingly, Monday and Friday weren’t popular days for coming to the office. Once there, employees spent more time socializing in the conference rooms and lounges rather than their actual desks.

This pattern should give you clues on what steps to take when devising your “back-to-work” strategy:

  • Ask for employee feedback – some love the social interaction and busy office life, while others would much rather stay home. Can you accommodate that?
  • Introduce rotation in the office schedule – to fill the unpopular time slots at the office.
  • Consider a phased approach – start with a 25% in-office capacity and then slowly increase to 50% or more.
  • Plan for employee socialization – embrace it, support it, even encourage it when people are at the workplace.

Tools for flexible work are more important than ever.

Companies like Salesforce pride themselves on their flexible approach to work because they understand that more flexibility leads to more productivity. Their slogan “Success from Anywhere” centers on the employee’s wellbeing in a digital work model. We can all learn from that.

Now, more than ever, companies need tools for communication, transparency, and collaboration with their employees. With our Time Tracker for Salesforce, you can do just that – help support your employees so they can stay on track. 

Using a time tracking app will help you:

  • Replace the traditional office check-in;
  • Facilitate project management;
  • Allow manual entries for when real-time tracking isn’t possible.

Conclusion

Flexible and remote work have their benefits, but they’re also challenging for both companies and employees. When working from home, lines between personal time and work get blurry, and this can lead to burnout. Managers should regularly check their employees for signs of distress and adjust their tasks accordingly.

In these trying times, while we certainly don’t want employees to slack off, we shouldn’t want them to feel like they’re under constant surveillance, either. Relying on tech should help employees do their work on their own terms and establish trust and solid work relationships.

Like Doc said in Back to the Future, “Whatever happens Marty, don’t go to 2020!”. Well, we did go to 2020 and survived. And in 2021, it’s Back to the Office! 

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

5 Strategies To Cope With WFH

5 Strategies To Cope With WFH

For a lot of us, we’ve now spent over half a year working from home. I think a lot of us started down this path with if not excitement, at least a sense of relief. The benefits of WFH are self-evident: spend more time with your family, save on commute time and costs, work from the comfort of your home in comfortable clothes, and schedule your day’s work according to what is most comfortable for you.

But has the reality of working from home been as effective as the benefits we thought would accrue? The ongoing COVID19 pandemic seems to be continuing much longer than expected with no clear end-dates in sight. Many companies have decided to extend WFH; some till the end of 2020, and many until mid-2021. We’ve even heard of companies that have decided to give up on office space completely and have employees working from home indefinitely. They’ve decided on weekly/monthly all-hands meetings at co-working locations. While there are major benefits to WFH, there are significant drawbacks too. 

 

 

 

Remote working problems

And the biggest of those drawbacks are feelings of isolation and loneliness. These feelings are not restricted to people who’ve started working remotely during the pandemic. It affects people who have worked from home for years, either full-time or part-time. This data from Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2020 report that 20% of remote workers suffer from loneliness and another 20% report issues with collaboration and communication. And an almost similar percentage (18), complain of “Not being able to unplug” from work.  And these numbers are aggravated with more people working from home because of the pandemic.

Signs of loneliness

Perhaps you are feeling isolated and lonely or perhaps someone on your team is. The signs aren’t always easy to spot. These could include feeling like you don’t belong, that your work is not appreciated, that you are not understood. These kinds of feelings can cause people to become less productive at work, to lash out at meetings or withdraw from group activities. With the pandemic and social distancing guidelines still in place, it’s natural for people to long for experiences that we just can’t have in the near future. 

Why is it becoming more common?

Most obviously, it is because more people are working from home. And have fewer chances to go out and have normal social experiences. Burnout is another big issue. When you go “out” to work, there is a definite separation between work and personal life. But when you are working remotely from your kitchen or dining table all day, that separation is lost. One outcome is that people are now working longer hours. Counter-intuitively, without the  routine of going to and from work, it becomes harder to maintain work-life balance. 🙂

Tips for coping with working remotely

If you work as a manager of a team, then you really need to do double duty. Handling the issues of remote work for yourself and helping others on your team manage remote working issues. The remainder of this article covers both you as yourself and as a manager.

The big thing to remember is that there is no single way that works for everyone. Each person needs to do what is right for them. So here goes:

Tip # 1: Have a set routine

 

 Home Workspace

Set up a routine and practices that help re-create the structure that you’re normally used to. So start work at the same time everyday. If you have a workspace within your home, that automatically gives you a separation between work and personal space. If it helps, set up a 2-minute walk around the house, before you get in to work mode. That “commute” helps to set up context in your mind. If being properly dressed, helps you get into “work” mode, then definitely get dressed in work clothes.

One of the things that we’ve found useful is to have a quick team meeting every morning on Google Meet. That’s when we discuss things that need to get done during the day, any urgent customer issues that need to be solved and so on. But it also gives everyone a sense of structure to the day. And to make sure that we get together with the team at least once each day.

Make sure that you set up coffee break times and lunch breaks. If possible, use your break times to chat informally with colleagues. Or if it makes sense, use that time to catch up with what’s going on at home.

Using a time tracker like Time Tracker for Salesforce, can give you a great understanding of how your people are spending their time. If people are not taking enough breaks, or working too many hours, you’ll see that easily from the Time Tracker reports. That will help you identify and address those issues, before they become major problems.

Tip # 2: Balance your schedule for the day

 

 Photo by Dessidre Fleming on Unsplash  

The biggest perk of working remotely or WFH is the freedom and flexibility that it gives you to plan your day and work according to it. Not everyone is a 9-to-5 person. Schedule your work day and tasks, based on your own energy levels and interests. If early morning is your best, most interruption-free time and you are at your brightest, then schedule your most intense/creative/analytical work for that time. If afternoons are when you are most tired, then take a break at that time. Get some rest or do something else that you enjoy then. One of the best things about working from home is that you get to spend time with your family and kids. If you want to be available for play time with your kids, then schedule your work time around that.

Most importantly, keep your colleagues aware of your work times, so that they know when they can get ahold of you. Make sure that you schedule in group meetings and calls in to your day, but schedule the rest of your day around things that you may need to do. If you are a team leader or manager, empower your team members to set their own schedules and work your assignments around them.

At the beginning of the lockdown, many people set goals for weight loss, getting into better shape and so on. If you are sticking with those plans, more power to you. If you’ve been losing steam, then break into smaller activity chunks.

  • Do some simple exercises at your desk
  • Run up and down the stairs before your coffee breaks
  • Walk around when you are on calls
  • Make sure that you stand up and stretch at least every 2 hours.

Tip # 3: Stay in touch virtually

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get a bunch of your work colleagues together and join an online Pilates/Zumba/exercise/yoga class via Zoom. If you or one of you colleagues can run the class, that’s even better. if you can get your company to agree to it, perhaps you can set this up as a regular work task for your team. If not, at least make sure that your team members get some time for informal catch up and exercise. Schedule a common walking time with a friend, and speak with them as you walk. Great way to multi-task and keep in touch. :).

Set up a regularly scheduled call where members from different teams can talk about what they’ve been working on. This is a great way to replicate those water cooler / lunch room discussions that played a great role amongst teams. Set up a “brainstorming” meeting schedule, when team members can bring up technical issues/problems that they need help with. Encourage other members to provide solutions, so that individuals can get over those issues.

Organize a weekly trivia quiz for your teams. Even include a small prize for the winner to make it more competitive. Have simple games that you can play on an online Zoom / Google Meets call. Organize a team lunch. Have food delivered to your team members and set up an online call where everyone can eat and chat online. This is something that I’ve seen an aunt’s Rotary Club group use to fantastic effect.

Tip # 4: Schedule time and stay in touch

 

  Photo by visuals on Unsplash  

 

When you are in the office, chances for communication are constant. You lean over and speak to someone at the next desk, you meet people in the elevator and in the lobby, in the break room, even in the rest room. You go out for lunch with your team, you walk with co-workers during your lunch break. The chances for conversation are endless. These conversations and interactions play a crucial part in building a sense of belonging and camaraderie. So how can you do this when you are working remotely?

If you know your colleague welcomes impromptu calls, then call them up when you think of them. But with most people juggling multiple responsibilities, you’re better off scheduling a specific time for these calls. These calls don’t have to have a specific reason. They are just for catch up and keeping in touch. You get updates on what your colleague is working on but also what’s going on in their lives. If you regularly walked with a co-worker, then perhaps you can schedule a time when you walk and talk with them. Whenever possible, try a video chat. There’s something to be said for actually seeing a person. The connect is always better. And as everyone grapples with issues of loneliness while working from home, these catch-up sessions can be invaluable.

Tip #5: Learn something new

If you’ve ignored your interests and hobbies because you’ve been too busy, this is a great time to start / re-start on them. Put the time that you would otherwise use for commuting to good use. Whether it’s to learn a new language, learn an instrument, start to bake, learn financial planning or a new cuisine, there are plenty of online classes to choose from, for whatever your interest may be. So if you are looking for something new, go ahead and start right away. This is something that will stay with you, whether you continue to work from home or you get back into the office. If you need additional encouragement, a great way is to get together with a group of friends and challenge yourselves to achieve something specific every week. If you don’t have too much time available, then do it in small steps. Don’t sign up for expensive classes, but look for free lessons on Youtube. Do as much as you can. If you like to write, keep a journal. Or start a blog and post your thoughts, poetry. Share your achievements with your friends for a quick high.

Key Conclusions

There is still no clear time frame on when work from home will end. It looks like a lot of us will continue this for the next few months, perhaps until mid-2021. So we need to make sure that we can work from home successfully and deal with loneliness issues. The good news is that it’s POSSIBLE! It needs some effort and conscious thought, though. Both organizations and individuals need to put in effort to make remote working successful.

Follow some simple steps, like a daily routine, regular formal and informal contact with colleagues and friends, scheduling our work day around our energy levels and other commitments. All of these will enable us to tackle work from home with fewer issues and be more productive at work.

If you’ve found some specific ways to cope with work from home, do share it with us. We’d love to hear from you.