COVID-19 – Lockdown, not a Lockout

OpenMarket – August 10, 2020

by Saffi Khan

Across the globe, people are facing the reality of COVID-19. While we face individual difficulties in this crisis at home and at work, we all face a common threat. We are in this together and these are truly unprecedented times. Large sectors of the economy such as leisure and tourism remained completely shut down but some industries saw a rise in recruitment, particularly in health and technology.
Technology companies have shifted into high gear to accommodate the sudden demand for remote working. The change has been so abrupt and dramatic that it is calling into question how companies will ever go back to the way they previously operated.
Keeping employees productive is key to making our services work for our customers. I will share some of the ways to make this as friction-less as possible and help create flow.

Setting up work environment at home

First things first. With a patchy network, it can be troublesome to stay connected to the internet. As most work applications are accessed online, an uninterrupted broadband connection is an absolute must to stay efficient at home especially while using text chat for work-related correspondence or Outlook to exchange emails, not to mention various other work-related applications.
As in-person interaction is not possible, the closest one can get is via video call. Skype, Zoom and Jitsi offer video-conferencing options. It is important to ensure that your chosen communication platform becomes a primary way in which people connect. This is not just a place for remote workers, but office workers too.

Keeping employees informed

One of the challenges that remote workers face is that they lose out on the “water cooler” culture of an office. That is, they often miss out on the usual office gossip and often hear about the company news and changes last.
Announcing company related news updates in broader communication channels on Slack keeps everyone informed about latest development and encourages employees to provide input and updates.

Create your personal work schedule

Try to find yourself a dedicated and comfortable spot to work that you can associate with your job and leave when you finish. It is also worthwhile creating a morning routine just like your work day. Freshen up, change into work clothes, take a 5-minute walk like a work commute and grab your cup of coffee or tea before you start. If possible, eat your meals away from your workstation.

Giving yourself a break

Working remotely for a prolonged period of time may make us feel like our professional and personal life have become intermingled. If you are passionate about your job, you may feel tempted to work too much and if you don’t have a strategy to take regular breaks, you will overwork yourself. It is important to have realistic expectations from yourself as pandemic social distancing measures have meant that you have children out of school or daycare and a partner or roommate also trying to work from home. Breaks can help you balance all these elements.

Keeping employees motivated

As employees adjust to how, when and where they work, it is a great opportunity to create the best learning experiences possible under the circumstances. At OpenMarket, we have a great work culture where every “last Thursday of the month”, employees gather together to celebrate each teams achievements and take part in social activities.

What the future holds…

For many companies, remote working is an interesting prospect to be able to grow, be more efficient and have more flexibility. If you have to move fast, it does not have to be perfect and it often takes months or even years to find a right balance but in times like this with COVID-19, there simply isn’t the luxury of a long timeline.
At OpenMarket, we have found that maintaining a collaborative and productive culture, empowering engineers with remote-friendly tools to ensure we stay productive are all effective ways to help employees move to remote work. As we move forward, it is going to be critical for all members of the tech community to work with the businesses they support to devise more specific long-term plans and strategies to handle an uncertain future.

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