Work From Home in the times of COVID-19 and after

OpenMarket – February 26, 2021

(by Vaibhav Sheth, originally posted on LinkedIn.)

Working from home has been the new normal now and most of the IT companies and employees are adapting to the need of hour. Most of the companies have already implemented either mandatory or voluntary WFH, and this trend is here to stay for some more time and in all probabilities can be a permanent norm for most of the IT organizations, or even other industries.

This is probably the first time where employees at scale are working from home on full-time basis over extended time frame in their careers, and this can pose quite a challenge both for employees and employers.

For employees, because they have to balance their work life with daily chores and keep track of multiple activities like COVID-19 regulations which are changing week after week and impact basics like grocery and medical supplies, attend online classes with kids or keep them engaged otherwise, take care of pets and elderly etc. Most of us at some point in life must have dreamed of a continuous WFH for a better work life balance as compared to hassles of daily commutes to workplace, but now we acknowledge that WFH does come with its own set of challenges.

For employers, on the other hand there are different set of challenges starting like managing logistics related to shifting employees from desk to WFH, handling Business Enabling Functions like physical security, operations, transport needs, taking care of Information Security and not but not the least the mammoth task of handling customer demands, mainly on assurance about companies capability of adapting to the current situations while ensuring that business is not disrupted.

While you would have received and read many articles on managing work from home in the times of pandemic that highlight the importance of dedicated and comfortable workplace, communication and socializing, not getting overwhelmed by news, I would like to share a few tips and practices that can help in maintaining the balance between a full-time work from home and work for home (as most of us call it now)

1) A predictable and steady ‘office’ time

Clearly defined work hours will help you to transition between your home and work activities. A good starting point can be to follow your regular office times. i.e. if you reach office at 9:30, start your work at the same time. Same for winding off for the day. This will enable you to put in same amount of efforts as regular work hours. On a lighter note, this habit will ensure you are not negatively impacted when actual commute to office starts.

Also, make sure that your lunch and other breaks are predictable. If there is a need to attend a call beyond office hours or to be available for collaboration with teams in different time zones, adjust the schedule accordingly.

2) Maintain availability

If you need to be away for some time, due to some unexpected event, keep your colleagues aware and also publish your availability on any other channels like SMS or WhatsApp or Slack. If you are not able to answer official queries during this time, use out of office replies and mention when you will be back and if there is someone who can cover you while you are away.

3) Clear and concise communication

While in office, we can always walk to colleagues or manager’s desk and have face to face discussions. Such interactions are now being replaced by telephonic and chat interactions. It is important to communicate and clear and concise manner over emails and conference calls such that there is no misunderstanding between the team, including direct reports and managers. Seek help from HR and managers if you face any issues on this front.

4) Getting acquainted with online collaboration and conference tools

Never was there more need to collaborate and use the online tools for business efficiency. Keep yourself well acquainted with all the online tools your company and even customers are using. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and communication/collaboration tools like Slack come with lots of features which can be used for better efficiency. Let your company or team know if there are better online tools which can be used for temporary basis for better collaboration and communication. Also, make sure you have the right hardware and accessories for using these tools. (Good headphones, extra monitor, docking station and a handy keyboard, if you are not used to type lengthy emails and notes on laptop.)

5) Self-accountability

This is the right time to build trust with your managers and senior leaders that work from home can be effective and productive if utilized in proper manner. Keep track of your Work in progress status & deliverables, plan ahead for the week and keep a constant check on calendar so that important meetings, especially the ones scheduled after office hours are not missed. Don’t miss filling out the weekly time-sheet and also maintain a log of activities performed. The last thing your manager would want to do is micro-management. If you were having 1:1 meeting with manager in office, make sure you conduct these catch-up calls on regular basis.

6) Online training

Now is the right time to re-skill and re-new yourself with technology and other aspects of your work that need you to learn soft and hard skills based on your role. There are many online websites available and even your company might be providing online training. Choose what suits you the best and start learning.

7) Utilizing leave

Yes, taking leave during work from home is absolutely necessary and you should plan for same. This time can be utilized for family time, learning new hobbies or reviving old ones or even doing nothing (it is fine too). Make sure you plan for your vacations and communicate the same in advance.

8) Last but not least: take care of your media intake

Don’t get overwhelmed by too much news and statistics about pandemic and don’t think too much about what your connections are posting on social media. If they are baking a new recipe of cake, you need not. You can have your own time at your own pace.

Please let me know your thoughts and also what other practices you follow for a better work from home experience?

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