Last week I wrote about a few ways in which the Corona Virus will change the future of urban living. If you’ve missed the last few months on this planet, the so-called Corona Virus, designated COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China, and has now been declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation. Today I am going to focus on a few specific challenges that this new way of living and working will present, with some solutions. Again, I am no futurist, at least not the way the futurists define themselves.
We know how this virus spreads. Therefore, we’ve all been told to stay at home unless we do a job that requires us to be at a certain place to do it, such as construction and factory workers, supermarket assistants, doctors, nurses etc. Due to this, most cities in the world on a lockdown or a semi-lockdown. This has shown that one doesn’t necessarily need to be at a centralised office to do their job and we don’t need timesheets, clock-in time and clock-out time to measure productivity and throughput. There are certain challenges this presents at a human level.
Challenge 1: Segregation of where we work and where we live.
One of the greatest benefits of having in an office, the place we work from, is that at 5pm, we can shut the computer down, leave and get home, to the place where we live. This clear distinction between these two places is seen as an advantage by many, in the sense that it enables people to draw the line. However, should the new, post-Corona world mandate that working from home will become the new norm, there are a few things we’ll have to do to retain this distinction. Earmark a specific room in the house as a study or work room. If there’s no additional room, designate a certain section of the house as a place of work. This could mean having a desk and chair in the lounge. Yes, that part of your lounge will be your office during the hours you’re likely to be in the office. Treat the space like your workspace for the time you would spend at your normal place of work. Ask yourself ‘what would this room look like if I were at work?’ and respect those boundaries.
Challenge 2: Cabin fever and feelings of being isolated.
I agree, most of us, in this current situation feel locked in, stuck at home, and isolated because we’re not used to it. Our movement is currently restricted for our own safety. However, once these restrictions are lifted, we should be free to get out of the house as before. I am not saying it’s easy to beat isolation symptoms. However, as someone who’s been working from home full-time for the last three and a half years, I can tell you from experience that it’s not as bad as it sounds. I go to the gym during the day, with an off-peak membership, I break my day with a quick run to the supermarket, I go for a walk, and I still have my social life. Moreover, there is technology to conduct meetings and conference calls. There is actually no social isolation, and there are solutions for the perceived physical distancing. Use this new-found flexibility to do things you normally wouldn’t do without feeling guilty. Ask yourself ‘is this new, flexible working arrangement affecting my throughput negatively?’.
Challenge 3: Trust and Control
If you’re an employer or line manager, to whom people report, this is for you. Not seeing these people clock in and clock out everyday might seem like you’re losing control. You may feel that your staff aren’t doing their job. It won’t help if you call them and they’re at the gym or doing a supermarket run, or doing a school run. You’ve probably been a victim of a culture of come in early, stay late, to prove your commitment to the job. If you feel you’re losing control and not able to trust your staff, that’s a bad place to be. However, it’s not a point of no return. Anytime you get doubts like this, ask yourself ‘is my team honouring its commitments and delivering as per mutual agreement?’.
This was just a short summary of three challenges this new way of working is likely to present.
As before, I leave you with three points to summarise this:
- To segregate your place of work from the place you live ask yourself ‘what would this room look like if I were at work?’ and respect those boundaries
- Break the day up to do things you wouldn’t normally do, to beat cabin-fever without guilt. Ask yourself ‘is this new, flexible working arrangement affecting my throughput negatively?’.
- As a manager or employer, if you feel you’re losing control and trust, ask yourself ‘is my team honouring its commitments and delivering as per mutual agreement?’.