Preparing for life post-quarantine where work from home becomes a mainstay
⏳5 minute read
What to expect when the “old” normal bids us goodbye forever.
Published on May 14, 2020
by Neil Rojas
This image was wildly shared around LinkedIn and Twitter in the early days of the quarantine and while it definitely induced laughter, it’s a really stern reminder that businesses need to transform their companies to become digital-ready in this new normal.
Susanne Wolk via Twitter
In a matter of weeks, traditional companies were forced to allow people to work from home and subscribe to video conferencing services, senior leadership was forced to learn how to use cloud applications, and the employees’ 9-to-6 have been transformed to a much less desirable 8-to-8.
As we observe the current state of the world, here are 3 realities that we should all prepare for:
#1 – Working from home
Work from home is here to stay at least for the foreseeable future. Tech companies like Google and Facebook announced that they will be operating on a work-from-home schedule until the end of the year, and Twitter bested them by announcing that they will do it forever. Non-tech companies, on the other hand, might resort to implementing shifting schedules in bringing essential employees back to work. This means that we will still be working from home at least twice a week. Adapting to this work schedule could prove difficult and you might find yourself constantly chasing for your motivation.
How to prepare
For those that have been working from home since the lockdown started, you might already have secured your own work station at home be it by the dining area, at a table by the window, or even next to your bed. This leads us to our first step.
Your environment is your first hurdle to productivity. If you have the liberty to do so, designate one place in your home as your work station. This means that the place cannot double as a dining area or sleeping area where you put away certain items to make room for your laptop and put them back once you’re done. Humans are creatures of habit. Don’t let your brain think that your daily work schedule is temporary.
Create a tangible weekly task schedule that integrates both your work and home responsibilities. Your family and your house chores are part of working from home. Stop thinking about them as distractions. This includes doing your fair share of house work, going for supply runs, or assigning who has to take care of the kids. If you live with other people at home, having a schedule in advance helps avoid last-minute adjustments and lessen the anxiety for everyone.
Since the start of the pandemic, a lot of companies have filed for bankruptcy and have laid off and furloughed many of their employees. AirBnB, one of Silicon Valley’s poster startups laid off 1,900 employees equivalent to 25% of their employees due to the massive impact that the pandemic has had to tourism worldwide. In a post-pandemic world, Forbes published a list of companies that will thrive ahead of its competitors. The list cites competitive advantages coming from e-commerce, DIY trends, and digital consumption. Most companies have one thing in common: a strong digital platform. The perceived future success of companies is now strongly linked to their digital presence. Digital capability means security and sustainability.
How to prepare
Re-invent yourself to be a digital talent. This does not require you to learn software development or user experience and design. More than anything, it requires a change in mindset.
Collaboration tools and software. Digital companies use applications more than emails and in-person meetings to perform team projects. Most companies use cloud applications such as Slack, Trello, and Box. Get acquainted with these applications and start to use them within your current teams or even your friends and family. The more familiar you get, the easier it is to transition to digital work environments.
Data-driven decision-making. Digital companies use data to make sense of almost anything. Everything from product and service improvements to big, company-altering decisions are decided on with the help of data. There are two things about data that you need to familiarize yourself with: interpretation and visualization. Make yourself incrementally better in these two things each day and you will become a valuable asset to your company.
#3 – Virtual recreation and social interaction
Social distancing will be the norm for the foreseeable future. This means reduced customer capacity and operating hours for malls, restaurants, and other public places. Social gatherings will also be controlled which reduces physical interaction with family, friends, and colleagues. Travel will also be limited as each potential destination will have its own set of restrictions for foreigners and those from out of town. As we all undergo this collective traumatic experience, we have to actively create new habits to take care of our mental health.
How to prepare
Humans are social species. Prolonged isolation is not healthy for our mental health and productivity. Faced with this reality, it is essential for us to find ways to connect with our circle and set aside time for ourselves.
Make virtual interactions more human. Instead of chatting with your friends and family over messaging apps, give them a call—and not just a voice call but activate video too! The University of Virginia suggested several guidelines to achieve this. One is to create “virtual happy hours” where you can use virtual surroundings to create shared social experiences. Another is to reach out to others just to engage in a casual conversation. These will take some time to get used to especially in a virtual environment but we have to adapt and make full use of our technological resources.
Schedule time for recreation. As work and other responsibilities become more ingrained in our daily schedules and with less opportunities to pleasantly engage in recreational activities after work, you need to schedule your time to reduce burnout from too much work. The common pitfall for us working from home is that we don’t pay attention to fragmented time which are the small pockets of unproductive 15-30 minutes that we spend waiting in between meetings. Instead of wasting all of your fragmented time trying to do work that you will otherwise have to stop and restart due to another commitment, schedule 1-2 blocks of your fragmented time each day to clear your mind. This will give you time to breathe and help you focus on your tasks for the rest of the day—complete them early, and have more time on your hands.
Final thoughts: Once our economies restart and we begin to build routines around this new way of life, we will undoubtedly find ourselves looking back to before. I’d like to share this mindset that helps our team get through this crisis. We believe that there is no returning to the pre-pandemic way of doing things. What we are experiencing now means that the ‘old’ way just doesn’t work. We need to look ahead and think of what our future is going to be, do our part to help create it, and help others along the way. After all, we are all in this together.
Neil is the co-founder at Workbean. He is a certified Employer Brand Leader from the Employer Branding College . He is fascinated with extracting talent data to help companies understand their people better. He will always be seen with a book or two in his backpack.