Working from home is not easy, not during the Covid-19 crisis. Almost everyone who has been working in this model for over last week will resonate to this feeling.
It was relatively easy and accommodating at the start. Maybe because many of us were fatigued with travelling, meetings, etc. and doing for several years. Work from home came as a respite.
The perks of saving travel time, money, physical visits for meetings, etc. are attractive in a hybrid work from a home-office environment. Not in a solely locked up scenario though.
Now that we have all been locked up and working remotely, the 100% work from the home model has started showing creaks. Core challenges are evident; some of them outlined below.
- REPORTING FATIGUE
Ensuring work gets done is paramount, especially when people are out of sight. Reporting was always there, even when working from the office premises. Several organisations globally had to adopt this model forcefully. Business owners and managers are now looking for real-time updates. Everyone is under tremendous pressure to deliver and retain customers to stay afloat. Given the situation, the number of reports to be filled daily has almost doubled. The monthly reports have been converted to weekly, weekly to daily and daily to hourly. Apart from updating the respective CRMs, ATSs and senior executives are also demanding for several excel spreadsheets to be filled at various intervals during the day. Reporting fatigue is real.
The root cause is lack of “TRUST”. Trust is a two-way street. Unless the business owners and executives demonstrate trust, people will end up spending hundreds of hours filling reports, a good percentage of them are just for boosting egos. The impact is not only the loss of time but also loss of productivity and opportunity cost. So, if work from home has to be a actively pursued model for the future, robust and efficient reporting structures have to be implemented to avoid burnout.
- MICRO-MANAGEMENT FATIGUE
Taking a cue from the point as mentioned earlier, micro-managing teams has increased in leaps. In a typical scenario, most of the people work from offices. Seeing people physically present in the office gives a feeling of being in control. Working from the home situation has taken away this control. Executives want to feel they are in control of their business, especially when everyone is trying to safeguard the company and their jobs.
No wonder, team members feel the heat of being micromanaged. As outlined on one of my blogs last month, businesses will need to train executives on managing people remotely. At least 20% of the workforce will work from home post-Covid-19, and companies must invest in Upskilling their management task force. Trust and clarity of expectations are two core components which must be practised upon by organisations.
Being micro-managed drives people crazy. Companies might not lose team members in the current situation. However, the attrition rates skyrocket when the situation improves. People just don’t like being managed by a minute. Many organisations using screen monitoring software does cause mental havoc on the team member, feeling of being always watched, and micro-managed is dreadful.
- COORDINATION FATIGUE
Reaching out to colleagues on there to collect a document, a quick chat by the printer on a particular project, dash to the meeting room for a confidential discussion about an enterprise customer, real-time conversation discussing ideas in person, etc. are being majorly missed.
Working from home, professionals have witnessed an increased need for coordination. A new transaction; i.e. a Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout or a phone call now seems to be a more prominent intrusion than ever before. Not that people have become anti-social or not collaborative in the last four weeks. But with the amount of reporting, micromanagement and pressure of delivering their jobs, the outcome is tragic.
Conversations which could last hardly 30 seconds, which could be clarified while walking past the aisle, now require a special phone call or a Zoom meeting (as per the trend). No wonder people are busier working from home against when they are physically working from the offices.
- ENVIRONMENT FATIGUE
I am yet to come across any professional who locked themselves up for over a month and worked from home. Yes, there is a high probability for an artist to follow this pattern, but they are a different breed, aren’t they?
Limitation of staying indoors or on your property most of the day is thrilling when you have a house by a lake or a sprawling garden. Not many are privileged. Working from the same home office or bedroom has increased the fatigue for professionals. Exhaustion of energy is the prime outcome. Creativity and productivity take a hit, snowballing into a host of an emotional roller coaster; i.e. agitation, frustration and anger.
So if you have a garden, a balcony or space to walk around your property, count your blessings!
- EXTENDED WORKING HOURS
Focus on sustaining existing customers, urge to deliver, exceed client expectations, going the extra mile to support both the clients and generating new prospects is overwhelming for the executives and team members.
Additional tasks of over-reporting, time spent coordinating with colleagues and being micromanaged puts teams into a spot. The fatigue is real. Employee morale is probably at the lowest (owing to things happening around; i.e. job losses, deaths, etc.). The combined impact of all these factors has impacted the result in extended work hours for many.
The best way to manage this scenario temporarily is for executives to stay calm and manage team members with respect. Mistakes are inevitable, but losing the cool, especially in this scenario can be damaging both to the mental wellness of the team member and the organisation. Organisations must continue following regular business hours. Teams understand when they have to stretch to support the business.
- JUGGLING WORK AND FAMILY
How are you all holding up? Life is much busier than ever. Not because of back-to-back zoom calls (I still find it unrealistic when people say they have been on calls for hours). But because of looking after kids, homeschooling (believe me, this takes up a lot of time, salute the teachers), cooking, washing, and several other chores.
Professionals are finding it challenging to manage both work and family for this extended period. Having to choose to focus and dedicate oneself towards either element is heart-wrenching at times.
With millions of job losses around, emotions like insecurity and fear are at peak. Denying to start early or spend three additional hours working post 6 pm is not a luxury many can afford. Difficulty in juggling both work and family is a fact in this Covid-19 crisis. Feeling confused, agitated and frustrated is evident. Conflict within the family and between co-workers is the result in such situations.
Demonstrating empathy and being more human helps team members sail thru’ critical times like these.
- INFRASTRUCTURE AND LOGISTICS
Nobody was geared towards working from home for such a prolonged duration. All the IT professionals who helped their teams’ setup remote working in a short time must be lauded. It is not an easy task.
Some of the challenges professionals are continually facing while working from home are.
- Internet connectivity: Not everybody lives in a city or has access to high-speed internet. Network connectivity, peaks and troughs in the network is one of the significant issues
- Laptop/Computer System: Hardware problems are most challenging to resolve, especially when there is no expert support. Issues like system running slow, frozen screens, webcam not working, applications not opening in time, etc. raises the hell out of people. The situation gets worst when one is on a video call with a client or a candidate. We’ve all come across this situation at least once if not more in recent times
- Access to essential information: Professionals are used to saving data on their systems (especially the ones using a desktop in the office). Lockdown has had an impact on accessing this information. An example of a different industry altogether, someone who is an embedded engineer will have their laptop to work upon. Still, essential hardware components such as a switch and a router will mostly be in the office
By far, this is one of the most critical of all the challenges. A non-functional laptop/computer system can stop someone from working.
These are real challenges faced by real people when working from home in Covid-19. There is a range of tasks such as business continuity planning process, Upskilling managers to manage teams remotely, and strategic decision on outsourcing as a part of BCP, etc. to work upon once we are all out of this lockdown.
We don’t know when, But This too shall pass. Until then, hold in tight.