The novel Coronavirus has changed the world as we knew it. Meetings and family reunions have become virtual, shops have become apps and homes have turned into offices.
Adapting to the problems of this highly infectious disease comes with its own set of challenges for everyone. Delivery, medical and security personnel grapple with the risk of infections, remote workers with loss of productivity and industries with the loss of production.
However, from the plethora of services that help people earn money, the impact has been the lowest on IT companies.
As employees were able to work on their computers, they took their office home or wherever they were, ensuring that work does not get hampered.
This gave rise to a mass work from home movement that was pretty unusual for many people. As we all struggle to adapt to this situation, here is a summation of what has helped my company sail through these trying times and I hope you can use this information to help yourself or your employees perform well, no matter what the circumstances may be.
My name is Shivam, and I run a technology company called Volumetree that was hit hard by the Coronavirus, just like yours. Here’s what we did to stay on top of things and ensure business continuity and high employee morale:
1. Ensuring that your family understands that you are working
The moment I realized that a lockdown was imminent, I had a family meeting and I discussed this with them. I told them my concerns and limitations and what our mutual expectations can be. This went a long way in ensuring that I was able to work without being bothered by errands.
My family has been going about their daily chores the way they used to, and my lovely mom occasionally pops in with a cup of coffee :-). I usually take a quick break at that time to chat with her, helping me take my mind off work and giving my family some time too.
Here is what you can do:
Working from home has many advantages. You can be with your loved ones and work at the same time, but your family must understand that you are at home but working. This can only be done if you first discuss this with your family. Spending time with your family and running errands is important, but so is work. Set clear expectations that you have defined timelines that you need to adhere to just like on a regular workday.
Errands, cuddle times and family fun and games with you will need to wait until you are done with your work or take a break. It is best to explain this to your family at the outset rather than having meltdowns and arguments later. This will also help them transition into your new mode of working easily. Understand that this is as new for them as it is for you.
You can read here: Country-Wise Authorized Website To Check Coronavirus Update
On a personal note: I kept my work timings from 10-7. This allowed me to make breakfast for my family, enjoy lunch with them, and have some game time before we sat down for dinner. It has turned out to be a win-win situation for me.
2. Motivation to work like you’re in the office
In the first week, I propped up two pillows against my bedpost and worked from there as my family went about doing what they usually do around the house. I worked without a break and on my first day I ended up dozing off on the bed before lunch. The second day had me staring into the distance, with a mental block.
I then realized that I needed to take those little snack, lunch and tea breaks to ensure that I stayed motivated. I now take a minimum of 3 short breaks and one lunch break to ensure that I keep my mind refreshed. This also helped me reduce back pain and numbness from sitting on the bed for too long. Here’s my regimen:
· One short break every hour, for 5 minutes for a little walk and stretch
· One tea/snack break twice a day to ensure optimal energy levels.
· One lunch break to ensure that I get the nutrition I need.
An important activity I added to my list was the team Scrabble. My team often plays scrabble, so we decided to keep 20 minutes of game time during work hours to keep up the team spirit and ensure that everyone does not get bored with just working all day.
3. Tasks and focus
The most important thing while working from home is focus. With umpteen distractions around you (my bedroom cum office has a grapefruit tree right next to it that is in full bloom, and there is this amazing citrusy aroma that wafts in many times a day, ensuring that I sit n enjoy the time when it does) it is hard to stay focused and maintain timelines.
I use clear cut task assignments that are also copied to my Google Calendar, ensuring that I get reminders every now and then.
I have created a to-do-list that helps me do those 5 top tasks as soon as I start working, and the capability to mark them as Done when I complete them. This helps me and my team meet our goals, and as we do not have fixed office hours, all independent tasks can be completed when their deadline approaches, without having me adhere to timelines if I do not want to.
I also have a weekly task compendium that must stay in the “Green” to help me understand that I have completed all the tasks that I should have.
4. Team interactions
Staying in touch with your employees or team members is even more important while working remotely. As working from home removes the capability of popping into your manager’s cabin for a quick discussion or having a quick chat over coffee with your team. This also helps you keep large teams in check as they understand that you’re on top of things. Here’s what I did:
I used to send a catch-up email to the team I was working with directly when I came in. They would usually respond over the first half of the day and I would stay informed about what is going on. This helped me to know that my team was on track and any problems could be taken care of earlier in the day. E-mail communication also has the added capability of being able to think clearly and write exactly what you want to, rather than those impulsive phone calls.
Chats are almost the same as conversations. Over the course of the day, I would send my colleagues chat messages if I needed something instead of calling them every now and then. This helped them respond to me in real-time. Microsoft Teams and Google hangouts are both fantastic chat tools that offer pop-up notifications and are available on both mobile and PC.
This has been a lifesaver for me. Ensuring that I am able to talk to almost everyone in my team in real-time and have those discussions is just something that I cannot live without. The added capability to record these meetings goes a long way in ensuring that we can refer to what was discussed later. We use Zoom at work. You can use any tool that suits you best or the one you already use.
5. Productivity tools
Having the right tools at the right time is as important as working. Here’s what I think is necessary for any tech company employee to be productive:
Without the internet, we would not be able to stay in business. We ensure that all our employees have access to broadband at home, so that they can stay connected even when not in the office.
A year ago, we transitioned from desktop computers to laptops. The reason at that time was due to our plans to expand and move to a new facility and updating old machines. This became a godsend for us in these trying times as all our employees successfully set up offices at home with near-zero downtime.
- Productivity tools
We use the Google Suite, ensuring that work is online and we do not have much loss of data. Google Calendar helps our employees understand timelines and tasks.
- Code repository
For code backups, we use Git and (name tool) as a CVS.
We use the Zoho project management tools to ensure that everything stays on track.
We use (zoom) for video conferencing that allows us to stay in touch and record client meetings.
- Google hangouts and Skype
Google Hangouts is our favourite chat tool, helping our employees stay in touch. For formal communications with clients and business discussions, we use Skype.
DeskTracker by TimenTask is a tool that helps analyze employee productivity. In companies that bill their customers by employee time, this tool helps analyze how much time was actually spent by the employee while working, ensuring that both customers and employees are treated fairly.
6. Time off
It is important that employees still get the time off they want to. Working from home should not make your company believe that you are on leave. For example, I took a day off to celebrate my father’s birthday at home and did not want work to bother me while I was helping my family make the most of it. Although we could not go out, we cooked together, played monopoly and had a gala time. It was wonderful. I ensure that my employees get the paid time off they have, and we ensure that we do not bother them during that time.
Work from home should not be something that employers dread. It is an opportunity to bond with your teammates and make them understand that you trust them to do the right thing and ensure that you all grow as a team. This will help you and your employees prosper and get through these dreadful days. Remember, this can also serve as a nice experiment where you showcase the employees that shine and come out as star performers in trying times. Good luck, all the best and stay safe!