“A whole new world…” You may have sung along to those words, but the reality of our current ‘new world’ isn’t really something we want to put to music. The response to COVID has been for most of us to hole up and create some semblance of a home office while we ride out the storm.
For some, this has been an exciting new venture which has cut out two hours of daily traffic and R4000 in fuel costs. For others, it has meant juggling laundry and conference calls and wondering where your stationery has gone.
The double-edged sword of remote working – or WFH as it’s affectionately been named – has brought out the ‘maak ‘n plan’ in us South Africans. It’s great to see the resilience and coping mechanisms which both management and staff have employed to get the job done.
Connection and Connecting
What many people have discovered is that going to work is not just about the job. A good deal of our time is taken up in ‘peopling’. Helping others with a small computer problem, finding that file, or checking in on how the home renovations are going are all things that we do to stay connected to each other.
Many are missing that interaction and the human connection which we have come to enjoy during the week. This enforced solitude can be unsettling or overwhelming.
What have some companies done to encourage connection and engagement in their employees? Here are some examples:
- One business says that they arrange fun activities, games such as videos of how others are coping with remote working helps others feel a sense of community. “We organize mission-driven games such as #IStayAtHome to encourage employees to come together to overcome a common challenge. Regular talks by experts and motivational coaches, activities like virtual Yoga Sessions to help employees stay calm, focused, and feel connected while they WFH can be great activities.”
- Another company chose to organise a pyjama Zoom call every other week.
- Afrihost organised a competition where their customers could choose the best-looking home office from the support team.
Understanding how the lockdown is affecting your team emotionally is important. Some less gregarious ones may be fine to work alone, others may be battling with the solitude – each one will have a different challenge.
It would certainly seem that keeping your team together and engaged is all about open and frequent communication and giving them the time and space to chat with their colleagues in an informal space.
One survey noted some interesting related points which businesses should consider.
- 12% of employees want their income and job secured
- 11% said it was important to stay connected to both co-workers and managers for direction
- 40% mentioned that they need to know that everyone is clear about expectations and all new information is shared continuously
PWC points out a good point.
“Changing habits – it is tough to exclusively work and manage remotely. It is harder still to change, the habits of how teams communicate. If you truly want to cultivate effective virtual teams, you need to be cognizant of how people can close the interpersonal gap that exists when they aren’t co-located. It takes time and practice, but by making an effort to build empathy with colleagues, create moments of connection, and cultivate team agility across a variety of situations, people can bridge this gap and improve team performance, no matter where in the world their co-workers are located.”
Tips for WFH for remote workers
An article on coping with working from home offers some insightful assistance for remote workers.
- Stay “in the loop”. When working from home, it is very easy to miss out on the casual exchange of “passage information” and to feel isolated. Keep up the corridor chat and tea-break conversations with colleagues in a virtual way – by phone, online chat or social media – and make the effort for daily check-ins with teams and co-workers using online work platforms or just a WhatsApp group. Technology makes it possible to stay connected as though we were sitting in our office, rather than at home.
- Maintain your physical and emotional health. Very diligent workers are at risk for burnout as the boundaries between work and home blur, and employees may also feel the need to “prove” that they are being trustworthy and productive. Set boundaries for when your workday starts and ends.
Things Are Looking Up
A report in the Daily Maverick had some wonderfully positive news. They say, “Bateleur’s annual large sample National Employee Engagement Survey 2020, conducted last week, reports 12.6% more employees are engaged than when last measured in October 2019.
“It seems that the shock of lockdown, and its unpleasant economic side-effects have jolted much of South Africa’s employment base into a state of heightened energy and workplace engagement.”
An engaged workforce, one that will maak ‘n plan, is worth putting in the effort for. We’d like to continue helping all South African’s cope with COVID.
How can we help you? Let’s connect.
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