Change is the only constant in life. Hardly any crisis before has made a stronger point on this than the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has left no leaf unturned and no change exempt, keeping most businesses and companies on their toes with constant challenges.
We might be used to changes being gradual or for them not to happen overnight (at least in most situations), however, COVID-19 pushed both individuals and organizations to shift gears to adapt to the "new reality". Changes that would have happened gradually over the course of several years took place in a far more compressed time frame. Companies that were fortunate enough to carry their work into the online realm were forced to switch to remote work overnight to ensure a safe work environment for their employees. Remote work, once a topic of much debate, quickly became the norm.
It didn't take us a long time to transform our living rooms, dining rooms, or bedrooms into offices as we were thrust into remote work during a global pandemic. After all, even those who oppose the idea of remote work will admit that it has some benefits.
A recent study showed that over 60 percent of employed Americans are currently working from home, which is a 40 percent increase in remote work from a couple of years ago. In total remote work has grown by a whopping 140 percent since 2005. Furthermore, according to McKinsey research, around 80 percent of Americans stated that they enjoy working from home more than being in the office.
Still, enjoying working from home and being productive while doing it are two altogether separate things. While the pandemic has exposed many to the positives of remote work, it has also revealed some of its deficiencies that were more or less emphasized, depending on the specific industries or organizations.
How to stay productive while working from home?
The crisis caused by the pandemic has been sudden, surprising, and quite unpredictable. According to the research done by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 3.3 billion people, or around four out of five workers in the global workforce, have been affected in some way by lockdowns and other stay-at-home measures.
Being thrown into a new work environment in the comfort of our own homes and collaborating with employees in a completely new way not only brings individual productivity challenges to the surface, but it also slows things down a bit in terms of organizational productivity as well as organizational efficiency. Subpar internet access, videoconferencing, and work calls at random hours of the day, are just a few of the new challenges both companies and their employees are currently facing daily while working from home.
Contrary to what people might believe when it comes to working from home and productivity, the newest McKinsey research study shows that over 40 percent of American employees are saying they are more productive now than they have been in the office before the pandemic, and 28 percent of them say they are just as productive at home.
Despite the research results, there is still a large percentage of people who are struggling to make their work from home as efficient and productive as it would have been in the office. With that being said, we have gathered five key points to keep you productive and work efficiently from home.
Organize your new home office
The line between work and home life has become very blurry, as employees do not fully disconnect from work, making their organizational and work productivity lower and level of dissatisfaction higher, reports career coach Lynn Berger. If the separation between your home office and the rest of your space is not physically possible try to make one corner your office space. The corner should feel as separate from the rest of your home and remember to make your new workspace comfortable with a proper chair and natural lighting if it's possible.
Define your working hours or schedule
Make your working hours clear, as working from home can quickly translate to being available 24/7. We advise collaboration among employees on certain hours when the whole team has to be available if there are work meetings etc. and to stick with your regular working hours as much as possible. Also, do not forget to schedule breaks during working hours away from the computer and phone to improve your work and organizational productivity.
Avoid distractions such as TV or Netflix
Many people find it challenging to work from home, as there are more distractions around them. Try to stay on track and keep the focus on work during the working hours by avoiding distractions such as the TV, radio, and constantly checking your social media profiles for status updates.
Communicate with colleagues
Many people have become isolated during these already difficult times, which has resulted in widespread issues with mental health as more people are feeling lonely and completely disconnected. Stay in contact with your colleagues and employees, check up on them at least once a week. Companies with a well developed remote work culture offer many ways to socialize with the use of chat channels, regular online meetups, videoconferences, and even phone calls. Socializing with your colleagues is more important now than it was before.
Use platforms and apps to maximize your work productivity
Though working from home comes with its bonuses it can be challenging to create some form of structure to maintain productivity while wearing pajamas. If you never worked from home before you have probably faced many distractions. Thankfully, there are a handful of platforms and apps designed to help you stay productive and efficient. From internet-blocking programs that stop you from endlessly scrolling through your social media, to schedule apps that help you manage all your work meetings.
COVID-19 has certainly shone a light on many platforms and apps that address the way employees manage and organize their remote work. During the first Corona wave, a whole new generation of tech tools was launched to help maintain work and organizational efficiency and productivity, as well as improve collaboration among employees as they continue to work from home in the wake of the second Corona wave. Below are five battle-tested apps that have proven their worth through the work-from-home era.
We’re starting with the tool developed under our own wing. 9mCollab is a communication and collaboration tool initiated and developed inside the HTEC Group. Aside from enabling different forms of real-time communication, it structures team communication around logically structured collaboration threads. The platform provides its users with fast collaboration results. Discussion threads result in conclusions which then become part of a permanent knowledge base accessible to all team members. With a handful of other useful features specifically designed for remote teams, 9mCollab is a multi-purpose tool that manages to address several crucial challenges of remote work.
Since most meetings have been moved online, Zoom has grown exponentially during the global pandemic. Zoom helps companies stay in touch with their employees, colleagues, and business partners. New features on Zoom help teams organize, establish conferences and webinars, and keep track of their online meetings.
With HR teams struggling to keep the suddenly-remote employees motivated, engaged, and connected to their organizations, or even gauge their satisfaction levels, a tool designed to improve and address this area can be of great help. GreatPlaceToWork has quickly become an innovation leader in the field of developing a healthier and happier workforce culture within individual companies. The app has surveyed millions of employees and helped organizations build high-trust workplace environments and success stories by properly motivating employees. As an added bonus, HTEC is involved in its development and continued evolution.
Keeping track of all the tasks, documents, and collaborations among employees can be an organizational nightmare. ClickUp provides its users with an easy way to organize tasks and calendars, managing team capacities for projects, and track milestones. The app can be synced with Google Calendar and other employee's favorite productivity tools.
Workforce management has become exponentially more complicated with the global switch to remote mode. Quinyx is a platform aiming to make scheduling, time and attendance management, as well as employee engagement a bit clearer, more streamlined, and significantly more simple. Companies like McDonald's, Wolt, and DHL have chosen this SaaS Management software, as it reduces cost, creates a happier work environment for your employees, and helps run businesses more efficiently.
How COVID-19 continues to change organizational productivity?
The pandemic will surely continue to cause changes and disruption to workforce management and organizational decisions. It is how the companies continue to adjust and respond to them that will determine how the workplace will evolve in the years to come.
While it may seem as if we're thrust into some sort of a global experiment with working from home we are now being faced with two situations. On one hand, we are seeing employers, who are slowly beginning to bring their employees back to offices in case they can ensure their safe return. On the other, a growing number of companies have completely adapted to the new reality and have left the option of working from home or in the office up to their employees, as long as their work efficiency and organizational productivity remain on previous levels.
Companies all over the world have realized that working from home can be not only more efficient but also more cost-effective to the organizations themselves, suited to the wants and needs of today's workers, and ultimately safer in the light of current circumstances. Remote work is changing how productivity is measured. According to research by Harvard Business Review, working from home boosts company-wide productivity — it doesn't diminish it, in contrast to popular beliefs. Furthermore, The MIT Sloan School of Management's Executive Education Department reported in their Quality of Life Survey that when an employee has a supervisor that's open to flexible (i.e. partially remote) work, that employee is more likely to stay with the company. Not only that, remote work has proven itself beneficial to the employee's quality of life. The results from MIT's research basically speak for themselves:
- 90% reported their family and personal life improved.
- 85% said that their stress was reduced.
- 80% said that their morale and engagement improved.
- 62% felt more trusted and respected.
- And 93% even believed that collaboration was better than before.
Regardless of where you may stand in the remote-or-office debate, there is no denying that the pandemic has single-handedly pushed remote work into the limelight and exposed millions of workers around the world to its pros and cons. Humanity will eventually overcome the current crisis, and many will return to offices, but there is no denying that remote work is here to stay. Rather than waiting for the storm to blow over, organizations should embrace remote work and focus on making it work, not as a means to an end but as an equal option for the digital generation of workers.