My new digital reality
Could any of us have imagined at the end of 2019 that we were heading for a pandemic, that we would be forced to work from home and our lives would be transformed into what is being called the "new virtual reality"? Having been forced to work from home myself for 16 months, I strongly believe that we have now entered a new working reality and I’m conditioning myself for a "hybrid return" to the office sometime in the distant future.
Remote working has come into our lives and certainly, for many of us it’s not a simple transition to work solely from home and not have the grounding afforded by the office environment, but for many organizations (worldwide) this change is well underway, and Unify has been ahead of this curve for over 10 years. At this point, I feel it is important to acknowledge that the homeschooling/learning sector has also been greatly affected by the pandemic whereby students who are accustomed to going to a place of learning and maximizing the social scene have had to massively re-adjust to a permanent "isolated-library state" of learning consisting of long hours of concentration behind a screen.
Many independent surveys have been conducted during the pandemic, and one of these surveys is from Harvard University (via the Making Caring Common program), shows that 61% of young people aged 18-25 feel very isolated and considered by psychologists to be a concern for the mental health of young people. It is also worth noting that the rates of loneliness in the elderly are much lower than in the young (which is a significant shift). The reason for this is believed to be down to the fact that young people who are starting their careers need increased levels of contact/communication than that of their experienced colleagues. Therefore, even though we are facing this new reality together, we clearly see the differences in the way we react, and this is greatly influenced by age, circumstance, and needs.
For me personally, I struggled to adapt to my new working situation during the first lockdown and interestingly observed myself (and some of my colleagues) going into overload mode due to a disrupted rhythm and the mashup of work and home environments. I can only imagine, what it must be like for staff with families, as the levels of disruptions must be intensified as prolonged periods of concentration are harder to find. As a result, those affected, tend to overcompensate by working longer hours to make up for a lost time, missed deadlines, and endure higher stress levels.
Remote working has certainly been a savior for many millions of employees who have been able to continue to work away from the office, and I for one count myself very lucky to have a role that allows this as not everyone is so fortunate. Interestingly, in one of the other published surveys there was clear signs of user productivity increasing whilst reducing the carbon footprint. This data will serve to increase the overall trust levels among managers of their staff as they shift focus towards output and results achieved rather than the time in the office.
My personal take-aways from this enforced lockdown period are plentiful, but the big callouts are:
- My concertation levels greatly improved from Work from Home, mainly due to the removal of the normal office distractions of colleagues going about their working day.
- The daily use of video conferencing has been a real blessing as I have been able to see all my teammates and colleagues on a single screen using our anywhere workplace collaboration platform, Unify Office.
- Make slight positive adjustments to meet the new circumstance. Every morning my team and I had a 12-minute daily virtual call (at 10:00) to discuss our daily tasks, instead of the once a week when we were in the office which made a huge difference.
- My manager would always politely remind everyone to enable our webcams at the begin of the call and when we were speaking. This initially felt strange, but we all soon got used to it and have never looked back as it empowered the team to keep a watchful eye on our colleagues
- The use of video also forced the team to ensure we were appropriately dressed and ready for the working day.
- The issuing of a simple-to-follow user guide, full of useful tips & tricks detailing how staff could effectively adapt and maintain their mindsets for a Working-from-Home regime
This last point was very important in helping me to re-adjust to the new normal was having a supportive organization who encouraged us to maintain a routine they were comfortable with whilst keeping regular working hours, setting schedules and stick to them, doing regular exercises and take frequency breaks is critically important.
Finally, public cloud-based collaboration tools like Unify Office by RingCentral and the internet have proved they can be relied upon to enable employees to work from anywhere rather than an office environment, but the golden rule is staff must be helped to transition and evolve into the new normal while maintaining a balance between their professional and private lives.