Careers

How to shift the office into the living room

With work-from-home almost a chant now, thanks to efforts to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus, many corporate teams find themselves on a learning curve

There are certain structures, spatial and psychological, that underlie work. It is these structures that instil the discipline in a workforce that is necessary for it to work in alignment with stated organisational objectives and meet deadlines.

Even in a work-from-home scenario, the psychological dynamics of work will usually be present, serving as a pointed goad to spur remote-working employees to stick to deadlines. However, lack of spatial centralisation can throw things out of whack, if nothing is done to counterbalance it.

At this hour, when the world is seeking to check the spread of the novel Coronavirus, “work-from-home” has become a chant. And there should be innumerable cases of teams pitchforked into a remote-working arrangement.

At Kissflow, employees remote-work with remarkable frequency. However, moving the entire workforce to the remote-working space was uncharted territory. Abhishek Paul, culture shepherd, Kissflow, shares the experience: “Engineering and design are highly collaborative pursuits, and our apprehension about going entirely-remote was rooted in that consideration. It did not take long for us to realise that we had overestimated the complexity.” From there, Abhishek shares his insights on how teams throwing themselves in at the deep end by going fully remote can cope with the challenges.

Abhishek says there should be a pre-set time when all teams would be logged in — say, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. So, it is like creating a parallel work schedule one that promotes interaction and collaboration as if the office had not shifted at all to the employees’ living rooms. Abhishek believes there should be “overcommunication” on the part of team members when a team is just getting into remote working. “The team member should ‘overcommunicate’ and volunteer information about what he is doing to the team manager and the rest of the team; that will allay the manager’s primary fear that not much work is being done out there.” On his side, the team leader should clearly lay down the objectives and key results, and let every team member know what is expected of them, and let them do it without needless micro-managing. “The manager should avoid activity-based managing, and focus on objective-based managing,” explains Abhishek.

Saundarya Rajesh, founder-president, Avtar Group, points out that there are any number of digital platforms where members of a team can connect and have a virtual meeting room, and having a virtual meeting every working day is an indispensable way of creating a sense of being in an office environment.

Saundarya believes there has to be external and striking evidence that everyone treats work-from-home seriously, and that alone can solidify the foundation on which the arrangement stands.

“Members of a team that works from home should dress the part, togged in clothes that are readily associated with work — which will be noticeable when the team meets on any video platform — and keep to timings. There is a certain sanctity to treating that time at home, as real work for which you prepare. Secondly, there should be engagement with one another, which means team members don’t get cocooned in their work and forget that there is a team out there which works with them. It is necessary for someone on a remote-working arrangement to communicate its inherent demands, to their family, and that though they are home, they should be treated as if they were really far from it.”

Work-from-home can blunt our ability to appreciate the human side of business; and while having remote-working systems, one has to watch out for that.

Saundarya says this current work-from-home scenario arising out of efforts to check the spread of the novel Coronavirus, is hardly business-as-usual, and therefore it is necessary to lift up one’s spirits by setting aside some time to connect with colleagues for a light banter. Abhishek draws attention to an initiative, “Lockdown Diaries”, where Kissflow employees are on video talking about the mundane aspects of life in these COVID-19 times, such as having to cook for themselves, while also working from home.

Here is a thought to mull over. Saundarya says, “The COVID-19 situation has forced a number of organisations to uncover the practical side of flexibility. It has made many companies realise that work-from-home is possible. What it needs is some deep thinking, framework, policies, protocols and reporting guidelines to ensure that work is done seamlessly without disruptions.”

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 2:20:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/careers/how-to-shift-the-office-into-the-living-room/article31154719.ece

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