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Office apocalypse: slow down to speed up

Nowadays many offices look like scenes from post-apocalyptic movies: empty tables, dusty coffee mugs and piles of boxes that fill empty rooms. Many organizations switched to remote work in March and haven’t changed their plans ever since. The CEOs of these companies have decided that, regardless of the pandemic, people who can work from home will work remotely in future.

Reasons to switch to remote work are different. Some owners are just waiting for the end of the “covid epoch” and hope to return to working offline, some save on office maintenance, etc. But still, “great online era” can not be called either easy or painless. How to “not get confused”, keep the team, mobilize people to participate in the development of the company and move on?

Before you panic (or rather – instead) anticipating another lock down, the head of the company can take a few simple steps that will help him/her strengthen the team and get over new challenges more confidently.

About “Robinsons” and “Fridays”

At AboutHR (we have been working remotely for eight years), most employees find working remotely very convenient. But there are cases when remote work can be a bitter pill to swallow, particularly for our newbies. We are speaking about young people who are still studying. They tend to choose office work upon graduation since, according to their revelations, they require a live interaction. Therefore, we warn you: if you are a head of the company and are determined to take your business “online”, be prepared for the fact that not all employees will be enthusiastic about this idea.

To understand the mood in the team regarding remote work (and plan further steps accordingly), it is useful to initiate a small study within the company. Ask a Human Resources manager (do it yourself in case you still do not have an HR office) to conduct an anonymous online survey. Find out if employees enjoy working from home, if they have enough online communication with colleagues, if they have the opportunity to express their ideas and discuss others’. And also – how much time they save commuting to the office.

These questions are there for a reason. According to a study by the British Office for National Statistics, employees who spend about an hour on the way to work are less satisfied with life and feel more anxious than people who spend less time commuting to work. Of course, you can joke about Europeans’ “delicate souls”, but it’s a fact – there are many employees in all countries who prefer to work from home. (The efficiency of the process depends on your ability to arrange it.)

 You will also be surprised by the fact that many employees want to work in the office. This can be explained very simply – communication is an important human need, one of your subordinates may be lonely and long for usual nine to fives.

Long before quarantine, AboutHR made a rule to use Hangouts and Zoom for shared video calls and meetings. Of course, like other organizations, we have a lot of fun during video meetings (there is something to joke about at corporate events), but still it helps create the effect of presence, speeds up issues-solving and helps boost live communication. It is only important to agree on one of the most important rules of communication on Zoom: when communicating in teams or tete-a-tete, be sure to turn on the camera. And don’t forget to smile sincerely when you say “Good morning!”.

Put gadgets first, team – second, yourself – third

It goes without saying, ZOOM is not the only connection between office “robinsons” during quarantine. The virtual world offers plenty of ​​opportunities of work and informal communication. In addition to ZOOM, your office life will be diversified by Teemly (a task management tool that helps focus on priorities ) , Sococo (the only visual workspace that graphically displays the entire company). And the Pragli – virtual office application that helps you feel that you are working in the same building with other employees. Moreover, the application will notify you if your colleagues are at the desk, “attending” the meeting, have a coffee break near the digital cooler or have already finished the work day. By the way, this application was created to, among other things, avoid the feeling of loneliness while working. One of the co-founders of Pragli, Doug Safreno, has repeatedly worked on projects remotely and is convinced that the lack of communication and live discussion does only harm.

Employees are sure to appreciate the Loom online service . It allows you to record voice and face and send video messages to colleagues. You can listen to the message at a convenient time. (In other words, you don’t have to take time off to answer a boss’s video call on ZOOM, especially having your office suit at the dry cleaner’s).

I am sure that questions like “what is a virtual office” will be gone with the wind very soon. Many dreamers write that it’ll take a little more time for each employee to be able to wear a VR headset (special “glasses” of virtual reality) and plunge into the virtual office. Today, virtual reality laboratories already work in the best universities of our country and allow you to simulate any educational situation. (For example, a surgery room, where students try on a roll of a surgeon and anesthesiologist, an emergency at work or an investigation of a confusing criminal case). In order to participate, it is only enough to wear special “glasses”. So, put new technologies first, team – second and yourself – third.

Perhaps we’ll face the next pandemic armed with such technology. Especially if  developers include a “virtual smoking room” and a meeting place (read – the exchange of hot office news) near the virtual cooler.

Let beauty come out of ashes

So, the work amidst the pandemic continues. You can exhale a little and look ahead. It is not up to you to decide when the pandemic ends, however when it does you’ve got to have a strengthened team, an optimized business and a tempered leader. So you’d better focus on that.

I hope that you, like me, are convinced that the worst thing that can be done in times of switching to remote work is to do micromanagement. It is definitely not worth making sure the employees are sitting at the table at 9 am and returning to the computers after their lunch breaks. The pandemic gave us a good opportunity to understand what the, as old as time, phrase “work for the result” means.

I am convinced that in a virtual office, the result is the measure of work. At AboutHR, this result is the number of closed positions. If everything is going well – you can “close your eyes” to a slight delay with updating the task in “Persia”. Experienced recruiters work as independently as possible, we train newcomers: explain, give tools to work, and then we pay attention to results.

Therefore: see if your company has an established KPI system, whether the system works “as right as rain”, or if you constantly have to deal with burning tasks and deadlines. (You can read more about this in the article “Tasks for a lazy HR manager”). Every business has its own processes and calculations, but they can definitely be adjusted – it just takes a little time and effort. There is even an expression to add to the topic: “Slow down to speed up.”

Strengthen the team, invest in your own and team’s stability. As the American futurist Alvin Toffler wrote in Future Shock, social change is happening so rapidly and radically that it shocks a person who loses understanding of the meaning of life, basic values ​​and outlook. Therefore, every crisis is the time to learn. Find out the skills your employees want to develop (both professional and personal and think of the ways to help them. It is not necessary to pay for expensive courses and invite expensive lecturers – figure out your team’s strengths and arrange meetings to exchange experiences. For example, we practice “training” events every 1-2 weeks, when each team member takes turns to prepare a presentation on a particular topic and shares it with colleagues.

Resisting stress? Let stress resist you!

One of the most used words in business forums today is the word “viability”. This is a broad concept, and often it means specific “little things” – stress-resistance, emotional intelligence and psychological comfort.

Many companies even arrange webinars and workshops for employees on psychological resilience in stressful situations. Special trainers advise a lot of self-help exercises to normalize mood and prevent panic. In my opinion, you really need to increase your own stress resistance. But it is everyone’s personal task to acknowledge their fears and work with them. It is everybody’s task number one – take good care of your body and your inner resources.

Just Beat It

There is no point to be afraid of the crisis. Life is a constant change, and the pandemic is just one bright example. He survives who is the most viable, adaptive and consistent. The latter quality, by the way, is extremely important. Japanese philosophers said: try to make at least one small step in the chosen direction every day. They were right: if you do something small daily, after a while it will look like an achievement! Give it time and your company will not be affected by any epidemic or crisis. You will  simply beat it.