By Yvonne Sam
The world is a different place, today, than it was, five months ago. As we humans try to ascertain what the new normal will look like, one thing is clear: the workplace, as we’ve known it, is transforming.
Now that it has become a widely-known and well-accepted fact that Covid-19 has changed the face of things, employers and employees are adjusting to “work–from-home” arrangements.
However, such a move is not without its accompanying challenges, some of which are as equally new, as the virus itself.
I have listened, carefully, as most people ruefully, speak about their seeming dodge from the unemployment bullet, by being able to carry on their work in the exclusive privacy of their own home.
At no time was there any reference, or allusion, made, directly or indirectly, about in-home alterations, human resource arrangements or practical considerations. I am left, all baffled, as my now-latent labour management and labour relation skills soliloquize that a pandemic is certainly not the appropriate time, for determining what kind of labor arrangement is ideally-productive, on a per-worker basis.
Undoubtedly, remote-working is not a success for all companies. It should however, be borne in mind, that there are some individuals, working from home, not because their employer likes it, but, simply, because it has become a necessity to get jobs done.
Plainly put, remote work is different work, and most companies did not have the time to prepare, switch to high gear, or even workshare, before being overcome with fear, due to the virus.
Work-from-home or remote workers are now faced with sudden development, or adoption of, a type of conscientiousness, when it comes to divvying-up their day, into deep office work, office communications, personal time and family life.
Considering the presence of separation, of going to and from the office, the workday, kind of blurs together, into one’s home life, thereby producing the feeling that you are always at work.
Additionally, working in pyjamas means that one will learn to rely on self-motivation, self-discipline, focus and concentration, and keeping careful documentation, so that teams, across space and time, are always up to speed, on what is happening “down the virtual hall” — critical components that augur for success.
Remote working can also create a feeling of being out of the loop. Although not fully realized or paid any prior attention to, is the fact that a considerable amount of casual collaboration takes place in an office. Be it improving on the best practices of your colleagues, or simply having an improvised brainstorming session, over lunch, it is simply difficult to replicate that from home.
Working from home requires some internal changes, so that a professional air is always maintained. A workplace should be set up and identified as such, and be off limits to the rest of the household, even pets, especially during working hours. There is absolutely nothing more annoyingly-frustrating than being on an important work call, only to have the doorbell ringing, the dog barking, and the kids screaming in the background.
The new work-from-home reality has also brought, in its wake, some financial implications for employees. Consideration for reimbursement or shared payment has to be given to work-from-home (WFH) employees, for cell phone usage, Internet access, printer, fax machine, software for working, remotely.
Accountability is of prime importance. The maintenance of employee productivity in a long-term, work-from-home arrangement is critical to sustainable success. With workplaces transitioning to the “new normal”, employees should be reminded that regular performance expectations continue.
Following the shift to a home-based workplace, employers should consider ways to promote workplace health and safety, check in with employees to ensure that their home workspace is safe, free from hazards and, above all, facilitating productivity.
While the current pandemic is certainly unprecedented, its impact has only reinforced a lot of the changes we were already seeing; it merely kick-started the largest experiment in remote-working.
Conclusively, it is likely, once the virus has passed, that more people will divide their time, between working from home and working from a corporate office.
They will still gather for work, but the amount of time they work, in proximity with others; and what the actual work week looks like; I view that as one of the biggest cultural shifts, moving forward in the post-pandemic era.
Aleuta — the struggle continues.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is the Public Relations Officer of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.