What Positive Lessons Can We Take Away From Our Time Working From Home?
"I’m an optimist. I know the glass is half full. I just want to know who’s been drinking out of it, and why do I have to pay full price?" — Bob Zany
In the spirit of the glass half full, here are some positive takeaways from the current lockdown situation, as well as some considerations for how you might improve your business and home life as businesses begin to re-open.
Effecting Behavioral Changes
There is a truism that "technology is easy, but changing behavior is difficult." That’s why there are so many books and seminars about changing behavior, why we invest so much in training, and ultimately why so many business projects fail. People are comfortable with their current work routines and getting them to change is tough.
Sometimes, the only way to effect change is to leave no other option.
During this crisis, we witnessed behavioral changes that didn’t take hold in the past. The spike in people using Zoom to communicate is one example. Prior to the crisis, Zoom had 10 million daily meeting attendees. Within three months that number has mushroomed to 300 million. Even reluctant parents are learning to use Zoom so they can communicate with the family, as this humorous video demonstrates.
Creating an artificial crisis is not normally a recommended business practice, but sometimes it is an effective way to drive change. Something to think about when business goes back to normal.
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Joining a videoconference from home, with dogs barking in the background and children interrupting, has long been shunned as unprofessional behavior. It has been a popular target of office humor as highlighted in “A Conference Call in Real Life.” The 40 million views of a BBC news report where a child bursts into the reporter’s “studio” during a live interview attests to the degree this behavior is scorned.
But with everyone sequestered in their homes, we have suddenly become tolerant of the normal background noises and interruptions of our home lives. As many of us head back to the office, I propose we preserve empathy for home workers, who struggle to balance work with challenges on the home front.
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Social Distancing Provides Time for Reflection and Introspection
While we cope with the day to day struggles of working from home, I am sure some of us have had epiphanic moments. Unencumbered by continuous interruptions from office neighbors has left time and mental space to reflect about what is really important … in addition to thinking about today’s top tasks.
As we head back to the office, let’s try to give our colleagues the mental space that is an important for a good quality of life. Ultimately, this leads to a better quality of work as well.
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People Can Be Self-Sufficient When It's Necessary
If there's one thing workers needed to be during this crisis, it’s self-sufficient. With no on-site IT resources to help with technology, workers have had to figure out how to get stuff done on their own and how to find important information. Part of work at home success comes when you allow people to choose the tools that work best for them, and part of it is simply "failure is not an option."
The message for IT folks in the post-COVID-19 world is to encourage workers to continue to be self-sufficient and to seek out their own tech solutions before making their troubles someone else’s problem.
Consider Alternatives Early On
We all have established habits. As a result, we usually don't consider better alternatives. For example, many people never considered home delivery for food and other goods, yet they now embrace those services due to shelter in place orders. The by-product was a big surge in productivity.
Delivery services will continue to thrive when the current crisis ends. But what other things can improve our lives? Now’s the time to be open-minded about the next breakthrough, in the office as well as at home.
The Bottom Line
Staying at home and closing offices not only reduced the chance of infection, it simultaneously reduced pollution and enabled nature to rebound. What unintended positive impacts can you take away from this period of change within your company to leverage going forward?
Many of the lessons learned during the current lockdown will be quickly forgotten when we get back to the office and we fall back into our old habits. So before that happens, let’s try to internalize some of the positives that we experienced. Undoubtedly, we can identify permanent benefits from these changes. And whatever happens, remember, the glass is still half-full, even if you have to pay full price for it.
About the Author
David is a product expert with extensive experience leading information-intensive technology organizations. His specialty is helping organizations “do it right the first time”— get to market quickly and successfully through a structured process of working closely with design partners from day one.