Working from Home, Thriving in the New Norm

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 As we ease into the seemingly new normal in compliance with ‘Social and distancing’ and minimizing unnecessary movement, in response to the COVID-19-pandemic and as this new culture takes shape, it is not without culture shock. The stark glare of the pandemic, the fear, the uncertainty, the distantness and abrupt proximity of the danger, the confusion and the ostensibly unending days are unfolding all at once.   The pandemic which was first reported in China in December 2019, surpassed over 1 Million Infections   as of April 3, 2020 and 52,238 deaths recorded so far.

Ordinarily, work flexibility would be seen as a privilege only a few get to enjoy, but what about the circumstantially imposed remote working?  It is also worth noting that these are not necessarily “ordinary’ times, a global pandemic is unfolding as we watch! What’s worse is that there is no time to stand by and watch because life must go on and one important aspect of it is continuing to work albeit from home.

For the employer questions of productivity and value for money linger especially if and when flexi hours is on a first time basis yet a necessary evil. For the employee even more questions suffice; how to   set up the infrastructure to effectively bring the office into the house and deliver. For those with families, how to balance the work schedule and family while in the same space for extended hours becomes a daily affair. What about productivity both qualitatively and quantitatively? What next after the seemingly infinite lockdown will I still have a job?  Uncertainties loom as employers also have to deal with unchartered territory.

As a human being, and being used to routine, first you are also tasked to explain to your children (if you have them) why you have to work with the TV on even when you said TV should always be off when focusing on serious matters, but you need to stay on top of things as far as the pandemic goes, by hopefully catching real time updates.

For most of us, the adult life has meant an 8am-5pm job, and this has for the longest time helped define the line between our homes and the workplace, but overnight these walls have collapsed and no one knows when they will be rebuilt, although we are asked to keep the hope alive. The world has been ushered into the cruelty of a virus so lethal, which has not just put our humanity to test, but also gripped us with fear and lots of introspection. But we know that life must go on, bills must be paid and mostly importantly we must safeguard our health as we all have a lot of rebuilding to do after this turbulence is over. The transition has yet gain brought out the resilient nature of human beings, and working from home has been one of those novel experiences that is laden with lessons for many who haven’t done it before:

Drastic changes requires drastic adjustments.  For most of the people who have always separated the office and workplace function, the sudden move of the office to your home means re adjustment to bring the office amenities to the household. Beyond the need for infrastructure( computer, internet), is the need for a quiet working space, and for most people this has become either the dining table or the bedroom but  if you have the tiny  running, hyper active and over energized soldiers then  your best bet is the bedroom  working under lock and key.

Time management is an utmost discipline. Suddenly we all have a lot of time in our hands but confronted with very few options. An old adage goes, to whom much is given, much is expected, and this time we are almost all equally gifted with long extended hours at home. Managing this time becomes critical to achieve an effective work and life or is it home balance. Once we have attended to the work needs, we have been forced to become creative in spending time to make the stay at home interesting. 

Technological savviness is inevitable: With the transition almost all services have become virtual, with technology   being employed in sharing, meetings, group tasks and even conferences.  Suddenly distant IT terms like ‘Microsoft teams, drop box, we transfer, documents collaborations etc have become inevitable. Needless to say some people are more challenged than others, but one thing that is clear is that we cannot avoid technology.  Virtual IT support has become the norm but this means you have to work on the nuts and bolts of learning software yourself. But take it in stride, it’s all in the learning curve!

Work life balance taken literally– for the longest time we’ve been guilty of tossing the statement work life balance and especially in relation to the family. However the full experience had been limited to the weekends that are further disrupted by personal errands, limiting it to a few hours of interaction. However, the experience of being under the same floor with our families for extended houses 24/ 7 is almost surreal. Gone are the days families would exchange small talk and pleasantries between catching up on news, doing homework and having dinner together before catching sleep for a few hours before the routine replays.  With no school or much engagements outside, there is all the time and suddenly there is need to have longer and hopefully meaningful and impactful conversations as a unit. Consequently, many people are relearning their children, spouses, and partners and even rediscovering themselves and their hidden talents and gifts, given the time in our hands.

When to hold and when to let go: When initially catching up on the news every second was critically important for most people, as the pandemic evolves, some people have sometimes opted to have a media   block. This could be so as to avoid unnecessary panic but also to focus on works or maybe it’s the adjustment setting in, that actually working from home can happen. In the face of such a pandemic, psychologists have advised that keeping off the negative news is important, as it may have negative consequences on your health.

The true value of colleagueship- Once upon a time before COVID-19,   weekends and sometimes working away from the office was one of those welcome breaks from sometimes monotonous office spaces with the same people and same vibe. But  as the days go by, and with  every  consultation coming  at a cost, and brainstorming sessions having  to be preplanned unlike when you’d just walk up to a colleague to pick the brain on an issue, the invaluable importance of the these engagements is becoming avid. We are slowly learning that the 8 hours that sometimes came across as toilsome, offered a lot in terms of comradeship that we may have often downplayed.  Boundaries have not just been challenged but thoroughly redefined.

Health is the greatest wealth; with the globe grinding to a halt because of the virus, there has been great introspection of what ones health and the health of a nation means and the need to safeguard health as the greatest wealth.

As we continue to novel our experiences, we must remain positive and hopeful, because after this tide, we have an opportunity to not just rebuild but to better what we previously had.

By Wachira Charity- Communications Officer KANCO.

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