Remote working in the time of Corona

7 April 2020 Tenaka

Okay. Shit is real. We are on lockdown. Now what? Working remotely is no joke: your kids are bouncing off the walls, switching to Netflix from that educational video you left them with along with your best intentions, while you scurry off to try to be valuable to your company before you get retrenched. It’s no joke.

Our president’s announcements so far have hit hard, and they’re going to have serious Ramaphosifications, but we really ought to take just a moment to be grateful for the class act that is Cyril and his executive. Truly, we congratulate your proactive, responsible approach to this thing – for the first time in many years, it feels like we have a leader who truly cares about his people.

Okay, what we’re here for: remote working is for some of us nothing new, for others, a total and utter shock to the system that we’re trying to adjust to in a hurry.

There are a whole lot of companies across the world that will come out of this pandemic as fully remote businesses. No doubt, this phenomenon is changing our world – have we ever witnessed a quicker paradigm shift? And we can take this opportunity with both hands. Most of us, when change comes knocking, cling nervously to our comfy chairs and hope it will pass us by; but change is a good thing, even when it feels really bad; it’s a chance to grow and become a better us – to shed that skin and start anew. That’s exciting.

But while we’re embracing this new version of ourselves, we still need to work out how to function each day as individuals and as part of a remote work team.

At Tenaka, we’ve been partly remoting (one or two days a week) for some time, so there are things we’re comfortable with, like meetings where up to half of the team is online and using communication and shared content platforms. However, there are areas that are new to us: this is the first time every one of us is remoting and meeting from our homes. It’s the first time anyone has seen me on camera in my bedroom.

So here are some tips to make this rapid transition a little easier and make sure that you are efficient, organised, but also still able to laugh with each other and be real in a time when we need it most.

Tips for employees and employers (for humans)

Stuck at home; kids screaming in your ear; wondering if you’ve got enough supplies for lockdown; wondering if you’ve got enough sanity. Adjusting is tough, but there are things you can do to make this easier:

  1. Start a routine: as much as this is out of the ordinary, imposing a little of the ordinary onto it will help us keep our sanity. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day, as much as you can – it’s good for healthy sleep, but it also going to allow you to settle quicker into this situation and be more productive.
  2. Do some goddamn exercise: start every day with a little bit of something that gets your heart rate up. If you have space, run around your property; if you don’t, run on the spot or find something on YouTube – who’s is today’s Jane Fonda? – that’ll get you sweating. I can testify from experience: starting your day out of breath – from exercise, not lung complications – is going to mean a brighter day.
  3. Be kind to yourself and others: the more human we can be for ourselves and each other at this time, the easier the transition will be and the better we will come out the other side. We are in this together, even though we’re apart.
  4. Set boundaries: if you live with any other humans, or even non-human creatures, make sure they understand where your workspace is and when you can and can’t be disturbed. Trying to flap off an unwelcome interruption while maintaining a professional facade in a client video call is distressing for everyone (if a little funny for observers); setting those boundaries before you start will help everyone to understand what’s okay and not.

Speak up: even though your team seems far away, don’t be afraid to speak up if you need help or are not coping with work or the way remoting is panning out. Reach out to a colleague or flag your boss for a quick chat about your concerns. You will feel better; your boss/colleague will likely be able to help and will be grateful that you cared enough to speak up.

Be thankful that you still have a job

No-one said this was going to be easy, but it’s happening right now. It’s going to suck sometimes, but at those times, keep in mind how lucky you are to still have a job. This is an iterative process, and mistakes will only help us to learn the right way. So keep these overall tips in mind as you navigate and refine your remote working approach:

  1. Delegate a remote working management team or person
  2. Tweak your approach until it works
  3. Document the process
  4. Keep your employees and their needs in focus
  5. Be transparent with employees and clients
  6. Treat this as an opportunity to learn and progress
  7. Remember that we are all humans and that we’re in this together

Adversity presents opportunity

In these trying times, remember that everyone is going through the same thing, and that we can take the business challenges we face as opportunities to grow and position ourselves for future success. If we think carefully and learn from our mistakes, we are bound to emerge from this experience as stronger, more agile businesses.

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