With any crisis comes opportunity. The crisis of COVID-19 provides the opportunity to take what we’ve learned and make appropriate changes to build back a better workplace. A way to do this is by becoming more focused on tasks, strengthening our work relationships, and embracing a work ethic based on results.
Companies—large and small—around the world were challenged during the past 16 months in order to stay afloat. Many, especially in retail and hospitality, were unable to make it and had to shut down either temporarily or for good. Others were able to utilize technology and many were able to work remotely alongside children, who were learning remotely.
Regardless, while productivity may have been relatively stable for many of these companies, in the long run, we’ll need to find a way to come together again in the same physical space—at least occasionally. That’s because things like creativity, innovation and a sense of belonging are vital and more likely to occur when we are together in the same room.
The workplace may have been forever changed by this pandemic. In many industries, it may no longer be necessary to come into the office every day. Employers may therefore require less office space while employees may need a home office. Once children are back in school again, parents may be much more effective working from home than when they were sharing space and bandwidth with others.
When we do return to the same physical space, it will be important to incorporate the good that came from those who were able to work effectively from home. Here are some things to consider.
Focus on task at hand
One of the first things employers discovered was that many employees actually became more productive while working from home. Though the initial transition may have been challenging to some, others were able to find focus without the disruption that can be so rampant in the office. It may have taken awhile before back-to-back meetings and continual interruptions interrupted our workday again. Though family members, pets and other interruptions may have replaced them, many may have found a way to better focus such as:
- Maintain control over your time. Strategic thinking, completing a complex assignment, researching a new methodology, learning a new technology and many other things require focus. Take control of your schedule to guard your time.
- Cut down on task switching. When you allow emails, text messages, Slack, news alerts, phone calls, etc. to interrupt what you’re doing, they greatly impact your ability to focus. Reject multitasking as it is completely counter to effectively focusing.
When we become slaves to our technologies rather than simply treat them as tools, we became more disengaged from each other. No matter what social media companies say, when you choose to spend time interacting with a screen instead of a person, you are creating distance. When you can safely return to the office, do what you can to strengthen your real time relationships with co-workers.
- Talk in person whenever possible. Rather than message someone down the hall, deliberately choose to interact face-to-face. This will build trust and rapport much better than any electronic substitute.
- Help make your team more effective. Things like psychological safety, trust and a shared sense of purpose and belonging are critical to high performing teams. Do your part to optimize your teamwork.
In many cases remote work meant managers could no longer micro-manage their workers. Overly oppressive bosses needed to let go of controlling how the work got done. While this could have been taken advantage of, many workers demonstrated just how effective they were in completing the work while unencumbered by an overly watchful eye. Results Only Work Ethic (ROWE) is all about what you deliver and not necessarily how or where you do it. To maintain agency over how and when you do the work, keep in mind the following:
- Complete what you say you’ll do. It’s quite simple that when you can be trusted to complete your work on time and accurately, others will likely provide more latitude for how and where the work gets done. Do your part to follow through on tasks.
- Allow your results to dictate your performance. Don’t look for excuses or others to blame when you are unable to complete your work. Take responsibility for what is yours and focus on achieving results that demonstrate your value.
Going back to the office can be a source of renewed engagement. It can bring about changes that enhance your experience. See if you can adapt how you show up so you contribute to building back a better place to work.