The Virtual Workplace: Adapting to the new normal
Coronavirus has created an environment that has forced society to adjust and as each business and industry adapts, we will likely see that our way of working has been altered for many years to come.
There are regulations and guidelines in place that make it difficult to operate as we once did. As our country begins to re-open as part of its multi-phased approach, we now have a better outlook on how to best conduct our business. The goal is to function in a way that keeps the community safe while still earning revenue. As it stands, some employees are continuing to work from home while others are slowly transitioning back to the workplace. It is now more important than ever to keep the team feeling connected to one another.
Statistics Canada surveyed Canadians during the week of March 22 to 28. During this time, 4.7 million Canadians who do not usually work from home did. In the table below, we see that much of the workforce was ordered to work from home, suggesting that working from home is feasible for a diversity of occupations. There have been many reports that employees feel that they are more productive at home with a higher capacity for work-life balance. Other reports state that Canadians have indicated to be in good mental health at home as individuals are getting more sleep, completing home errands during breaks and spending more time with family members.
Figure 1: Change in main place of work by level of education, Canada, March 22 to March 28, 2020 Source: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200417/t001a-eng.htm
Decision Point is fortunate to reside in Vancouver, Canada where the public health measures put in place have flattened the curve enough to allow for some regular operations to resume. This being said, we have clients in other locations who may not be in the same position. To ease the stresses of an uncertain world, I have compiled some tips and tricks to make working from home enjoyable and keep teams connected virtually around the globe.
In person communication has been largely replaced by more emails, phone calls and video chats. These virtual conversations can make it difficult to interpret non-verbal cues that would usually be present in a face-to-face meeting. Email signoffs may have become repetitive so here is a list of concluding statements to brighten up any correspondence:
I hope you had a great week last week and are starting to find some rhythm and normalcy to your schedule.
Hope you have a great week, and everyone is well in your circles.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend too & enjoy the serenity of no plans or commitments.
I hope you all find time to enjoy the beautiful weather that may be of comfort during this unique and challenging time.
I hope you are well and those you love are staying healthy.
Team morale is another aspect of working from home that is difficult to keep up when members are only connecting virtually on work related duties. In an office environment, casual conversations occur organically at the coffee machine or in the lunchroom. Decision Point has implemented a virtual lunchroom everyday. This provides an optional meeting for the team to discuss non-work related items. Popular topics have included what Netflix series to binge, weekend plans and restaurants to order dinner from that evening. Another implementation is virtual happy hour. This provides a distinct delineation to the work week ending and the weekend beginning. If having a casual discussion during a virtual happy hour may not entice many employees to join, these are some other options to try out:
Create an interactive quiz on a topic related to the company’s industry, office location or general trivia. Kahoot.com provides a free platform to create quizzes for the team to participate in using their smartphones during the virtual hang out.
Enroll in a cocktail class that allows a bartender to join the video call and guide the team through the steps needed to make delicious cocktails. An ingredients list would be sent out to the team beforehand so the items needed can be picked up in advance of the class.
Add a theme to the happy hour to prompt a fun conversation. An easy theme would be for each team member to change their video background to a foreign destination that has been their favourite vacation spot. The team can dress up for these calls and provide a story about the holiday.
Schedule a virtual group fitness class that can provide the team with a way to take a productive break during the day and work up a sweat. A personal trainer can conduct the class via a video call or the team can choose a quick 20-minute YouTube workout to do in the virtual lunchroom together.
To ensure the team feels connected each day, Decision Point has implemented a daily check in call. This kicks off the work day by gathering the team virtually for ten minutes to go through a quick exercise and discuss what the plan is for the day. The reflective exercise is usually a daily gratitude. These are generally personal in nature as we have been given more time to appreciate what we have and where we live. Other exercises that can be implemented in the morning calls are sharing a fun fact, a photo or a favourite recipe. This quick call provides structure to the work day while not taking up a large portion of the morning.
These are some ways to continue to bond as a team and remain productive from home. As this is a new and unprecedented reality, checking in with each other is extremely valuable. During any internal or external call, introductions always begin with asking how the other person is doing that day and how the pandemic has affected their workplace and local community. It is important to acknowledge that this pandemic is affecting every member of society to varying extents. Besides earning revenue, the main goal is to stay healthy and enjoy this time.
Decision Point has re-opened the office for optional attendance, with the space being re-configured to comply with social distancing guidelines. A system has been implemented for team members to book a desk for a specific day and period of time. As we have been working from home since March, the choice of coming into the office is simply to offer team members a change in work environment if needed.
Though this year has not gone as forecasted for businesses and individuals alike, the adaptation that has occurred in our community has been amazing to observe. It has provided us time to understand how to operate productively while remote. There has been more deliberate bonding as a team through virtual activities and check-ins. Lastly, we have had more time to spend connecting with friends and family around the world. As previously mentioned, the Decision Point team has been sharing gratitudes in our daily calls. Each day the thoughts have varied but we have all unanimously been thankful for technology, where we live, food delivery services and the health of those around us. We will continue to adapt as Canada’s multi-phased approach moves forward and implement new ways to further connect as a team and with our clients.