WFH – Readjusted to the New Normal.
WFH – Work From Home
The air is pure now, but wearing a mask is mandatory.
Roads are empty, but can’t go for a long drive.
People have cleaner hands but can’t hold them.
Friends are at home, but can’t meet them.
Alcohol was bad earlier, but alcohol-based sanitizers are a savior now.
Earlier, we used to say ‘be positive’, but now it’s good to stay ‘negative’.
The culprit is all around us, but invisible!
Before Corona days – March 2020
In our EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) industry, working from home has traditionally been frowned upon. We were adamant that reviews, meetings, discussions, checking, and maintaining a hard copy of check prints and MASTER drawings could not be done from home. We were mistaken. We were simply unprepared. It only took one day when the offices were abruptly closed, and we were asked to work from home.
We expected a lockdown, but despite that, just like in Hollywood movies, the city panicked, and offices were abruptly asked to start working from home the next day.
We hurriedly packed our laptops and desktops, grabbed important files, said our goodbyes to our coworkers, and quickly shopped for necessities on the way home.
Honestly, it was an exquisite feeling. No more getting up early in the morning for office, no earlier shower, no more formals clothes, no vending machine tea. I was elated. I always envied IT firms for their WFH culture. Now it was my turn for payback.
WFH (Work from home) – challenges
- The first challenge was to find a quiet spot in the house as well as a workspace. Because this aspect was unplanned, a simple task turned into a herculean one. I was fortunate to get a room to myself, but some colleagues had a difficult time. A few used their dining table, while others placed their desktop computers on the floor, some even used their ironing board and balconies to set up a temporary office.
- The second biggest challenge was related to IT infrastructure. Each one of us had a different internet connection, with varied speed, prolonged power cuts, multiple internet users at home, and managing household chores ourselves amidst work.
- The third challenge was related to work. With a small laptop screen or a single monitor, with no printer around, it was a tedious task to flip between screens and review documents. Furthermore, the quality procedures for soft-checking were not established, which made WFH a daunting task.
- Communication proved to be difficult as well. Even for minor issues, we had to call the person on his cell phone, invite him to an online meeting, share the screen, and resolve issues. A simple 2-minute task now took over 20 minutes.
WFH – Easier said, than doneWFH – Easier said, than done
The first week was horrible. Forget productivity, we weren’t even able to establish a proper working methodology. Slowly, we all understood that even WFH needs discipline.
A few simple tricks like upgrading the internet speed, 15 mins daily online meeting with the entire team in the mornings, establishing review methods in softcopy, and offering flexibility in working hours worked wonders.
Female colleagues needed time off in the afternoon to cook and help kids, bachelors needed to join the office late, a few wanted to start working early morning and end the day early. There were a few who wished to work over the weekend and take early off during the weekdays. Most requests were granted provided it didn’t impact the project schedule.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going!
It was my responsibility as a Lead Engineer to keep my team motivated, challenged, and productive. On my most recent project, I was assigned a relatively younger team, with the majority of members being bachelors.
During covid times, these young men were staying away from their families, managing their food and household chores by themselves, handling stringent project deadlines, and battled homesickness.
I saw my team members maturing within a span of one year. Their sense of responsibility grew with each passing day. We started working as a cohesive team. There were mistakes, which we discussed, reworked, and resolved. We all worked for around 10-12 hours each day during the lockdown. Work-home boundaries blurred but each one of us was motivated, really pumped up to deliver the best results.
It was a difficult year, but the way we all worked together as a team raised the bar to the next level. Skills can be taught, and people can be inspired, and there is no better motivation than recognition for one’s efforts.
I had always preferred skilled and experienced personnel. However, I got young engineers with less experience. I was always concerned about quality issues in deliverables. I am glad my team proved me wrong.
WFH – Motivation helps you start; Habits keeps you going
When the lockdown began, I was overjoyed because I only saw the positives – the comfort of home, hot meals, and more time with family – but as the days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, the desire to return to the office grew stronger.
The sedentary lifestyle at home, coupled with long working hours started taking a toll on my mental and physical health. Slowly, I created a mental schedule and began adhering to it religiously. This allowed me to unwind and maintain my sanity.
Nowadays, I get up on time, meditate, read books, spend time with family, stick to a work routine, and, most importantly, eat home-cooked meals. Spending on frivolous items, junk food, and aimless driving is almost non-existent.
It’s been over a year since lockdown, and I can earnestly say that I am in a better mental frame of mind than I was, when covid-19 began.