Working at Home Through Difficult Times

Lockdown, self-isolation, quarantine… they are all words that weren’t in our everyday vocabulary just a few short weeks ago but are now so sadly commonplace. So, with a new vocabulary comes a new way of thinking, a new way of living, and a new way of working.

There is no doubt the world is facing critical times and no less so in the business world where travel has crashed to a trickle as borders are closed and whole countries are on lockdown. Business travellers affected by coronavirus are having to come up with new ways of staying connected and it is fueled by staying positive during the crisis.

There is one thing that is not in short supply at the moment and that is time. Travel took up so much of our time and while it’s not happening, it can be an ideal time to think creatively. Using time to look for new opportunities, keep contacts updated, and make new contacts through the existing ones can make the difference between success and failure.

New overseas business opportunities can take a long time to find and establish and this might be the ideal period to investigate that avenue. There’s a growing understanding in the world that we are in it together and now more than ever we might be able to open up communication as travel closes down. The most important part of establishing successful business relationships, especially international ones, is to start from a place of respect and acceptance. Taking time to learn about the lands and cultures we are connecting with might not seem high on the agenda for business success but people from all over our planet recognise genuine understanding and interest. It goes a long way toward creating bonds.

A deep relationship that is founded on openness and trust isn’t established overnight and building that up in difficult times can mean a mutual loyalty that lasts. Conversations about planning and strategy can turn business contacts into partners and friends. Talking regularly and effectively and showing a personal as well as a business interest can benefit all involved. The technology has been there for a while now to talk from the comfort of our homes and we might not have made the best use of it. But ´needs must` as the saying goes. The world has become a smaller place due to the ease of travel but with technological advances, the world can fit into our living rooms now!

Remote relationship management is crucial for this new way of doing business. Chat apps such as WhatsApp and Slack and video conferencing apps such as Skype and Zoom mean that workforce and business-client links can still happen. Frequent and open lines of communication will undoubtedly require more planning to avoid communication breakdown within a business. Video calls are more effective than just email or phone calls. We are social creatures and seeing the person we are talking to can help reduce feelings of isolation, something remote workers might feel after a while. Such feelings are not good for us mentally and emotionally and can lead to a lack of motivation and productivity. Apps such as Zoom need not be used solely for work meetings either. Non-agenda meetings or ´zoomialising` over a coffee during work hours can help keep up morale and help that collaborative spirit. Fixed times for video conferencing can be set into the working day. Maintaining these new methods of communication can become increasingly challenging as the days, weeks and months roll on but sticking to a routine will help maintain cohesiveness.

Personal routines are important too. Cutting out commute time can reduce stress and increase energy levels so that more is accomplished from home, but not having this transition time can create problems if not managed properly. Having a designated area for work that is away from areas associated with relaxation is a good start. Having an established time for starting and finishing work is also an effective way of managing enforced remote working. Dressing for work and then changing back into casual wear after work is another suggestion to help switch on and off from work matters. It’s so important to create physical and mental boundaries that establish a clear line between work and home-life that will make working from home productive and even enjoyable.

It’s not one size fits all, so get to know what works best for you in your new working life. Making it clear to others within your workplace and family what your new schedule is and sticking to it, is a good start. However, it requires a certain amount of discipline to work effectively as a full-time remote worker so it will take time and possibly trial and error before you establish what is right for you, your family and your workplace.

At a time when roads are being blocked in some countries to prevent people from travelling, the business world has to work harder at building bridges to ensure future success. Anticipating how our lives and our needs are altering and being ready for when situations change will mean a certain degree of normality can be maintained. Business, as usual, might not be on the agenda for many, but business, as circumstances permit, is seeing results.

More than ever, it is crucial we plan today and help towards a better tomorrow.