“We used to work from home, now we live at work”
I read this article published a few weeks ago in the Financial Times with great interest to try to understand why there has been a huge rejection of teleworking and the new way of working set up during the pandemic. In the months of April and May, the percentage of people suffering from mental problems and serious fatigue increased and it would be interesting to see if the cause is due to telework or simply telework misapplied by necessity.
Obviously, the confinement put us all to the test, since feeling deprived of freedom, not being able to continue with a normal life and having to stay at home, can trigger feelings of anxiety at first; But once the situation was assimilated, seeing the whole world in the same circumstances and understanding that being responsible was the only way to save lives, that anxiety must have given way to an ‘uncomfortable’ state of calmness and anticipation of it coming to an end.
Then we tried to begin again, with children, parents and sometimes grandparents going back from our living room to school, university and work. And the adaptation was obviously not easy, it could generate stress again, but it was an essential requirement to move forward and achieve apparent normality. And this is where I think the first problem comes: believing that what we did during confinement and the successive semi-lockdown was ‘telework’.
During those early months the only thing we sought was to survive and prevent the world coming to a standstill. Those of us who could, put great effort into working from home and those who had to go to their workplaces did so by adapting to the new measures, with everyone affected by the virus fighting to save themselves.
But the truth is that nothing of what we have experienced or what we are still living through is a normal situation. We have not implemented telework naturally, but under obligation, so clearly a solution that opens up great opportunities has been confused with a kind of ordeal.
I am a strong advocate of telecommuting, under normal circumstances. Four years ago at HRF we took that step and we have verified that it is really beneficial and that any shortcomings in the running of the day to day business can be filled by learning to manage this new model little by little. Before the pandemic, I visited the office, changing countries, once a month or every two months, and goal-setting meetings were held once a week. The rest of the time it’s all about trusting, trusting, and trusting. And then work, work and work.
One of the main complaints from those who have felt “burned out” and “stressed” with this new situation is that “before we used to work from home and now we live at work.” These people felt nervous if they did not answer an email immediately or if they did not respond to a call at 7am … And there comes the following erroneous belief: that now your workspace is your living room, you cannot switch off once you have finished your day’s work, so you live under the constant pressure of not being able to show that you are sitting there fulfilling your role.
Neither should pressure come from management, nor the worker feel questioned and insecure all the time. The relationship must remain the same as it was in the office, except that at home the responsibility for work is down to the individual. You are the one with the obligation to work a full day without having to be supervised, you are the one who must work efficiently throughout the day, so the home routine shouldn’t be very different to that of the office. In short, you have greater control of your time and you must learn to manage it well without neglecting your professional development. The misnamed ‘teleworking’ that has served as a temporary fix in many companies all these months and that most likely has not been implemented as it should, must not cloud the opportunities that this new working model offers us.
Teleworking is the sum of “time management” + “individual responsibility”. If the entire team can understand this from the highest position to the lowest and the climate is trustworthy, I predict a great future, because there are more and more companies, and ours is one of them, that can prove that it works.