As I wrap up this series, I want to leave you with some general thoughts that I hope will help both companies and individuals as we continue navigating COVID-19 and beyond.
No one has all the answers. As we navigate each day through this crisis, we need to equip ourselves by having the correct mindset around what is happening in the world. I am not referring to having a positive attitude of “I am fine” or “everything will be okay.” That is important but not enough.
It is necessary to monitor and adjust how we are thinking through this pandemic. It is necessary to have the mindset of “we are in a time of tremendous upheaval, and yes, it is scary, and no one knows how long this will last or how we will be after this is over.” Accept what is. Then take a look at what we—companies and individuals—can do to manage how we act and react to this crisis. In other words, control what you can: your thoughts, fears, and worries.
No previous rulebook could have imagined this scenario because it is unprecedented. Companies need to accept this and now create new rules as they go along. But keep in mind that plans need to be flexible because it is NEVER possible to follow any plan to the letter.
In running software projects through the years, my team would define a requirement and then must change it down the line as another issue and a solution broke the previous solution. “Agile methodology” style of working is not just for projects; it applies to how companies also need to think. There will always be unforeseen events that necessitate changes along the way; accept that, and a company can be as nimble as possible in navigating the twist and turns of any crisis.
If a company was not good at forecasting or adjusting quickly to market forces, this is an even bigger struggle for them now, but not insurmountable. They are now presented with an opportunity to decide how they want to grow and change out of this crisis. COVID-19 has made glaringly clear on many levels what is wrong with nations’ policies, healthcare systems, supply chains, and corporate cultures and infrastructures.
If a company chooses to hold onto the ways that are not working going forward, that would be unfortunate, to say the least. If they choose to use this crisis to re-evaluate operations and mindset in order to fix what is broken or in need of improvement, they will emerge better companies and better for their employees.
Companies should examine in what areas this crisis has caught them unprepared. These areas should be made a priority to address. Determine what has to change, what would be nice to change, and what cannot change right now but should in the long run. That will immediately outline a plan of action and a place to start.
If workers are not encouraged to think for themselves or must be micro-managed, this is due to lack of proper training at the company level and fed into by an educational system that focuses on rote learning and conformity at a national level. At the corporate level new training should be instituted to support employee development in skills and self-motivation and management.
Technology issues plaguing companies of all sizes need to be analyzed and resolved as soon as possible. This is an area that will allow for even the simplest solution to have a large impact on business processes and efficiencies.
Being at home or in a non-conventional office workspace can be challenging at first, but it can be very productive, efficient, affordable, and worthwhile as well as convenient once processes are established.
My office can be anywhere as long as I have basic equipment such as my laptop and good connectivity. I have worked in Starbucks (I believe the tech revolution would not have happened if it weren’t for Starbucks, but that is another story), libraries, airport lounges, planes, in my car, on a beach, and once on a sailboat.
My mindset is if the work is due, I will get it done wherever I am. We in technology know this. We know it is not the location where you do the work that is important, but your skills and your capabilities in doing that work. If we do not do the work, there will be consequences, like losing our jobs. If you are in a proper office setting and do not do your work, it is the same consequence as if you are in a non-office setting and do not do your work.
Of course, you could get a little lonely working from home and will miss your time with coworkers, but it is up to you to put steps into place to resolve that. “Self-discipline” is a word I use often because it is what will serve you best. If you need someone constantly to be over your shoulder forcing you to work, then you will have a problem.
Just like with companies, individual employees can use this time to re-evaluate and determine their problem areas and seek ways to improve going forward.
I do understand that some companies do not always support independent thinking, and that is definitely part of the overall problem. Working from home forces workers to have more autonomy and employ self-discipline in their workday. This takes time to get used to, but it must be done. Even the smallest change in mindset can have a great impact.
A small idea for tips and tricks on working from home turned into a series of 15 posts. I hope that the articles have resonated with you and your work situation and helped in some way. Thank you very much your readership, questions, and feedback.
Susan and I are brainstorming on possible new series to help address the needs of her subscribers/followers during this time. We will keep you posted. If you have topic suggestions for us, please let us know by sending an email to email@example.com.
With a background of ten years living in Japan and almost 20 years of experience working with remote teams worldwide, Yvonne Burton, president of Burton Consulting International, provides services including Technology Consulting, Business Communications courses, and Cross-Cultural Training to Japanese firms operating internationally and companies operating in the Japanese market. To learn more about Yvonne and her work, please visit burtonconsulting.biz.
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