As COVID-19 is pushing more and more of us to work from home, we are entering an unprecedented remote-working experiment. Of course, we have all once in a while worked at home, in order to focus on a report or an assignment which needs finishing for instance. But that was usually for a day every now and then. And it was usually by choice. This time, we have to work from home, every day, and for an undetermined period of several weeks or even months.
Luckily, working for UNDP, we are fortunate to have a whole range of digital tools at our disposal to manage this transition, including access to Zoom accounts, DocuSign, etc. Nonetheless, as a manager of a large team of 25-30 persons, I couldn’t help but feel that, I needed to do more to support my colleagues in this difficult time and ensure that the team remains connected and performant. According to a recent study, 20% of remote workers cited “collaboration and communication” as their biggest struggle with working remotely. Another 20% cited “loneliness”. And on top of it, colleagues are nowadays also anxious about keeping safe and healthy.
In this context, I found that helping the team to keep morale and stay connected was my first priority. After ten days of enforced telecommuting, we seem to be doing well. Our 15-30 min Zoom team catch-up every morning has helped, a good way to start the day together and motivate ourselves. We use games (quiz about COVID-19) on Zoom, we had a photo competition (what makes staying at home 24/7 more bearable, see collage below), we have a Whatsapp group which we use to share and discuss stress management tips, how to keep fit and healthy, etc. A main difference between working in the office and working at home is not having the brief daily interactions when we see each other in the corridors, at the lift, in the kitchen, etc. We replaced that by asking colleagues to initiate Zoom chats with each other – thereby also making sure that everyone knows how to create a Zoom meeting link. Out of sight does not mean out of mind.
While we seek business continuity and deploy our best efforts to continue to implement our existing projects, we have to acknowledge that this can no longer be business as usual. In addition to the COVID-19 response, our team also needs to review our projects and activities in light of the current situation and see what changes are needed to address emerging challenges. As usual, when there are challenges, there are also opportunities – now is a great time to further promote e-governance for instance.
Extraordinary circumstances are pushing us to learn and innovate more quickly than we normally would. We are reinventing the way we work, including the way we manage our teams.