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Working from Home in the New Normal

Professional Development

Working from Home in the New Normal

By Mohan Iyer, Principal Consultant, FSCP Solutions Inc.

This is not a brief on how to manage and experience excellent productivity while working from home; it is a treatise on how working from home affects you as a person. So I am not proposing an approach for managing your days—rather, this short read might give you some pointers on how not to manage your time.

First of all, a warm thank you and deep appreciation from the bottom of my heart to those who are fighting for the rest of us in dealing with the aftermath of this COVID-19 pandemic. And, heartfelt condolences to those who have lost a near and dear one due to this medical calamity.

Working from Home (or WFH in common parlance) has been something employees have been doing for much longer than most people are aware; but in this current scenario, everyone has to be in that position. Enviable or not is a matter of perspective.

Working from Home is different from offsite work, remote work, or other derivatives of this kind of support/mechanism to get work done.

WFH, as it is commonly referred to (and is most often displayed on our calendars for reference), is a completely different mindset and requires a different set of rules—for you, your colleagues, collaborators, and team.

As the current medical crisis deepens and this method of work is being forced upon all of us, it is imperative that we understand how to navigate this new mode of work and how it will impact our projects.

Traditional Project Practices

In most cases, project and work teams would rather not deal with a request for WFH, insisting on having the full team in either the office or another controlled work environment. Also known as co-locating, shared office or production spaces have traditionally been viewed as the best way to manage and promote efficient team communication. It is not a choice for many.

Having a common location has its advantages, and in most cases gives the manager/team lead a sense that they are in control of the team and what they are doing. The project managers and leads can walk around and visit with the team, often in an unstructured manner, apart from project track and team reviews. At times, managers can gain valuable project insights and get faster knowledge of project issues and concerns. However, regardless of location, in most projects the project manager (or team lead) is managing deliverables while requiring the team members to work toward a time-bound deliverable for its successful conclusion that also needs to be conveniently gauged and tracked.

Unfortunately, this organized process is not necessarily commonplace, and many project managers do not follow through to achieve their goal. Don't get me wrong; all project managers are interested in deliverables! But tracking a project in relation to deliverables without regard to the methodology is a difficult task. Skillfully managing a project requires practice and experience with appropriately identified milestones. Having a methodology in common is what can lead to better quality deliverables and better project results. A shared methodology gives more importance to the project onboarding processes, which in turn helps to ensure the use of common methods and consistent deliverables.

In contrast, very few project managers say, “As long as you finish this task in X days; I am not interested in how you get there.”

Today's Situation

Having said that, the WFH scenario for your project team now has become the only method to drive deliverables. This is a legitimate challenge. Meanwhile, here are a few tips to help with your current work challenges in a safe and sane manner for you, your team, and your family!

Figure 1. Consider the following tips for creating a new routine

Here are another few pointers to consider during this mode of working:

  • Optimize your space (and webcam image).
  • Mute when you are not talking.
  • Keep calls focused and short.
  • Close the door (or find a secluded place), if you can.
  • It doesn't have to always be a video call!
  • Having a desk and comfortable chair is essential.

Other team members on the call should be provided with an opportunity to participate. Also remember that networks often exhibit “lag.” Responses and discussions are not as fluid as in- person meetings. Much more patience is required!

Family members, pets and non-project activities may interrupt a conference call; this is part of the WFH experience. Expect it to happen!

And not everyone has a fast internet connection!

Here are a few thoughts on what WFH is doing to the project:

  • It is always project work time - the split between office and home is not apparent!
  • What happens to work-life balance?
  • Planning your time is important; include appropriate breaks so you can maintain focus.
  • You have to eat! And include time to stretch and get away from the screen and work.
  • You don’t have to walk to another meeting – just switch to another call! (Another reason to build in exercise.)

And above all:

  • Respect team members’ desire to have time with family.

I leave you here with these thoughts to ponder in the coming weeks of shelter-at-home life.

Please visit the OATUG web-site to review all the virtual sessions that the OATUG and SIG groups are putting together for the benefit of the OATUG members.

See you all online!

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Mohan Iyer

Mohan Iyer

Mohan has more than 20 years’ experience in system implementations with the last 15 years implementing Oracle Financials. He has a strong background in Finance and Accounting – having had these as his major in college. He has an Accounting degree from the University of Bombay (Mumbai), India. He lives in California with his wife.