Type of Work Being Done

Computer-based work is something most persons would be familiar with, once their job requires computer-based applications. Notwithstanding, organisations have had a rough couple of weeks of trying to get group collaboration and digitized work processes up and running – Zoom was a big winner at the onset, alongside WhatsApp groups and other cloud-based applications. Others have had to take different approaches consistent with their work demands and affinities. However, commonly occurring challenges include the inability of persons to effectively manipulate the software to their purposes.

Where work has been newly digitized, persons can expect design flaws alongside insufficient training resources for manipulating the software effectively. Should this manifest as a recent or recurring problem, the attitude and tone of response can have a significant impact. I would be the first to acknowledge this is usually an individual attitudinal issue – and is contingent on many factors at the organizational, supervisor and individual-worker levels. However, the common problem is that for some firms, the movement of work and performance to an entirely digital, remote workplace brings with it some transition issues that affect all stakeholders.

Positive Attitude: Complaining about the scenario would evoke a radically different response from your audience than someone who shows more understanding of the situation, tolerance for ‘works-in-progress’ and commitment to get through this as a team. In this time of crisis across all sectors and levels, however, being someone that helps steer the team through the challenges faced is an opportunity to demonstrate your readiness to play a more central role in the organisation and its direction – along with the benefits that accompany them. Consider for example making a log of issues, challenges and obstacles that you think compromise the ability of the team to be effective, or proposing alternative solutions that can help to stem the recurrence of problems. This can include the timings in which meetings are scheduled, the platform that is being used, or there may be some aspects of the digital artefacts (such as the cloud storage folder being used or digital versions of previously paper-based documents).

Learning to Overcome: the imposition of new technologies and platforms would require persons to firstly ensure effective access, and secondly become familiar with the new tool-kit which they are required to use. Effective access translates into selecting the right platform for purposes, and ensuring that what the platform requires is available to everyone on the team. Where there are outliers without all the necessary requirements, provisions or alternative work policies would be required to be put in place. For example, for one school, classes were moved to online classrooms, and for those students where resources were not immediately available, an alternative method of preparing a printed packet of the work requirements was put in place for their access. No one was left behind, and although this proved more cumbersome to coordinate, it meant each person was afforded the same opportunity for progression and work.

Beyond effective access, each new software brings its own learning curve, and others would be required to wrestle with the features, functions and use-cases until manipulating them becomes second-nature. To this end, what is emerging is a two-fold dynamic that warrants attention – some persons express preference for 1 brand of software over another (e.g. 1 video-conferencing or cloud-storage platform over another), which may not be aligned to other persons’ preferences. A stated criteria for selection becomes a useful tool to help manage the associated fallout – and can include technical fit alongside intuitive design, ease of use, equipment resource demands, costs, flexibility in accommodating different needs, etc. The explicit criteria for selection would help everyone be aligned to, and buy-into the final decision made, or conversely would allow persons to source perhaps even more effective tools for which the organisation can benefit.

The Use of (& Need For) Meetings: Up to this point, meetings were used for all types of reasons – from brainstorming ideas to bringing everyone on the same page, to avoiding speaking to a single individual… many were unnecessary and most were ineffective in the results generated. In an online, remote-work environment, some persons may well try to replicate the traditional role of meetings using video-conferencing platforms. However, given that persons would be working at different times during the day, from different environments and while managing different roles, meetings may not be the most pragmatic basis for ongoing engagement of a team.

In a scenario where persons are working independently and remotely, virtual meetings are being used to (1) agree on the outcomes and their due dates, and (2) monitor performance and progress towards the outcome. Digitally, the agile methodology has been a significant contributor to this work arrangement, and having a progress map (that shows individual and entire team’s progress in real-time or near-time) helps persons to manage their individual performance asynchronously working towards a deadline.

Rocking that To-Do List: In the absence of a governing office environment, self-driven work in the face of distractions in the home and online might be too difficult for some, and this triggers negative effects that can affect self-esteem and worth, enthusiasm and morale, or even the patience and tolerance to cope with isolated work environment. One of the most effective approaches is managing yourself as a worker – at the start of each day capture all that you intend to work on and complete for that day. Having segmented your day into time-sets, you can prioritize tasks and assign them to the various time-sets as you see fit. In this way, you are managing your time by establishing set times to achieve set outcomes. This of course is all relative – you would go over time in some areas and complete other areas sooner than expected – which is fine. But it means that you have a constant feed of tasks that are working on, taking it day-by-day. Before you know it, the week evaporated and you achieved x-much more, or got soo much closer to your goal.

Many espouse use of tools and apps to help you through this, and this may work for some; for others, the use of technology might place them too close to distractions competing for their interests. Picture it – on your way into your To-Do list app of choice on your phone, you receive an IG notification and step in to check that out, only to be sucked into a 2-hour browsing session that takes you to a TikToc video of a 20-year old spraying a cat with coke… If the temptation is too great, consider using a notepad or notebook (as in the literal item, not its digital brand equivalent), and have your lists and your workplan done by day / project as proves best-suited.