Siberian huskies like to howl. They particularly like to howl in the morning when they first see you and their howls are loud and long. Real “Call of the Wild” stuff. They seem particularly loud and long when they are unleashed during your first remote Monday morning staff meeting with 35 of your co-workers listening to you trying to lead a discussion during extraordinary circumstances. And thus, the Everyone-is-Working-From-Home-Now adventure began.
I have been the division manager of our Las Vegas office for around five years now and have worked at Broadbent for a total of 28. While the recession in 2008 was not fun for anyone, particularly in boom or bust Las Vegas, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic feels very different. Not surprising when the stakes are life and death. But at least in 2008, we could commiserate with each other in the office. Now it can be easy to feel like we are on our own.
I will be the first to admit that we are fortunate at our company. Very much so. Fully 75% of our staff can work from home and the other 25% (our field staff) are performing essential services and feel relatively comfortable out in the world since they work almost exclusively alone. So, this discussion of working from home comes with an incredibly important caveat; we are lucky to have work to perform.
But it is not without challenges. Balky internet. Children out of school with little to do. Eating and working on the same dining room table. Driving the spouse a little crazy by your endless presence. Isolation and loneliness. But after two months of quarantine, I am going to pretend that I learned a few things and, for what they are worth, here they are:
- Trust your IT people. Of course, I don’t understand what they are talking about most of the time, but good ones are worth their weight in gold. I’m not sure when I am going to be able to give our IT guy a great big hug, but, to his certain dismay, it will happen sometime soon.
- Check in with your co-workers. Everyone is dealing with this situation in their own way and it’s not always the people that you think would struggle that need help. Keep an open mind and be sure to listen.
- Communication is key. For the last month, we have prepared a weekly e-mail update regarding the virus, what we are doing to address it, and some direction for the near future. The feedback we have gotten has been positive so far.
- Working from home often requires a stricter work / life balance. When possible, I will get up from my dining room table (my current “office”) and take a one-hour lunch break with no e-mail or text messages. And once I have shut it down for the evening, I try to stay away from work until the following morning.
- Finally, that whole “staying away from work until the following morning” concept does not always work during a global pandemic. I need to stay in touch 24 hours a day at this time. But the principle is sound!
So, there it is. Nothing too profound, but some suggestions that could conceivably help. I hope everyone out there is as safe as possible and that we can all appreciate where we came from in light of how we are currently forced to be.