The IAPM Vice President's thoughts on the challenges of working from home

The spread of the Corona virus poses new challenges for me, as for all of us. What I used to practice only in exceptional cases is now becoming the norm – namely working from home. This protects me and my health is maintained, but at the same time I am under mental stress. There is some pressure on my company and our projects, but also my colleagues are facing new challenges due to the unknown circumstances.
Woman waves to her laptop.
When working in an enclave
  • the meaningfulness of work can quickly fade away,
  • the necessary technology is unfamiliar and unfortunately very often is not working as desired,
  • structures and procedures that have been established and which are well-known must be adapted, rethought, and implemented in some cases,
  • personal interactions are no longer in the focus.

All this results in a loss of communication and coordination.
First of all, I would like to take a look at the options available for supporting my employees as a manager. The importance of my employee's work has hopefully not changed due to the pandemic. I have to emphasise this to my employees. As a manager, I can clearly set priorities. At the same time, I can appreciate that my employees have to work with restrictions from home and perhaps additional pressure arises due to the full-time presence of their families. These insights help me as a manager to deal with the new situation in a more realistic way.
It is important to keep up the dialogue and figure out what is on my employees’ minds. Is the infrastructure suitable and is the available technology adequate to get through the day? Are the children well taken care of? Are there places of retreat for my employees? Can they work undisturbed? I have to find out how I can support my employees.
There is no need to reinvent the company or our projects just because work patterns have changed! Many structures and processes that have proven so far will also be functional when working from home. Probably only small adjustment or modification is necessary. Fortunately, we already have routines in this area. Routine work means continuous work. This structure and stability give me and my team the important sense of security in times of pandemic and quarantine, contact restrictions and curfews.
It is vital that I stay in contact with my employees, e.g. by means of a daily web conference. In this way we show each other that we are all present, even if we don't meet in the office five days a week.
My employees decide on their own how to work from home.  But even in this situation, we can work together to develop some innovative ideas for modeling and improving the daily work routine.
By working from home, we have more space for shaping our tasks and actions. However, the entire situation can easily and quickly get out of hand. Unexpectedly we are exposed to distractions and arbitrariness. It is therefore important to set limits consciously to avoid unnecessary stress. The ability to prioritise work packages independently can already generate new energy. Let's define activity fields and determine time frames for working on these activity fields. What shall we accomplish today? What is the time frame for this? When do we want to or have to attend a web conference or make a phone call? What work can be organised into a meaningful bundle? All these questions are helpful for structuring the workday, for setting boundaries and for achieving results. It is not the intention that is decisive, but the action which counts!
For this we need sufficient time and must not be constantly disturbed or interrupted. In this regard, working from home offers outstanding potential, at least if the workspace can be kept isolated. Where to find the necessary retreat? Can this place of retreat be converted into a workplace? A workplace that may be small but without private objects, which allows you to immerse yourself in your work and which helps you to achieve a good result?
Now that I am the manager of my office and my new working environment in my home, I am also responsible for creating a balance to my work! I take breaks deliberately. On a regular basis! During these breaks I recover, have a good and healthy diet, take a deep breath, and get some fresh air. Taking a 30-minute nap can also be a good idea
Now the only thing left to do is to hope that we can achieve what we have planned and that we stay healthy.

Yours sincerely,
Roland Ottmann

Keywords: Working, Workspace, Guide

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