The coronavirus outbreak has led many companies to close their offices for the foreseeable future, and for the majority, the only possibility to maintain “normal” business activities has been to work from home. Before mandatory lockdown procedures were put in place, working from home was either a personal choice or a privilege; it has now become a necessity. Motley Crue could practically rewrite their famous song and release it as “Home Sweet Office” to fit today’s reality!
Some of us were already familiar with working remotely, but others had hardly ever, or even never, done so prior to shelter-in-place orders. The pandemic made self-isolation a necessary consequence, and I think it is safe to say that the beginning of 2020 was devoted to the adaptation.
As it stands currently, all companies are impacted by the coronavirus lockdown in one way or another, and the supply chain software industry is no exception. It is crucial to adapt supply chain processes and planning methods to mitigate the negative impacts of sudden and drastic changes. Seemingly overnight, it was necessary to anticipate any and all repercussions in demand, production, and distribution planning as quickly and efficiently as possible. Many contracts were put on hold or postponed, and in this situation, to enhance business resilience, the contribution of each team member played a crucial role. As lockdown procedures worldwide evolved, employees were able to reap the benefits of remote work whilst maintaining a steady workload and avoiding additional health risks. During this time, companies observed a boost in employees’ productivity while reducing organizational costs in order to keep the lights on. I assume we all might be missing our coffee breaks with colleagues, as well as the other benefits and shared experience of working in an open space office. At the same time, we have to remember that COVID-19 and its inherent dangers are still very much present, and in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones after the end of the strict quarantine, it is very important to continue to be careful and respect the precaution rules.
Due to the unprecedented nature of the Coronavirus lockdown, many surveys were conducted to tap into the attitudes and perceptions of those working from home. I found the most interesting of the statistics in a survey based on nearly 700 people teleworking who were asked about advantages and challenges of working from home.
Source: Full Poll Results: Telework in the Time of COVID-19:
A survey of nearly 700 people telecommuting during the Covid-19 pandemic asked about advantages and challenges of working from home. Full results of the survey, conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management.
During the lockdown period, the HR division from our corporate offices in California organized the “QAD Olympic Games” as a way to boost employee morale and bring QADers together worldwide. The idea of this challenge was to encourage all participants to track their own physical activities every day for one month. The teams were able to designate a charitable organization of their choice, and QAD pledged to make a donation to the top three teams. Our multi-national, but French coached team “Planning to be Fit” won a silver medal during these virtual Olympic Games, and a $2000 donation was made on our behalf to UNICEF. I can assure you that such team-building initiatives are very motivating and encouraging, even remotely! It was an amazing experience to have been part of. Although the team building looked a bit different than what we are all used to, we have to admit that the world coming out of the coronavirus lockdown is different and ever-changing. Even while adapting to a new reality and being physically distant, this challenge was ample proof that it is still possible to generate positive and amazing team spirit and to keep going and to continue to look for creative ways to innovate.
Thanks to ever-evolving technologies, we can continue to work and be effective with video conferences (Hangouts, Zoom, Skype etc), programs and applications that make screen and control sharing possible, and proceeding with workshops for many participants with drawing diagrams remotely using Cloud technologies. I personally encountered this when providing support for a new customer during the beginning of lockdown procedures. In normal conditions, building customer relationships is not always simple, but even more so when you have never met personally or spoken before. I would say that it is quite challenging to start a relationship with a customer remotely, but another example of how we need to adapt to this ever-changing, new normal. Body language is a key element to effective communication with customers and team members, and during exchanges via email or even by phone, it can be quite difficult to pick up on such details. This is why in my experience, I prefer to organize a short video-conference for new customers, when I can get more information about the customer, the project, and the way they prefer to work.
Frankly speaking, I also found that I had a much harder time setting work boundaries, and my work days often crept into my free time… however this is something I should personally work on!
Lastly, I think we should not underestimate the ecological impact of remote work, as it has shown to have nearly entirely positive impacts. Working from home helps us avoid what can oftentimes be a long and onerous commute to work. It is a very good question to ask ourselves if whether in this new, post–COVID19, world, we will be able to work from anywhere. If this becomes more and more of a possibility, we might expect the effect of geographic flexibility to less expensive regions, and perhaps not the end to urbanization, but at least a significant reduction in its growth. I believe that this will continue to be an ongoing discussion, and there are still many questions left to be answered. I, however, know that I definitely do not miss the time I spent sitting in the traffic jams!