Bev Shah: The accidental working from home experiment – part 1

City Hive's Bev Shah explores the adjustment to working from home

City Hive’s CEO and co-founder and editorial panellist for ESG Clarity Bev Shah says the adjustment to WFH is more than simply plugging in your laptop

This situation we find ourselves in is a by-product of a global crisis and not the well-resourced, planned and executed Working from Home revolution so many of us have campaigned for.    

Ask anyone who works from home on a regular basis successfully and they will tell you there is an art to doing it right, and not the science of simply plugging in your laptop. Often it will involve more than just walking to another part of your home and switching your computer and brain on. There are certain rituals that need to be performed, a sort of mental commute, that will ease you into the day as you would in the office, so you are highly focused and ready to produce impactful work.

Usually, when working from home, you are trading a noisy bustling office full of multiple interruptions, for more serene quieter surroundings that allow you the headspace to think clearly and produce work effectively in a short period of time.

See also – WFH with City Hive’s Bev Shah

However, we are now asking our entire workforce to work successfully from home surrounded by our families, flatmates, partners, noisy children or loneliness. We are asking them to do this when they have never done it before and if they have not for long periods of time.  We are asking them to ensure our companies survive past this crisis and the economic crisis that is to follow, while their movement is restricted and they are full of fear not only because their own future is uncertain but so is the health of their families and friends colleagues and the entire globe.

Here are some of tips we are sharing with our City Hive’s corporate members on how to support your staff.

Clear Communication

In uncertain times people need certainty.  Things that you may have thought were a given assumption when everyone was jostling together in the office no longer are.  So, ensure to cascade information around to everyone.  Facts are much less damaging then rumour and will ease anxieties even if they are bitter to read.

Build Team Spirit

Schedule weekly team bonding time separate from other video calls so when you do have ‘virtual meetings’ your team can focus on what needs to be discussed and not deviate.  It is important for people to have a set time for when they can discuss their emotions and experiences of the crisis but you will be more productive if you do not go down the rabbit hole every time you have a call and instead have a scheduled time to do this.  This could be over Thursday night virtual beers on House Party or it could be on a Monday morning for example.  1-2-1 virtual coffee catchups with colleagues, instead of face to face coffee catch-ups, are also good.  Often these are with people in different teams with no project overlap so may not seem important in this current period, but are crucial for information flow and morale.

Invest in your staff with training

Cultivating impactful teams who are novices to working from home is difficult.  So, invest in training that will give them the guidance they need.  Interactive webinars are a good cost-effective way to provide the guidance and support they may need building skills, confidence and resilience.

Part 2 of this opinion piece will be published next week.

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Natalie Kenway

Natalie is global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist for 16 years. She won Editor of the Year at the Aviva Investors Sustainability Media Awards 2021, and was Winner...