Working from home during lockdown was certainly a challenge, but there were also a lot of things we learnt that we could hopefully take back with us to the workplace. Below are some of those lessons.
1. Challenge the status quo
“Because we’ve always done it this way” is not a new thing. In fact, it has been criticised for years, yet it still abounds in many workplaces. If someone had told us in January that the way we worked in 2020 would change as dramatically as it has, we would never have believed them. Yet it did change—as did we.
Change is hard, and it is harder when it is voluntary rather than enforced due to a pandemic. But that is not a good enough excuse to avoid being the best we can be.
2. Busy is not the same as productive
Coming into 2020, we were all so busy. Talking about how busy/tired/stressed we all were was like a badge of honour. If only we had known what was coming next! Working from home with new “co-workers” and juggling the varying demands of online schooling has been hard. But having less time available to work can have benefits, including greater focus and reduced procrastination. Let’s work smarter, not harder.
3. Business travel needed a rethink
Many people believe that business travel will never be the same again. It is hard to see a scenario where we all go back to “normal” when some companies are actually seeing dramatic financial benefits to having zero business travel. Face-to-face meetings will always have their place, but the days of regularly jumping on a plane for a two-hour appointment are surely over.
4. You can’t put a value on collaboration
The long-term effects of lockdown working are yet to be observed, but there have been a few studies in the past on widespread homeworking. Productivity initially can increase—just think of all that time saved by not commuting and having the office literally in your own home. But there are longer-term reductions in intangible outcomes, such as innovation and productivity. It turns out that little things like water-cooler chats, catch-ups over lunch, or conversations overheard in passing all add up to bigger things.
5. Help others
Speaking of collaboration, helping others improves outcomes on every level. The recipient improves their potential, the giver feels better about themselves and is viewed more positively, and a better end-product is achieved. In the future, the recipient is more likely to either repay the favour or to pay it forward to someone else, allowing the cycle to continue.
6. Diversity matters
Recent global conversations on race have brought the issue of diversity in the workplace to the forefront of our minds. They have changed the way many see diversity as a whole. Going forward, we all need to embrace a more diverse and inclusive workplace, understanding the value that our collective differences can bring.
7. (Actual) face time is overrated
We should be past the days of making sure we spend “enough” time in the office and not leaving until after the boss. We should be way past all that, but we are not. While no one liked being locked up in the house all day, there was something liberating about not having to be in the office all the time. Companies and employees alike are realising that a person doesn’t have to be in the office to be doing their best work.
8. But people time is not
On the other hand, people need people. Regardless of our personality types and traits, we crave human interactions. We need face-to-face interaction to pick up on non-verbal cues and, not to mention, a break from spending even more time on screens. We need people to celebrate and commiserate with. We need them to brainstorm with us and keep us going when that deadline is looming.
9. Good mental health = higher productivity
Mental health concerns during lockdown were at an all-time high, with people worried about extroverts needing human contact and introverts needing personal space. Fears were raised about increases in domestic violence and self-harm. Coming out of lockdown doesn’t mean those problems will magically go away, or, indeed, that they were never a problem in the first place. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a happy and healthy workforce equals a more successful business. If we have learnt anything from lockdown, let it be to take care of ourselves and other people.