One thing is making an office of the home. The other is humanising the remote conversations to ensure that nothing is lost in translation, er…telecommuting. Throw in isolation to the mix and WFH gets harder for some, says Singapore-based, Prachi Panda. Which makes check-ins the new icebreakers in her routine of video calls. 

While many say that they are more busy in this lockdown phase than ever before, with back-to-back calls, through lunch and work hours extended deep into the evenings, the moot point is: Does WFH crank up productivity?

It is too early for Deepa Soman to say of her research and consultancy business. While her mid-sized company has been one of the early adopters of technology, face-to-face communication is extremely valuable, carrying a deeper connect. Counterbalancing social distancing with emotional connection has been her solution to ensure motivation during this lockdown. Zoom calls don’t only ring in the opening and closing bell at her office in Mumbai. Fitness and wellness activities involving kids, spouse and parents form a part of the drill. 

Heather Saville Gupta has been trying to get the topic of flexible work options on the table for a long time. With no loss of efficiency and reports coming in that the employees are managing WFH productively, she is observing to see how this change will impact behaviour. The other tweak she wants to make mainstream is to divest productivity from line-of-sight and the hours to-the-clock. The pandemic, she is optimistic and certain, will accelerate new, flexible working options. As an HR professional at a leading Mumbai-based creative agency, she is particularly keen to evaluate the benefits and grasp the challenges of a decentralised, home-based employee system. 

While Heather is enjoying her WFH tenure with a dollop of patience on one side and family demands on the other, her single-minded endeavour is to ensure that teams remain strong and are well-supported. With team meetings, training sessions and L&D activities all gone virtual, she is considering cheering to online coffee shots and cyber pizza parties. All in the spirit of engagement and energy. 

In remote working rests a sensitive challenge—the lack of human touch. Doubling up with social distancing in these Covidian times, this human challenge poses a serious threat to business and the individual. 

Not new to WFH, Zarina Stanford, who misses personal interaction, offers an insight. This is the time when over communicating, she advises, is necessary to compensate for the lack of human engagement. Especially with those colleagues who are introspective and introverts. While team meetings continue online, which cloud do the water cooler chats move to? Camaraderie comes in the form of virtual lunches, remote birthday celebrations and online social meetups, Zarina says. For Krusha Sahajwani Malkani, it is cyber wine and cheese. WFH helps when the founder of the company she works in is French. 

While the typical components of a project involve expectation setting, allocation of responsibilities, ownership of deliverables, business in the times of a global lockdown means deeper engagement, augmented monitoring and flexibility of working schedules. This, with the ongoing and online encouragement, thanksgiving and acknowledgment of small wins, makes the motivational blueprint that Abhilasha Jha has in place for the dispersed leadership and teams of her company.

Being human was never more emphasised.

(The article is part of a series of perspectives as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown. Click here for the first article.)