Working from Home Discoveries
Talking with 17 people about working from home during COVID-19
Voices behind the numbers
The amount of media, data, and statistics around the COVID-19 induced working from home phenomenon is a bit overwhelming. Plus, most figures are sterile and soulless. You can't "get to know" a statistic. So we asked ourselves, what if we were to take a human-first approach?
In March we challenged ourselves to engage in real conversations with people around the world adjusting to this new normal. Our conversation guide included prompting questions such as:
What kind of support does your employer give you to do your job well from home?
How do you feel about your ability to take care of your health and well-being in this new context?
How are you doing now, versus before COVID-19 and widespread “shelter in place” or lock-down orders?
Over the course of 10 days, we spoke to 17 individuals in Belgium, China, and the United States.
What people said that didn’t surprise us.
“Honestly, not having to drive into work in the morning is awesome. I have so much extra time. I don't feel stressed out.” Nearly half our sample group spoke about enjoying the extra time in the morning and evening without their commutes. Quotes like these bring real-life stories to our assumptions from the data we had. A rise in commute time has the same negative effect on a worker as a 19% pay cut. Traffic congestion costs the US billions of dollars each year in lost time and fuel costs. It doesn’t take a wellness guru to see that it’s beneficial for people to not sit in cars or on transit up to an hour each day.
What people left unsaid.
The topic which didn't come up in conversation was that of child abuse statistics rising. As a teacher, you are knowledgeable of the signs and behavior you may want to address. Seeing your kids each day, outside of their home environment allows you to observe. Through a screen a few times a week, at the most, this responsibility is not the same to act upon. Schools may need to develop new ways to assess interactions that raise concern. This will allow teachers to continue providing this attention and care. How can teachers pick up on signs of abuse through this new medium?
The things people learned about themselves.
Teachers realized that they themselves deliver the experience children get at school. Now more than ever. The devices and internet connection is one thing. It is the teachers themselves, and their energy which keeps things ticking. It is empowering seeing resilient teachers adapt. They continue working based on the passion they have for kids and education. Teachers providing education in these circumstances show us their commitment, determination, and love.
Benefits & Impact
One of the most outstanding findings was how much people enjoyed sharing their stories. Voicing their experiences gave them the chance to open up and reflect.
As an employer, you want to maintain healthy relationships with your employees during this time of physical distancing. Use intentional conversations to stay connected with them. Some suggestions include:
Invite people who are working from home to share stories with each other to create a sense of togetherness.
Give employees the time and space to speak about their experiences so they can feel heard and valued.
Understand what the general norms and “off-limits” topics are for the group. This way you can know what topics your team keeps on the down-low and may not be transparent about.
Capture the ways employees are thriving working from home to develop tips for others who are looking for help.
What are the pathways?
How to apply this to the road ahead.
Now it is summer, and teachers have the break they deserve. Break meaning not needing to sit at a laptop attempting and hoping to get through to some eager minds. The planning and worrying have not stopped though. Teachers have as little chance to prepare now as they did a few months ago.
A recent poll states 1 in 5 teachers would not return to open classrooms in the fall. The risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 weighs on their minds. It's evident that some caring, passionate, and professional teachers may leave their careers. This crisis affects the staffing of schools, class sizes, and the quality of education.
As we embark on conversations with more teachers, consider asking them:
How are you learning best practices from your own peers? How are teachers around the world learning how to teach remotely together?
How are you providing time and space for your own mental and physical well being?
How can you advocate your school administration and government for the resources you need?