Office Culture and Work From Home: Difficulties in Workplaces During the Pandemic
It’s no secret that working from home is difficult. Add to that the stressors of the pandemic: the uncertainty of the future, the necessity to remain socially distanced, and the inevitable claustrophobia of living at home, confronted by either loneliness or family in close quarters, and you have a recipe for high stress and potentially toxic changes in mood.
Ideally, we could all see therapists to vent out frustrations, but health care is not accessible to everyone, and finding time in a day to destress is not always possible for working men and women. In this article, we will review some of the factors that make working from home, while maintaining a positive company culture, difficult.
Anger Management: Gaining a Hold On Temper
Disagreements are one of the realities of working in any office or company. Naturally, team members disagree – not only on big-picture scheduling or work distribution decisions, but also about smaller, more minor issues. Keeping everyone happy all the time is simply not possible, and also not healthy. If you don’t keep open avenues for dialogue within your office or company, tempers are likely to build every time someone holds his or her tongue. Even if you have to mediate multiple minor disagreements a day, you might prefer constant work towards conflict resolution to letting resentments quietly build up in your office and explode at an inopportune moment.
The reality of working from home has only made regulating anger in the workplace more difficult. Because team members aren’t working face-to-face every day, you have a greater risk of some of these lingering disagreements or complaints building up and erupting into anger. Businesses are expecting the same of, if not more, work from their employees, and that work has become harder to execute because working remotely slows down communication processes. Furthermore, without the ability to speak face-to-face, you can find yourself misreading conversational cues, or at worst saying things you wouldn’t say in person.
When deadlines roll around and stress rises, team members can get out of control during conversations. As a manager, you want to establish a harmonious company culture, and one of the ways you can do that is by addressing complaints head-on, and de-escalating arguments. If a team member is angry to the point of being incontrovertible, calmly explain that you can discuss the issue later once tempers have gone down. And if you yourself are in a team, try to give patience and grace to your managers and fellow team members, knowing that they too are in the same uncomfortable position you are in.
The Blame Game
Since in-person communication has transformed into long, difficult-to-organize threads of text on email, text, Skype, Slack, Gmail chat, and so forth, you may find it easier to forget a certain request one person made, or a comment someone added weeks back. Since emotions have become complicated – a single space used for family now houses the personal energies of kids trying to go to school and spouses working while doing household chores – you can easily lose your head while trying to focus on work.
Focusing on work when you feel wrongfully blamed for a mistake the company has made can be difficult and enraging. If you find yourself feeling blamed, try not to respond angrily, but first focus on the facts. Go through your email and inboxes, and try to see if in fact you may have missed something that someone said. If you are actually not in the wrong, but actually someone else has missed or misinterpreted something you said, then present your case calmly and generously. If you try to engage the person angrily, your conversation may rise out of the realm of professionalism and into a personal, and even petty, blame-game. Even if it takes time for others to see your point, your team members will be thankful for your staying calm and not rushing to blame a mistake on someone else.
Difficulties Maintaining Set Processes and Daily Time Sheets
Without someone constantly watching an employee, it can be difficult to ascertain how they have used their time during a workday. You may find in many cases that a worker has not been disciplined adhering to basic company practices and filling out daily time sheets. As a manager, you may find it frustrating being unable to control how your team member spends his or her day. Inevitably, outside of an office, your daily schedule is subject to unpredictability and change. Some days you can keep a basic, 9-5 schedule and spend your time at the desk on the computer. Some days you may need to start and work later, for example if you have to drive your child to a doctor’s appointment.
If you are a manager, you need to give your team the flexibility to use their work-from-home time in a way they feel comfortable with. If you try to force them to stick to your schedule, you may get pushback, and less desire to work on your projects or communicate. Give your team the flexibility to perform all of their tasks, with the generous spirit of knowing how difficult juggling work and life from home can be.
If you are a team-member, always communicate with your team and manager about how you are spending your day. You may find it impossible one day to complete a task expected of you, and in the hectic work-from-home climate this phenomena is normal. But be sure to communicate what you are having difficulty completing, and always finish your work when your team expects it, when possible.
Finishing Work Later than Deadline
Inevitably, schedules are bound to get pushed back during this time. Not only has the economy stalled, making certain deals and projects that were possible before impossible, but also the problems of one’s personal life have started to creep into the reality of one’s day to day work. As a manager or team member, you may end up being frustrated by others who haven’t finished their tasks on time.
As always, you should voice your concern when you have expected something to be completed and it hasn’t been. But also, remember that no one is free from responsibility in the workplace. Even if you are upset or disappointed by the tardiness of a piece of work, try to remove your emotions from the equation, and communicate calmly to the person who has submitted work late. Be clear about your expectations, and the resulting penalties of the late work, but also remember that during the pandemic, you yourself may find you need to submit work later than expected, due to personal difficulties and environmental disorganization.
To establish a positive company culture, even in the era of Work From Home, communication should be at the center of your priority list. If you communicate openly and put forth your work expectations with transparency, you are much less likely to have a blowup, even if someone has submitted late work or has a complaint.