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People, Planet, Climate Change, Consumption

The Long Haul: Changing The Way We Work And Optimising It

Global Initiatives | May 19, 2020

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ST Photo by Ong Wee Jin

This article was produced and published by Dora Hoong from Global Initiatives. 

Chances of life returning to normal soon for most of the world’s population appear dim. Public health experts have warned that it is unclear how long the Covid-19 illness will be around for and so, employees should be prepared to continue working from home to minimise chances of the coronavirus spreading.

Prior to entering the circuit breaker on 7 April, companies were encouraged to implement Business Continuity Plans and telecommute where possible. This significantly reduced the number of people working onsite, ensuring the health and safety of people

However, the amount of economic activity has dropped significantly since then, and many people’s livelihoods are depending on major accounts and supply chains to remain open.

It is important to make a conscious decision to progressively reopen the Singapore economy, but Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan CS wishes to avoid another round of costly and inconvenient circuit breaker measures.  

Singapore’s new normal for the long-haul

There’s been a major shift in the way we are working now, with nearly 85 percent of Singapore’s workforce working from home since the circuit breaker came into force in early April. 

These measures have revealed just how pollutive our everyday activities are and there is no doubt that working from home has lowered the environmental impacts of constant travelling. 

Work from home post- circuit breaker: Not a problem!

While some worry that productivity levels may drop working from home, others are enjoying the flexibility of time and retrofitting work schedules that best fit their productivity styles.

Working from home saves us time to get dressed for work, allowing us more hours to maximise our work productivity. Having eliminated the need to travel, transport-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have significantly lowered. 

In the U.S., transport-related activities are a major contributor to GHG emissions In fact, Global Workforce Analytics estimates that working remotely for just half a week could reduce GHG emissions by 54 million tons in a year.

Given how much our daily transport activities contribute to GHG emissions, making remote working a norm could be key to combating climate change, a crucial UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).

 Photo by Charles DeluvioPhoto by Charles Deluvio

Not to forget: working remotely has also given us more quality time with our loved ones and this is especially beneficial for those who wish to be more involved in the family while being able to work. 

“This is the most unproductive I’ve ever been.”

Although working from home embodies a greater work-life balance for many, it has undoubtedly presented new challenges, increasing stress levels and affecting productivity at home.

Often, we struggle with low productivity and distractions at home, making it difficult for most to remain disciplined and focused. This can be as simple as putting our phones away, planning out daily schedules and setting personal deadlines. Planning and sticking to a daily routine could also help with productivity and health, instilling a sense of normalcy during these troubling times. 

With sources of stress that are beyond our control when it comes to working remotely, company leaders have to ask themselves: What changes must I make to help my employees with the transition? 

Companies have to ramp up on efforts to facilitate this transition. 

Companies that facilitate, enable.

The age of coronavirus has forced many employees to work from home, posing a major challenge to those with limited tech knowledge. 

But technology plays an imperative role in facilitating effective communication and boosting productivity tremendously among workers. 

Photo by Louis HochmanPhoto by Louis Hochman

In order to achieve a more seamless transition, companies may want to consider providing basic tech training for employees that need it to enable their work from home to continue, reducing stressors in the changing work environment. 

Caring for the mental health (SDG 3) of their employees should be a priority for companies as employees may be facing higher stress levels that stem from working remotely. For instance, Google recently announced a company-wide day off to allow workers to better cope with working from home.

Another obstacle that comes with working remotely is the lack of equipment to work effectively. Offices are equipped with the facilities needed to ensure optimum working conditions but the same cannot be said for our homes. 

But certain companies have taken this issue in stride and provided their employees with work from home office equipment like monitors, keyboards, mobile phone package upgrades, and faster internet connections to work effectively. 

Some are optimistic about the long-term benefits of working from home despite the need to adapt in this set up. 

How do we keep productivity high? How do individuals remain motivated and positive under different circumstances? How do we deal with stress when heat comes? 

The ability to work effectively from home is a reflection of the company’s culture and nurturing positivity by team leaders. 

Enabling everyone to work from home effectively is key. And while not every company can afford work from home office equipment, ensuring productivity in a healthy work environment can be as simple as hosting short daily meetings to set the agenda and holding employees accountable for their work. 

Reshaping the future of how we work

With countless tools that are available online such as Zoom and Calendly that help to facilitate communication, there’s a very real chance of making working from home a new normal.

Once the pandemic is past, companies have to further efforts to facilitate remote working. In fact, some companies have announced that they are allowing employees to work from home indefinitely, proving that it is possible to make this transition. 

ST Photo by Jason GuanST Photo by Jason Guan

While this is not feasible for specific industries in health care, logistics or supply chain, new measures introduced the age of coronavirus could change how companies operate, how much floor space they may need in the future, and how they hire, in the foreseeable future. 

As much as possible, we should strive towards this change for the sake of reducing the environmental impacts we make. 

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