The New Normal from the Perspective of the Emerging Professional
Contribing Authors: Scott Nguyen, Glenda Pollard, and Shrina Todoroki
The current global coronavirus pandemic has significantly increased the work-from-home job force. Many organizations have had to flip the switch by sending their employees to work remotely or resort to company layoffs and furloughs. The SHRM Hawaii Emerging Professionals committee are here to offer our experiences working from home or as an essential worker during the pandemic.
Scott Nguyen, Wellness Supervisor at Arcadia is considered as an essential employee. Therefore, throughout the work-from-home orders he has been continuing his duties at the office. He said, “During this pandemic, one of the many things I'm still grateful for is employment. But as we continue to work, there are definite worrying signs that I think need to be addressed. The noticeable ones are the mental health and stress management of employees. I've noticed a drastic change in performance and energy for our staff during these times, understandably so. Some of the things we've been implementing that have yielded great results are check ins and using different senses of the body.
We usually start our mornings with check ins, which allows anyone to say anything that has been bothering them. This allows our staff to vent and get support and comfort through the entire team. We let everybody know that we are there for one another as a team. With everyone supporting each other, the energy and morale has picked up. Using all of our “senses” was recommended to me by Dr. Charletta Wilson of CaPeesh Consulting LLC. For example, using plants and essential oils to calm the mind. Just small changes has brought down the stress and anxiety. We noticed eating healthy foods and playing upbeat music has worked well. Ultimately, when things get tough, that is the opportunity to display leadership and the humanity to support everyone around us. Even though sometimes it doesn't feel like much, it'll mean the world for others.”
Shrina Todoroki, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Bishop & Company offered her perspective, “Working at home has forced us to reimagine our way of doing business as social interaction is limited. Without being able to see our clients hearing them is more important than ever. We were met with physical transition challenges of setting up a designated, functional workspace, obtaining the right technology to suit our needs, and focusing our ability to minimize, anticipate and manage disruptions.”
Work-at-home life in the midst of a national health emergency has added uneasiness and uncertainty, let’s ensure we are set up to be productive. Find balance by sticking to a schedule, explore different ways to obtain efficiency and flexibility, whether it be through Zoom for video conferencing, chatting via Slack, Microsoft Teams or Trello for project management. Beware of workaholic tendencies, such as logging on at night or over the weekend just because it’s there.
Working from home has its pros and cons for me. The freedom of managing my own time came with added responsibilities; self-discipline and focus in an environment that used to be a sanctuary from the daily grind. A new feeling of empowerment mixed with the expectation of profitability. Keys to managing these changes and maintaining productivity is to establish, and keep, open communication. Offer guidance and counseling, show your team they are supported. Work load slowed down? Keep your team engaged with training/continuous learning programs. Finally, follow through: request feedback on what’s working as well as what could be improved, and encourage reporting successes.”
Glenda Pollard, HR Assistant (Generalist) at James Campbell Company said, “Like Scott, I am also extremely grateful for my employment and the employment of our employees. We are living under precarious times and it can be unsettling for most, but having that work stability definitely helps mentally and financially. Working at home was a challenge at first. The first couple weeks trying to adjust to the new norm required a lot of trial and error. What helped me was creating a designated workspace in my home. I decided the dining room table is working best for me. Although it is near the living room where there are plenty of distractions, I am still able to block out the distractions by trying to sticking to a set schedule and taking regular breaks throughout the day. This is really important especially now that the work-from-home orders has been extended again to the end of June, and after working from home for nearly two months we should all have a dedicated work area.
Having that open communication with team members is what I also find key to helping of feelings of isolation. Checking in with supervisors and co-workers ensures that as HR we are still available for questions and concerns that they may have. A big portion of us have had to download VDI – Virtual Desktop Infrastructure for the first time, allowing us to think differently on how we function at work. Some relied heavily on files and inter-office mail, and now people are realizing emails and zoom meetings are just as effective, if not more economical and efficient. I’m hoping this continues as we transition back in to the office.”
One thing is certain, the office work environment will never be the same. The companies that can navigate successfully through this transition will be stronger and will be able to meet the next challenge whether we are working on site or at home. We are hopeful that organizations in Hawaii can get through this so long they keep an open mind by being flexible, compassionate, and by putting the employees’ health and safety first.