How the Year in a Pandemic Has Changed the Way We Work
Welcome to Part Two of our feature on how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected the way we work at Kiwi.com. As you may remember, our first article was mostly focused on the impact of the pandemic on our teamwork dynamics, as well as human interaction in general.
Here we continue our conversation with Agnė Razanskaitė, Guarantee Specialist; Vladimir Kuvshinov (Vik), Head of Mobile Products and Ancillaries Director; and Valeria Kocifajova, from the Facilities Team. In particular, we try to answer a few more, equally crucial questions related to the topic: what are the main job-related and personal advantages of remote work? Does the home office come with any downsides at all? And, last but not least, what does the future of office work look like?
The Pros and Cons of Remote Work
By now we already know all about the benefits of remote work. Working from home ensures the flexibility many of us craved in pre-pandemic times. Not having to commute to work means gaining extra daily sleep. We have all honed new skills and discovered new hobbies, and sharing the daytime with family and pets comes as an extra bonus. Jobwise, too, remote work is more convenient and more efficient. ‘My productivity is better at home. At home I have no distractions’, says Agne. She also highlights unexpected improvements the home office brought to her job. ‘I had a few night shifts during the first lockdown, and at that time my partner and I lived in a studio apartment. So I was taking calls while he was sleeping two meters from me. I think it worked quite well, though. Not only does he have a sound sleep but I must have sounded so calm on the phone with our passengers, trying not to wake him up! More in general, I think I was able to focus more on my tone and improve my speaking skills’.
Some things required a bit more flexibility, but in the end it worked. Before the pandemic, Vik used to visit the Brno office once or twice a month. And in Reykjavik, he also used to work from an office. ‘For over a year now I haven’t been able to visit either Brno or the office here. I now work from a room in my garage. I have set up a proper working station there’. Vik also highlights a few key best practices of remote work, which more and more people are now building into their routine. ‘Clocking in and clocking out, updating your status, having your calendar up-to-date are all crucial tips. Calendar management is especially important, as is respecting other people’s. It’s all about treating others the way you’d expect to be treated yourself’.
So is remote work really all pros and no cons? Well, not quite. After a whole year of a home office (mandatory or highly recommended, depending on the current epidemic situation), remote work has also revealed a number of flaws. For one thing, it can be challenging to keep the routine going in the long run. ‘You need to have motivation and discipline’, says Valeria. Agne further expands on that, ‘I’m not one to procrastinate easily. I’m afraid of crossing that line, so I try and get everything done straight away. I guess it’s easy to get distracted, especially if you have kids at home from school, or even a dog, or maybe your partner who is off work because of Coronavirus’.
Work-life barriers have grown thinner, and in the long run that might result in burnout syndrome. Workaholics are especially at risk, and Vik is adamant about it, ‘I have a problem of work-life balance, and I’m aware of it, I’m not in denial! Now that there’s no change of working mode, I wake up in the morning, go down to my office, and just work, work, work. I’m trying to make it better so as to avoid any burnout. I have lights turning off in my office when my working day is over. Of course I can always turn them on again, but it’s a helpful hint’.
In these uncertain times, people have tried to take care of their well-being as best they could. In Agne’s case, her dog Masha helped. ‘She is now eight months old, and I can confidently say that she’s saved my mental sanity. Having a dog, especially a puppy, is really hard work, so I was 100% focused on her. It’s nice to spend all my time with her, work breaks included!’
Vik has a regular exercise routine: ‘It gives me a reason to go out, have a life outside my remote office’. Optimism, too, is crucial: ‘There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and we can see it. Before we could not see it, though we knew it was there. Now we see it: people are getting vaccinated. Something’s happening, and that’s good news’.
The company also offered a counseling service for employees who needed psychological and emotional support. Agne was happy to see that the option was available, ‘I’ve been especially vigilant about my mental health. I worked in psychiatric hospitals for years, and I know how loneliness can affect people or lead to anxiety and depression. It was great to see that the company opened up this kind of service’.
The Future of Office Work
No one knows what the future holds, but we can all agree that traditional office work will never be the same: remote work is here to stay. ‘There are preferences and we need to support them. People need to know they can choose the working mode that allows them to be most efficient’, says Vik. Valeria agrees that ‘remote work has become part of almost every company. I think a lot of people now, when looking for a job, also look for the opportunity to work from home’. Agne notes how the same logic can easily be applied to online meetings. ‘The pandemic has proved that sometimes, instead of driving or flying somewhere for a two-hour meeting, you have other options, and they work just as well’.
The greatest challenge we face regarding work is how we can embrace this idea of hybrid working, and exploit the full potential of the ‘new normal’. Vik’s idea is to ‘keep the benefits of remote work and get rid of its downsides’. The key to achieving this goal is the fulfillment of true remote culture. ‘The culture has already improved: before the pandemic we were remote-friendly, now we are remote, period. When people start visiting the office again, though, some of this ‘awareness’ might fade a bit. That’s why we need to ‘train’ people about it. We need to ensure that people who want to visit the office can, and people who want to work from home also can. We should be remote-ready even before we get out of the pandemic, and have on-site offices as a fallback for the roles that require office presence. I believe we are capable of that’, said Vik.