woman working on laptop at home on bed

Working from home & The Pandemic

Telecommuting, working remotely, mobile working, working from home, hoteling. Whatever you’d like to call it. With all the border closures and stay-home orders, what’s the deal with working from home? Is it just a temporary impact of the corona-virus?

Nobody could have predicted the massive impact of the Covid-19 virus. The risk it poses to employee & community health changes mobile working from a “nice-to-have” to an “implement-yesterday” program. Many companies are reacting by quickly adopting work-from-home models. However, for some, the work-from-home model has been part of an ongoing plan. According to CBRE, 50% of multinationals already offer some form of mobile working system, with another 42% implementing it with the “near future” – probably immediately given the current pandemic. Whilst that might seem like a questionably large number, there are some significant benefits to working from home, when done properly:

  1. Talent acquisition & retention: Several surveys of job seekers found that professionals deeply value flexibility in both timing and location. So much so that 70% of jobseekers feel mobile working is an essential offering when evaluating new jobs. Given the number of multinationals that now offer this, this really is a must in order to attract and retain top talent. The recent debacle at Charter (below) is a great example of why being ahead, if not on-par for employees is so important.
  2. Increased productivity: There’s lots of data that suggests working from home increases productivity. A study by Bloom et al (2015) and a study by Harvard (2020), both found measurable productivity increases of over 4%. With no increase in cost to the employer.
  3. Cost reduction: Jones Lang Lasalle’s recent occupancy benchmarking study revealed that traditional desks were only utilized half the time. And conference spaces were used less than half the time. A mobile working program would allow for much better utilization of space. Allowing for spaces better designed to support how people actually work (activity based working). Ultimately reducing real estate costs. For those with otherwise long commutes, or commitments that make traditional office hours difficult, mobile working has a huge appeal. Turns out, that’s not a minority of people either. Many very talented people are willing to accept 8% less pay if they could work from home. Which makes perfect sense to me. I’d happily trade my commute time for time with my family. The mental peace is worth a every penny.
  4. Health & Wellness: The obvious benefit, especially during the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, is employee & community health. Social distancing is strongly recommended by the WHO, almost every health care professional, and prevents health care systems from being overwhelmed. If that wasn’t enough, the backlash & disgruntlement from employees – as is the case with Charter’s abysmal response – should be more than enough reason for companies to implement a solution.

Working from home isn’t all unicorns & rainbows. The loss of face-to-face human interaction reduces the feeling of belonging, team connection, and increases loneliness. As a (non-pandemic) long-term program, this is something that needs to be properly thought through. It should be implemented along with measures to keep teams well connected to each other. Whether that’s semi-regular in-person social events, or other types of meet-ups. We are social creatures and need regular human interaction to stay healthy and grow. Working from home is about more than just productivity, costs and numbers – it’s about better supporting & enabling your people, the same people that power your organization.

 

Kameel teaching students

Re-Learning what you already know

Mentoring students at the Arab Innovation Academy was probably one of the most rewarding professional experiences I’ve had in a long time. Guiding exceptionally motivated students through the process of designing, validating and launching a product was incredible. The very act of teaching them helped me learn new things, and relearn things I’d forgotten.

There were a few things that really stood out:

Critically analyze your self and your team. Identify key skill gaps, figure out what you can improve and what you need to bridge. Most of us don’t do enough active self-improvement. Experience is great, but remember to take a breath, slow down and do some studying. We’re not perfect and we need to grow, something even Siew Choo SOH the Managing Director of DBS believes!

You can’t do it alone. Accept the fact that you’re going to need help from someone that already knows the ropes. Invest time in finding mentors, some experienced hands that can guide you in specific areas. Get a few, because no one mentor can provide you guidance across all aspects of your business.

Encourage diversity of thought. Work with people that have different backgrounds, different skills and different views. Ensure they are comfortable speaking their minds. Be confident, but remember that Group Think is an easy trap to fall into, and can be deadly.

There’s a lot of value to simplicity. It isn’t easy to achieve simplicity, be prepared to work hard at keeping everything simple. Whatever anybody tells you, nothing is ever as complicated as it seems. Find a way to articulate your solution as if you’re talking to a 5 year old. If you can’t explain it to a 5 year old, you probably don’t really understand it.

Over the 10 days I spent in Qatar, it was brilliant to see the students rise to overcome the various academic challenges and grow personally as they quickly learnt real-world skills. They presented lots of very challenging questions and scenarios, which thoroughly tested me as a mentor. Ultimately those unexpectedly tough questions are really what helped me realize that it was a two way street. That mentoring was just as educational for me as it was for them. Combined with the process of academic review with the other mentors, it was mentally recharging. A reminder of how important structured learning & analysis is at every age.

Enough about me, watch the video below to see what the students felt they learnt from the process. There’s a surprisingly strong pattern in their feedback!

The Leader you want to be

Everyone recognizes a bad leader, but what makes a truly good leader? Here’s what I found whilst listening to four female leaders at a diversity event.