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ZhiTong Zeng (Emily Zeng)

SFU Co-op Student
Beedie School of Business

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Emily smiling
Within the foreseeable next one to two years, we have to accept that our current way of life will last longer, and we need to adapt to these changes

In a highly uncertain pandemic, working from home has become the new normal. This reminds me of one morning in early May. I received a heavy and well-packed package. I was very excited because I thought I had received something from my online shopping. But, by further checking the shipping address, I found that it was from the company that I had received an offer from for my summer co-op term. When I opened the package, it was a laptop from my co-op company, Sierra Wireless. I know I will start the new working term soon. I was looking forward to the work term, but I was also concerned about it, especially on my first day with everything being virtual. It was a new and unique experience for me working remotely on the first day of work. The lockdown policy was still in force in early May. I knew I needed to embrace the new form of working remotely and adjust my mindset. In three months of working from home and returning to the office in July, I began to think about other possible ways of working that prepared employers and ourselves for the short-term uncertainty of the global future. I am ready for these uncertainties and exploring new ways of working, how about you?

The Foundation of the Future – Working from Home

We all know that things are changing rapidly every second, every day, and every month. When COVID-19 broke out unexpectedly, we have to accept that fact and respond swiftly. By working from home for more than two months, we started going back to the office when the company reopened in July. Having the opportunity to compare working from home with working in the office during pandemic, I discovered the distinct advantages of working remotely.

1. Greatly Save Commuting Time

The company is based in Richmond, and I live in Burnaby. It will take me an hour to drive to the office. There will be about thirty hours a month spent in traffic. You can imagine how much work you can finish in those thirty hours. If you allocate those thirty hours to work or your life after work, you will have more time to spend and ultimately get more value.

2. Save Time Getting Dressed and Putting on Makeup

How many of you need to pay attention to your clothes when you need to go to the office? For me, I need to choose what I should wear every day and do make up for at least ten minutes. Besides, it is expensive for us as students to buy different formal suits. You can work from home in comfortable clothes.

3. Protect the Environment by Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Commuting and Offices

When the office is closed, we don’t need to go to the office to work, which reduces electricity consumption. By working from home, we lower the chances of driving or taking public transit. Therefore, we can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions for driving and working.

Be Prepared to Work from Home

As companies consider changing the way they work, they should also consider how to help employees work effectively from home.

1. Provide Employees with Adequate Equipment and Supplies, Such as Laptops, Mice, and Monitors

Companies should do their best to eliminate any technical constraints. My company takes my safety into consideration, so I don’t need to go to the office to pick up the laptop. The administrative officer asked if I needed a monitor, mouse, and other supplies when I returned to the office. I am glad that the company always ensures that everyone can work efficiently without technical and equipment limitations.

2. Continue to Hold Virtual Meetings That Involve All Employees

Conduct online meetings, invite all employees to attend, maintain, and encourage employee participation through meetings and questions. One take away from my work experience is that internal communication within the company is also very important. My company has started to hold frequent virtual townhall meetings in different regions to keep global employees up to date on big announcement and the company’s status. Feedback from employees was satisfactory and felt valuable during these meetings.

3. Concern About Employees’ Mental Health

Mental health issues are another important topic when working from home. Most companies responded quickly by setting up a COVID-19 resource center with diverse and useful resources. For example, my company offered online yoga training courses, meditation videos, and virtual fitness classes to prevent mental health problems.

4. The Department Head Should Consistently Provide Support and Care to Employees

After a busy period or a successful project, it’s a good idea to simply write a thank-you note. I was grateful to my director for sending me a beautiful sunflower plant and a gift card after a big project was completed!

When our company shifted to in-person work , our team started coming back to the office two or three times a week. I finally had a face-to-face interaction with my colleagues. During the three months of working from home and occasionally returning to the office, I began to think about the way we work in the future. Within the foreseeable next one to two years, we have to accept that our current way of life will last longer, and we need to adapt to these changes. As far as I know, Facebook and Google have announced that employees can continue to work remotely for the rest of 2020. For most companies, half will continue to work from home and the other half in the office. Hence, these organizations can consider flexible workstations for their employees. Employees can select each desk by booking it in advance. They can also provide employees with adjustable sitting and standing desks. A standing desk may less likely lead to shoulder and back pain rather than sitting desks.

Meanwhile, it also depends on the nature of the job and the industry. Some types of work require an actual workplace. Companies will need to find a way to best suit their company, whether it’s working remotely or in a physical office. Their first concern should be the long-term success of employees and customers and the continuity of the business, especially during this particular period. I am still thinking of other effective ways to work. If you have a good idea, please feel free to comment below!

About the Author

ZhiTong Zeng (Emily Zeng)

SFU Co-op Student
Beedie School of Business
Connect with Emily on Linkedin

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