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Executive Summary of Digital Working in Lockdown Age
This report will be reflecting the impact of digital work in the lockdown period during the ongoing Coivd-19 global pandemic. It will be discussing the misconceptions and problems faced by employees and organizations while doing digital work from home and try to bust some of the myths. Further, there are recommendations of some ideas on dealing with the virtual workforce. Many big firms are already preparing themselves for this new trend of digital work. Many individuals and companies prefer the digital working environment as it gives liberty of doing work and is helpful in creating a better personal-professional balance. It could be the new normal after the covid-19 era.
The year 2020 introduced not only the global pandemic Coivd-19 but also the trend of work from home. Digital work is not a new concept. Many of us have gone through the time when we ask for sick leave from the office and perform our tasks from home. Although, the proportionality of digital working from home in the past was significantly low (Guyot and Sawhill, 2020). This trend of the rapid transformation of digital working will be everlasting and ever-growing, even after the Covid-19 period. This digital working will be the new norm in the future (Richter, 2020). The impact of digital working from home can be seen all around the global since March 2020 when most of the countries in the world imposed ‘lockdown’ in order to minimize the spread of the corona virus.
The digital working, which was adapted after lockdown, was not very well received in the starting. For example, in the beginning of the lockdown period, it was difficult for students to continue the study through online mode. It was not easy for them to shift from classroom learning experience to online classes. The teacher teaching them also feels the lack of face-to-face interaction, which is more impactful in teaching-learning process. Gradually, they started getting used to it. Students adapted in short period of time, but still miss those offline classroom experiences.
II. Debunking Myths and Misconceptions of Digital Working
1. “Adaptation Will Take Time”
While it took no time for students to adapt the digital learning, there are many people who still find difficulty in adopting the digital working. It took some time for them to adept in the technology and techniques for digital working. Although, it is fascinating to see how most the company’s turn their working system into 100% work from home facility. For example, Twitter announced an option for lifetime work from home (Paul, 2020). Previously, many organizations think that digital working is a thing of the future (Arora et al., 2017). However, they were not aware about that the future they are thinking about is not very far.
The digitalization has been adapted from both side, the organizations and the stakeholders or customers. On one hand, the organizations are trying to implement better digital work flow technique; the customers are finding new ways to communicate digitally (Knowles et al., 2020). Such things happened before after the introduction of online shopping stores. The clothing which people use to buy from the store, now they can easily find it online at reasonable price. They find this transformation very convenient as it saves their time and energy in finding a particular item. In covid-19 age, people barely use to go out for shopping and whatever clothing or food they want, they just order it through call or website. Most of the people are now preferring the option of online shopping (Knowles et al., 2020).
The digital working, although created many misconceptions in the mind of people. At first, students thought online classes were not a good idea, as they may lose my focus easily. But, after getting used to it, they actually gained much more information from online classes than offline classes. There are many online courses available online, from various countries, teaching skills like literature, writing, music, art, photography and other such artistic skill. This digital way of learning has provided opportunities to learn for many of those who find it impossible to learn these skills offline.
2. “Online Meeting Fatigue”
Another misconception is that digital working requires a lot of online meetings, which could be exhausting for some (Richter, 2020). If compared this to the physical meeting in offices, those meetings required booking of the meeting room, invitation to attendees, waiting for everyone to reach the venue and arranging devices to assist the meeting. All these tasks require pre-planning and arrangements. But, with the introduction of online meeting app, now we can do meetings with anyone and anywhere on the planet. Just the timings need to be decided. This has prevented many unnecessary arrangements, hence, saving a lot of time and resources. Online meetings proved that for dealing with clients, physical interaction is not necessary. In the future, the business travel for meeting with clients will be reduced, since people now have adopted online meeting method.
3. “Undefined Working Hour”
People often complaint about that working at home is more hectic than working in office. This is because working from home erases the boundary of working hours. For example, a person started calling client from 10 AM and at 12 PM they started preparing lunch and looking after their kids, attending meetings at 3 PM, then going grocery shopping at 4:30 PM. It is obvious thing that working from home will involve ‘work of home’. Therefore, the office duration is often extended due to the involvement of various other household tasks or disturbances. The lockdown period is also creating a stressful impact on people mental health. Working with a stressful and anxious or depressed mind often lead to poor productivity. The organization needs to get the work before the deadline, no matter I do it at 11 PM or 4 AM.
The productivity of the organization has increased with the implementation of digital work, while employees’ mental health and well-being is negatively affected a bit. However, it does not justifies the overload of work given by the company on its employees. The company should be careful about the task management and try not to enforce or expect the performance from the employees outside the working hours and after completion of daily work, except in case of overtime or incentive payment.
III. Why Digital Working Is a Good Choice?
Sometimes, digital work might be stressful and have a negative impact on an individual’s mental health. However, digital work is bit stressful but it gives flexible working hour. People, particularly students are not limited to learn things from their curriculum and exposed to a wider spectrum of opportunities. They do not need to be well presentable all the time while working. On the other hand, they sometime miss the old offline experience. The lack of physical interaction with colleagues and faculty has somewhat created a void. In future, digital work will be a great option for those who due to some unavoidable circumstances, are not able to join the offline work for long duration. For example; women on maternity leave, some countries do not provide long maternity leave. Therefore, mothers can work from home while taking care of their new born. In developing countries, where there is lack of connectivity between urban and rural areas, digital work may provide an option for those living in remote areas. Teaching-learning can be performed globally with digital work, therefore exposing students to broader range of skills.
In future if a person will be having a family gathering, and to attend that they need to travel to a different city or country, spending a week or two with them. In that case, it would be possible for them to work from office or to apply for leave for that long duration. They would prefer to do digital work, and also spend time with family. By this way, it will be easier for them to maintain personal-professional relationship balance.
IV. Recommendation for Managers
While the workforce turns digital, the role of management becomes important in monitoring the employees. The workers feel less exposed to the company and often face issue with existential recognition and competitive exposure (Hafermalz, 2020). This indicates that now, the employees are forcing themselves to make visible in the eyes of the management. Employees now check their emails more often, available themselves for telecommunication and engage themselves in work activities (Richter, 2020).
Some recommended methods and techniques, which can help managers to monitor the invisible online work force are as below:
- Hourly status check of the team members. This can be done by making some changes in the current ICT system of the company. A web page or portal can be designed where the employees may update their hourly activity or which can show their percentage completion of their task within a fixed duration. By this way, manager may know how productive their team members are.
- One-on-One interaction with workers. The manager not only monitor work, but also motivates the employee and monitor their mental health. This lockdown period had worse impact on individual’s mental health. Manager having conversation with their employees individually will create a sense of connection between them. A sense of comfort and assurance is developed, which is helpful in reducing stress in the employees.
- Virtual socializing. During pre-covid19 age, the weekly social gathering takes place in restaurants or recreational place. But, it is not possible now. To replace the physical social gathering, virtual socializing is introduced (Waizenegger, 2020). The team meets with each other and interact, not on issues related to office or workplace, but play games, quizzes, and do other recreational and entertaining activities. The manager can keep check on the employees and show their support in this difficult time.
V. Recommendation for Employees
It is essential for the employees to adjust according to the digital work, to stay productive and maintain socio-physical well-being. Therefore, following are some tips that can be adopted by the worker to cope up with the stress of digital work from home:
- Organizing routine. The employees must maintain a solid routine. Flexible working hour is often confused with poor routine (Lopez-Leon al., 2020). The biological clock of human body actually regulates mood, health, diet and productivity (Heyde et. al., 2018). Therefore, the employees should maintain a proper routine to wake up, eat and do work.
- Creating office space at home. There must be a dedicated area for space for work that should be exclusively for doing office work. It was found that using bed for doing office work may cause sleep related disorders (Adam et. al., 2017). Study room, lounge area or guest room can be used as working area. Along with space, dedicated devices must be used that is only for work purpose so that there is no distraction while working.
- Dodging risky multitasking. Being at home means a lot of domestic responsibilities. But, the employees must avoid juggling between domestic work and office work simultaneously. If there is children in the house, then they must be explained about the off limit office area and not to interrupt at certain hours. Avoid unnecessary calls and interaction during working hour (Lopez-Leon al., 2020).
- Using creative techniques for teaching. There are many online platforms that provide teaching facility, learning activities and evaluation like Moodle, Blackboard. Teachers can use assistance of these online platform to teach the students in a more interactive way. Teaching using virtual system is beneficial for practical and clinical studies (Manesh and Dhaliwal, 2018).
VI. The Future of Digital Working
Digital working is not same before and during covid-19 era. The dependency on online working elevated drastically and people have now overcome that adaptation period. After covid-19, this trend will continue. Many people argues that digital working is not the complete solution for the working environment, but what was witnessed during past 4-5 months convinced everyone that the organizations and workforce are ready to adopt a complete new trend of major dependency on digital work. For those work sector, where digital working is not possible, it can be compromised. But for the rest of the population, it is time to upgrade. Many organizations are already preparing themselves for digital work force. Facebook announces 50% of its employees working from home within next five to ten years (McLean, 2020). Twitter also announced lifetime of work from home for some of its employees (Paul, 2020).
One problem with digital work in developing countries is that they still lack proper infrastructure to support internet connectivity. There are many countries where people do not have access to the internet and devices. At such places, the possibility for online working seems to be difficult. The need of IT development is essential at such places, so that employment can increase.
Another change that will happen if work from home is implemented in future, that is, change in the demography of the cities. The employees who moves to different cities for work, will have ease of doing work from their home place. This will also reduce traffic congestion in main city (Delventhal et. al., 2020). Therefore, suburban area can be used for residential development.
This report throw light on the digital working environment during covid-19 age. It finds this new trend of work from home to continue post-covid19 age. It is forcing the organization to adopt new methods and techniques of doing work, and making major amendment in their organizational workflow. The employees, have different experience with digital work. Many of them, at first disliked it, but then they started exploring the advantages of digital work. This trend was adopted by everyone in no time. There are many misconceptions and arguments that says how problematic the work from home digital working can be, but it actually depends upon the individual and their capability to manage it. The report includes some recommendation methods for the managers to analyze and evaluate the performance of their employees, and motivating them in overcoming the mental stress and problems caused by digital work. For employees, the organization, management and techniques used plays crucial role in increasing their productivity.
In future, people would prefer to do more digital work rather than regular office work. This will provide them liberty to work according to their convenience, while maintaining the productivity of the organization.
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