Deborah is HR Manager for ACE Belgium and has clearly felt the impact of the Coronavirus when suddenly the instructions came to let everyone work from home as much as possible. We asked her for a response.
What were the first things you set out to do when you heard that ACE colleagues had to work from home as much as possible?
Deborah: “We had to check with management who had the necessary hardware / VPN and facilitate this for the other colleagues as soon as possible. Then we started working on all kinds of administration and communication projects, such as approvals from clients for working from home and an adjusted time registration.”
What were the reactions of the employees to this measure?
Deborah: “The reactions were positive in cases where working from home offered a solution. I have not heard a single complaint. On the contrary, I think that this path has now partly been taken for the future as well. Many see the benefits including, for example, with regards to reductions of CO2 emissions and traffic jams. Personally, I think that after this crisis, we will start working differently, giving people more autonomy and decision-making rights about how they want to work. You cannot make this mandatory now and then go back to the idea that working from home would not suit us. I do think we should manage in a different way to keep track of the progress of the work.”
What were the challenges to get this sorted out in such a short time?
Deborah: “Especially the hardware side, it sold out very quickly everywhere, apart from other practical things. Also the speed with which this had to be arranged for many people at the same time. That surprised us a bit, but now you can see that it worked out well due to team effort!”
You also work from home now, have you had to adjust a lot for that?
Deborah: “Practical things no, I already had a laptop and VPN connection at home. The biggest change was the presence of the children. This required some creativity and adaptability. We have drawn up a schedule together in which we have made blocks with school work, gaming, eating, playing alone, and joint activities. That makes my own working day look completely different. I now also work in blocks myself, with a free piece in the afternoon. In the evening when the children are asleep, the laptop switches on again. It is adapting but after a few days I notice that everyone here just gets used to the new situation. We are obliged to adapt and that is actually very instructive. The children are now also suddenly learning to plan and to be on their own a little more, which is nice to see. Ultimately, we humans are, when necessary, agile and able to organize ourselves differently and you notice that in the end that goes quickly and well.”
What do you miss especially now that you work from home and no longer at the office?
Deborah: “Actually not so much. I miss some contacts with colleagues, but you also have to be creative with that. We now call, skype, email a bit more and have installed Microsoft Team. It was a bit of a search for a system that works well, but here again: due to circumstances we are obliged to make this our own and that is a good thing! I think everyone will consider that faster in the future when commuting has more disadvantages. I hope so! It can really all be done more efficiently and environmentally friendly.”
What do you NOT miss now that you work from home?
Deborah: “Maybe accepting the many door deliveries :-) but that sometimes brought variation as well. In general, you now have more focus and fewer peripheral activities. Contact is only made for real consultation and not for chit-chat, in that respect you work much more efficiently from home, but that social contact cannot be missed for a long time."
Do you have any tips for other people who work from home?
Deborah: “Yes! Do not feel guilty about the reorganization of your day, the 8 hours of work may be canceled, but instead you may work more efficiently and we are less involved with "nonsensical things". People ultimately have a certain responsibility. You are free to decide when you have completed your task and when you have your work under control. If that is the case and the output is there, no one will make a point of this "new way of working". It took me a few days to do that and I felt I had to answer for it to myself. Now that feeling is under control.”