Homeworking has been a remarkable “emergency solution” for the world to keep moving during the COVID-19 outbreak, but is forecast to become an accelerating long-term trend even after the pandemic has ended, according to ILO. How can shipping organizations adapt to this new reality?
While some jobs cannot be done at home, office work, in several cases, does not necessarily require physical presence. In shipping, except for the vital part of seafarers, most tasks are taking place via offices. Meanwhile, a significant progress in information and communications technology has enabled and facilitated alternative working arrangements.
These two factors, combined with the unprecedented change of mindset that the pandemic has brought in business, could make employers less cautious towards remote working as an officially alternative working arrangement.
If one lesson was learned from the pandemic, this was the necessity to adapt quickly to new situations. In the post-COVID-19 era, employers and employees are likely to adapt and be more flexible to the idea of remote working. But how could this work for shipping?
In such situations, both parts have their share to make things work better. Let us explore how shipping organizations and employees could make remote working a truly attractive alternative:
-Create an office space: Choose a specific room and build a convenient space for your working hours. If your house does not allow this, select a cozy corner and separate it. Make sure you have a comfortable anatomic chair and efficient internet connection before starting. And always remember, your desk is not a coffee table where you can stow your bills, mugs and ashtrays.
-Get organized: Working from home has the advantage of convenience, but don’t overdo it. Be sure you have taken all of the useful documents from your office or you will find yourself lost in searching and desperately calling your workmates.
-Maintain a working routine: It is difficult to be as disciplined at home as you are at the office, but starting and finishing your work at the same time with your colleagues is a great starting point for overall efficiency.
-This is not the time for your household tasks: You maybe at home but you are not. Do not leave your laundry or cooking for tomorrow morning, just because you know you don’t have to go at the office.
-Unplug the landline: This will help you avoid unnecessary distractions, such as your parents calling you to tell you something definitely not urgent. It may sound harsh, but if you want to be 100% efficient at home, act as if you were not home.
-Put earplugs: Trying to get the work done while hearing the neighbor’s baby crying, your next-door couple arguing, or the first floor soprano doing rehearsals is probably not an ideal-day-at-work recipe.
-Stay in contact: Keeping in touch with your colleagues during the working day boosts the sense of belonging and motivation, while acting as a clear evidence that you are present at your duty.
For shipping companies
-Assess the job functions: The very first step for employers before putting teleworking in the plan is to identify the job functions and tasks that can be done off-site. This may involve innovation and creativity to do things differently from the norm. Also, assess the legal requirements, obligations and potential liability, taking into consideration the employee’s situation and the job functions, equipment and tools needed.
-Provide the equipment: The starting pack for remote working is to have the essential tools to get the job done as efficiently as possible. A good example is the anatomic chair – working for 8 hours sitting in a kitchen’s chair may not be the best idea for the back. Other examples are a strong computer, which is the A and Z for brokers, while those in operations or accounting may need a scanner. Ensuring access to all useful documents via a cloud solution is also a must-have.
-Provide IT support: Homeworking does not mean the employee is left to his/her own destiny. Knowing that they are not alone if any technical issue arises, is much less stressful and fruitful.
-Ensure good internet connection: Nothing is worse when you are trying to complete a task and connection is lost and unfortunately, home networks may not be as efficient as a company’s may. One option is to cover the difference between low-cost Wi-Fi and upgraded speeds and invest in upgraded modems.
-Provide international calls: Shipping is an international industry, with companies based in one country, operating in other countries, and employing crews coming from numerous different countries, while procedures are sometimes so complex, making the need for international calls inevitable.
-Mind cyber security: Opening up laptops on unprotected home networks maybe risky, so companies need to provide security for employees, for example, by ensuring that all hard drives are encrypted in case of a loss, while assuring basic training on security best practices.
-Don’t neglect bonding: Homeworking is a very easy trap for ruining the team cohesion. Do not leave your people in an oblivion; maintain the contact, for example, by arranging a standard meeting once or twice a month and, if this is not possible, get together in online meetings to keep interaction alive.
Before leaving, please note that…
- The golden rule for an efficient homeworking is the previous establishment of strong relationships and team bonding.
- People who feel appreciated will do their best even if they are not “supervised”!