Much has been said about the current crisis, including by yours truly in this eminent platform (The 'New Normal' or the 'Old Disruption' - People Matters), and there seems to be general consensus about the fact that the World as we know it has changed. Indelibly. Supply chains disrupted; personal hygiene elevated; social interaction diminished; radical changes abound.
In many ways, the crisis has acted as a forcing function for innovation and efficiency. Notwithstanding the fourteen Zoom calls, one has to endure through the day, who knew we could all work and collaborate as well, remotely? Aside from the energy of being in a room with your fellow colleagues and hashing things out on a whiteboard, there isn’t much else that one might miss.
As lockdown eases in India and the rest of the World and we go back to what resembles the World before COVID, here are nine things I won’t stop doing:
1. Checking in on people
"How are you?" and "Take care" seem to really mean something now, beyond just platitudes. I hope we will continue to be as sincere and caring as we are now. It’s easier to break the ice and get to know someone when you’re really interested and are mindful of these words. Also, beneath the titles and functions, it helps to connect as humans.
2. Budgeting time to learn
We all want to learn things, but do we actively budget time every day or week? Since having to work from home, I have blocked my calendar to actively learn things - whether it’s Japanese (Ogenki desu ka?), podcasting (anchor.fm/startup-operator) or marketing. God knows, I could do more. But, budgeting time is a great starting point.
3. Focusing on deep work
Some days at the office, I feel like I just get in and out of meetings all day. It’s a necessary evil that one can’t avoid, but rather than will myself to get your work done in between these engagements, I have found it more prudent to block time to focus on deep work. Oddly, it improves the quality of meetings, too, because you can afford to focus.
4. Virtual meetings (Zoom, Teams)
You don’t have to meet everyone at cafes and restaurants or even conference rooms, well unless you really have to, that is. Virtual meetings save time, effort and have sort of the same effect and best of all - force people to define an agenda. I don’t think I will default to physical meetings anytime soon. Unless, it’s for more than accomplishing work.
5. More 1:1s with my team
My personal remote work nightmare was leaving my team in disarray with important things unfinished and my struggling to balance a 100 things. So I decided to bias towards over communicating. I’m not sure if the team shares my enthusiasm, but I feel like we’re more aligned now than ever before. Seriously, don’t skip your 1:1s. It’s totally worth it!
6. More writing, more clarity
Writing is thinking. It’s easier to explain things to someone when you have clarity, yourself. But, usually you can just walk up to someone and ramble on about whatever it is you had to say and expect to arrive at some modicum of understanding. But, not having that luxury has forced me to work on writing. And that has made a heck of difference in my communication.
7. Evaluating our Plan Bs
As a leader, it’s your job to plan ahead, but life comes at you real hard and you get drawn into all of the business-as-usual stuff that seems important. But, what gets sidelined is planning for when the ‘what ifs’ do come true someday. Well, it has now. And you have been forced to adapt. But, if you could simulate this every month or quarter you’d be ahead.
8. Fixing the plumbing
We all know what we lack or need to improve upon - the Achilles’ heel; the same goes for our teams as well, but it takes a crisis to get our acts together. It pays to be proactive about this in the future so you can be more robust to the vagaries of life. Sanitize your data, fix your communication, do what you have been putting off.
9. Switch off. Like, really.
In the initial days of working remotely, there was an unhealthy blurring of boundaries. Some days I woke up to calls and then went to bed having just shut my laptop. I didn’t really know weekdays from weekends. But I’ve since separated my day into “work blocks” and “home blocks” so my body knows what mode it is in.
10. Be more mindful
I don’t think I can ever take for granted being in a room full of people, driven by a common purpose. Whenever that happens, I will make each day count and really be present in those minutes that I am in their presence. For who knows when, god forbid, we may be denied that privilege again. Don’t you agree?