On the first day of widespread work from home brought about by the pandemic, I heard a workplace “expert” talking about the new reality of remote work. “Performance expectations and standards must remain the same as in the office,” he declared.
There is so much wrong with that statement.
Let’s get started.
As Kurt Lewin taught us years ago, performance is a function of the person and the environment.
P = f(p,e)
What’s going on for people?
We are in a pandemic. People are experiencing disruption, uncertainty, fear.
Many people are super stressed. Stress affects thinking and interactions, in sometimes unpredictable ways.
People may be worried about elders in their family or neighborhood. They may have children who are no longer in school, because schools have closed. So they aren’t just new remote workers, they are now homeschooling and caring for children at the same time. During a pandemic.
Shopping is no longer so easy. Even one week into closures, I see bare shelves at my local stores. People may be facing lines and shortages when they try to find groceries and household products.
Yet most people will try hard to do a good job, in spite of all this.
However, people aren’t machines, and they don’t live solely to labor for the corporation.
Let people work out how they are going to be able to weave their work in with other responsibilities. Many jobs don’t require people to be at their desks for eight hours in a row. Encourage flexibility in hours and in how people get their work done.
Extend compassion and understanding.
Environment is the other part of the equation. That’s all changed. Most people who have figured out how to successfully work from home have tech arrangements that support their effectiveness.
Without robust technology support, don’t expect the same performance.
It takes time to learn to how to work effectively from home. What training is the company providing? Are people addressing how to have effective remote meetings?
Expecting “performance as usual” in this very unusual time is heartless and unreasonable. Even people that have years of experience working remotely aren’t at peak performance right now.
Cut people some slack and give them some support. They’ll repay with hard work and loyalty in the long run. They’ll keep things running as best they can. And that’s saying a lot given the state we’re all in.
I hope this “expert” lightens up on people. And I hope he cuts himself some slack, and considers the context. The current situation is not conducive to concentration and the usual performance standards.
We all need support right now. Be kind. To yourself, the people you work with, and the people who are working hard to keep various things running.
Deadlines are going to shift. So be it. If the government can move the tax filing date, a company can move a target date. (And by the way, it is probably a good time to examine the importance and sequencing of work.)
We’ll get through this, together. Above all, be kind and stay safe.