I’ve long been an advocate of working remotely, in many aspects it’s allowed me to be somewhat more productive than having to sit in the office. I’ve also never quite got my head around the concept of starting my day in traffic, with some work roles forcing me to sit through an hour and a half of traffic in the morning and then a similar situation when returning home for the afternoon commute. Albeit that throughout my career I have used this time to catch up on calls, the truth is, you are never truly focussed on what you should be, while waiting for someone to let you into a lane so you are able to make the freeway. Aggravation certainly does stifle your creative juices, not to mention the time that is stolen from your family and other important aspects of your life.
2020 started with a bang, the economic climate meant we were working harder for the same or similar results. Customers wanted more and the truth is, they deserve more. In my opinion, it’s a partnership, we work with our customers to ensure they can derive maximum value from their investment and over time important relationships are built, friends are made and solutions are delivered. I’ve always focussed on ensuring my customers are satisfied, after all, the solution we provide is a reflection of who we are as people. This means going the extra mile and sometimes more, to deliver a solution that we can be proud of.
Then Covid-19 came along. Initially, I saw bits and pieces on the news, I spoke with colleagues abroad all while thinking arrogantly, “this kind of thing will never hurt us South Africans. We’ve been through worse. We are more resilient than the rest of the world”. Looking back it was similar to me standing on top of a mountain beating my chest confidently….. Well, I could not have been more wrong. Within a month my son was sent home from school, infection rates were increasing dramatically and our president scheduled a late-night broadcast to inform us of the intention to shut the country down. For the first time, I was scared. Are we not as resilient as what I initially believed?
Suddenly I was left with a cacophony of voices in my head. How are we going to move forward? How long will this last? Will my family, business, friends and colleagues be ok? I had all these different questions with no answers. The truth is, no one did. We were all in the same position.
My staff have always been very close to my heart, they are an extension of my family. When my son pops past the office after the school day is complete, my staff play with him, they talk with him – I care for these people. Two weeks before the president made the call to shut the country down, I sent all my staff home. I mean, I believe working remotely can work and I trust the people who I work with so why won’t this work?
Yes its been different, yes its been challenging at times but the truth is, each and every person who I am fortunate to call my employee embraced the opportunity to work remotely. Many of them have small children. Many of them commute for hours daily. Many of them leave home before the sun rises and arrive back home after dark. Many of them don’t get to see their kids kick a soccer ball or hit a six out of the park. Working remotely remedied many of these challenges. Productivity suddenly increased. Deadlines were being made with ease.
We have had to change the way we work – from an in-person strategy session to a Zoom call – it’s different, but it works. Yes, I do miss the day to day in-person interaction, we are human and we are social creatures, but we have had to adapt. I truly believe that this is what has made our business such a success, the ability to adapt in the face of adversity. I’d like to think that my ability to adapt stems from my days at Pretoria Boys High, but the truth is, we all have this in us. The human species would not be where we are today without this inherent ability.
I know I am incredibly blessed with the staff I work with, but I do not believe I will ever go back to a full time 8 am to 5 pm office scenario. Humans thrive when empowered. It certainly wasn’t easy, but it’s been incredibly satisfying to see my staff spend more time at home with their families. To hear their kids in the background during our morning calls brings a smile to my face. We are human, we need to have balance and albeit that Covid-19 has been a global disaster, we have seen many positives and working remotely is certainly one of them. Some lessons I have taken from this whole experience:
• Be kind and thoughtful to yourself and those around you
• Empowering a person brings their best out of them
• Reduce unnecessary costs
• Collaborate more
• Remote work leads to astonishing productivity and employee satisfaction
• Life without balance is not living
Be #Adaptive, allow yourself to #Grow and don’t fear #Change