Paramita Saha offers a way forward and areas of focus for creative professionals to keep moving forward in a time of upheaval.
"Never let a serious crisis go to waste" is what Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago, said a few years ago.
With the COVID-19 virus officially reaching pandemic status, organisations around the globe have rolled out mandatory remote work. Many larger organisations already have remote work options as well as practices like hot-desking etc; for arts organisations and culture workers accustomed to be on -site in an office, arts-space, studio, gallery, museum working closely with small teams and/or with a practice that demands physical rehearsal contact like dance, music or theatre etc, working from home is an option hardly explored or considered ideal. So, whether you are a newbie or a WFH veteran, here’s what you need to do to stay home and productive.
Take charge of how you are feeling: While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a wave of sadness, uncertainty, and disruption, we want to remind you that although we have little control of this situation, we all have full control of our response and our time. We encourage all artists, arts managers, culture workers to do what we do best: face the future with optimism and creativity, and adapt to your present circumstance so that when the pandemic passes, which it will, we will emerge ready for a better future.
Limit your news diet: It is important to keep up to date on the latest developments from reputable sources. However, constant monitoring of news and social media will not only disrupt your workflow but needlessly increase anxiety. During your working hours, our advice is to avoid them as much as possible.
Find a dedicated workspace at home: Find a quiet well-ventilated and lit corner at home with a suitable table and comfortable chair (keep in mind long hours), equip yourself with computer/laptop, a good internet connection will be essential in order to work smoothly.
Set a daily routine: It might be a good idea to plan a routine and set work hours in consultation with your manager/team. WFH allows for flexibility but it should allow you to unplug and close your day and set time for personal work and errands as well. Studies find that dressing in work attire also helps you to be in a ‘work’ state of mind and helps you to focus. Plan short work breaks for lunch, coffee or a quick walk around the house or garden to keep you energised. Avoid distractions like social media, television and find a good way to manage your children and other family matters for break-times or end of work day. WFH can be invasive to your personal life. Without scheduled work hours, work can creep into your home life and just like personal errands can creep into work hours. Do not mix household chores into work hours.
Stepping up communication: Maintaining clear lines of communication with your manager/boss and team is good practice. Accountability and productivity are both ramped up with a quick online meeting at the start of the day to set the expectations on what you are supposed to finish or deliver and fix a time at end of day for debrief. Clear and detailed instructions: We often tend to overlook the importance of mail instructions or detailed work plans when we work in close proximity to each other. While working remotely, such documentation become very important. These documents should be shared with team members before or after work assignment / review meetings and will ensure that nothing is lost in translation. As a manager, being crisp and precise in your communication is always important. But it becomes even more important while your team is working remotely. Thinking through what you wish to communicate and capturing it over mail is often a good step in streamlining your thoughts. Absence of crisp communication can confuse the team member who may not be able to reach out to you immediately for guidance like he/she does at office.
Feeling of community: You must remember that teams often tend to face boredom if they are required to work remotely or from home for long periods. As a manager it is your responsibility to ensure that they feel motivated and connected. Plan some break light-hearted chats with your team/colleagues over coffee to avoid feeling alone at work. Have video meetings often to feel a sense of community with your co-workers. Be available on mails and phone during the period you are logged in. Note: if you are unwell, you need to take leave and not work from home. If you are working from home it is assumed that you are 100% available like you are at office. Needless to say, just like in office you and your manager can work out flexibilities which balance personal circumstances and work commitments
Moving your work online: Making good use of technology by logging in to your organisation’s appropriate technology platform to have access to all official documents and programs. Keep contact nos of all tech personnel for advice during any tech-glitches during work-hours. Use online platforms (often free), for
Video conference: Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, Hangout
Team communication: Whatsapp online, Slack, Workplace by Facebook
Shared documents: Dropbox, Box, GoogleDocs
Reflect, Learn, Up-skill: Examining your workflow, you may find it possible to accomplish your tasks in lesser hours rather than the traditional hours mandated by office hours if applicable. Working from home means no long commutes and no strict one-hour lunch break.. Use this “new time” as an opportunity to learn new skill/training online, study a topic that will benefit your performance, or explore some other online resources to enrich yourself. It is also a good time to reflect on your/your organisation’s practice, finish pending work and have those heart-to-heart discussions with team members/core team/colleagues to discuss and embrace new systems for the future.
All these ideas have been carefully thought through with consideration about what this will mean for all of us. These are unprecedented times. Now, more than ever we need to stay calm, be resourceful, and do what we do best: focus on supporting each other and on serving our stakeholders. Stay Safe, Stay Well and Take Care.