COVID-19 changes distance working skills and habits
The vast majority of companies have shifted to distance work, whenever it is possible. This has brought new kinds of challenges to phone and network traffic. The news from the Tekniikka & Talous website on March 17, 2020, reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a stir to the networks and the amount of mobile data usage has increased by 34%. According to Ville Virtanen, Director of DNA’s transmission networks, phonecall traffic has also increased by as much as 40% from last Thursday to Monday of this week compared to the usual weekend [Tekniikka & Talous 17.3.2020]. I can only concur with the numbers. The workdays have been spent alternately on Skype, Teams and the phone since full-time distance work period has begun.
Even though distance working has been a growing trend in recent years, the current load on phone and network traffic has not arisen in the past, as distance working was typically spread over a few days a week or a month. The situation got complicated during COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Yle’s news on March 13, 2020, reports that the state’s encrypted network connection was down due to the number of distance workers. As a result, employees will be denied access to Facebook next week. [Yle 13.3.2020]
The full-time distance working will certainly change skills and habits required for its successful implementation. In just a few days, we saw that technology does not easily support such a large volume of distance working. For Skype and Teams, it is recommended that people do not share the video during the meeting, which saves bandwidth significantly. The technology will certainly continue to evolve and may provide more effective tools for online meetings in the future.
In addition to technology, a big issue is distance working skills and habits, such as work supervision and teamwork. Distance work requires people to be more active in self-management. How do I prioritize and define my job? How do I communicate effectively with my team without a constant online meeting? How do I work effectively as part of a team when the work needs to be done physically separate and independently?
While developing the technology, we also need to consider distance working methods. Even the most effective technological solution is not responsible for the creation of effective distance working practices on behalf of the employee. In addition to the individual’s distance working practices and work supervision, the focus should also be on teamwork. The article from the National Institute of Occupational Health describes the four stages of the team development cycle that each team goes through when welding together and forming a common and effective teamwork model. In the first stage, the “formation”, working group members get to know each other, the team members’ areas of expertise and new tasks. In the second phase, the “turmoil”, responsibilities, and tasks are divided among the team members. In the third stage, “normalization”, the team broadly reaches a consensus. Group members know how to make team-related decisions together and smaller decisions can be delegated to smaller groups. In the fourth stage, “completing the task”, starts the effective working time of the team. The group is motivated to achieve set goals. The model describes the role of the supervisor as important at each stage of the development cycle. How does a team effectively engage together and find a common working style if the work takes place partially or entirely remotely?
It is said that every cloud has a silver lining. COVID-19 pandemic is going to change distance work skills and habits, and that is a good thing. In an article published by Yle on 16 March 2020, Satu Ojala, a postdoctoral researcher in social politics from the University of Tampere, sees the distance work boom caused by the coronavirus will provide companies with the opportunity to review their practices. Anu Järvensivu, a researcher at the HUMAK University of Applied Sciences, also believes that Finland is on the brink of big changes. The increased amount of people working distantly could be a variable that could change the whole society e.g. transport arrangements and housing.
With distance working regards,
EntreFox project manager
Turku University of Applied Sciences
Hallanmaa, Teemu. Koronavirus synnytti etätyöbuumin, joka saattaa mullistaa työelämän – Asiantuntija: Tässä ollaan aika isojen muutosten äärellä. Yle 16.3.2020. Accessed at: https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-11257808
Lukkari, Jukka. Korona toi vipinää verkkoihin, mobiilidatan määrä kasvoi 34%. Tekniikka & Talous 17.3.2020. Accessed at: https://www.tekniikkatalous.fi/uutiset/korona-tuo-vipinaa-verkkoihin-mobiilidatan-maara-kasvoi-34-/01748e5b-05c4-4d77-91e4-dfbc5a51f518
Sormunen, Elli. Etätyö kaatoi valtion salatun verkkoyhteyden – työntekijöiltä estetään Facebookiin pääsy ensi viikolla. Yle 13.3.2020. Accessed at: https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-11255717
Työterveyslaitos. Tiimin kehityskaaren neljä vaihetta – näin esimies hioo timantin. TTL 28.5.2014. Accessed at: https://www.ttl.fi/tyopiste/tiimin-kehityskaaren-nelja-vaihetta-nain-esimies-hioo-timantin/