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Working from home: How we’ve fared so far and what we’ve learnt

10 August 2021 in 11:19AM

The following article was originally written by Fairuz Zakir from Alpin and has been adapted for the Virtual Club.

Working from home was becoming an increasing trend prior to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, as employers offer their employees greater degrees of flexibility and convenience. However, employees all around the globe have been forced to pick up the trend for reasons out of their control, and a lot of us aren’t sure how to approach this new way of working.

At Alpin we’re no different, as our workforce have been working remotely for some time. Following feedback from our employees we thought we’d share what we’ve learned from remote working and our top tips for making it an effective and workable practice for both employers and employees.

1. Put some effort into creating your workspace

Although sitting on your bed with your laptop balanced across your knees may now be possible, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the best work environment. Many of our staff agree that the number one tip they had was to take time to set up a proper work space at a desk, with ample lighting, comfortable furniture, and proper internet connection. In essence a space that created a clear distinction between their personal and work lives within their home.

Alpin’s HR Manager Hala Hassan agreed that it took both mental and physical effort to embrace working from home.

“Although this is not the first time I’ve worked from home, I had to prepare my mindset for the home office concept. I set up my home office and made sure it would feel like an actual office. I made sure I had a stable internet connection to stay connected with the team, especially for online meetings, and to take the usual breaks at the same time as I would at the office.”

2. Eliminate distractions

Most Alpiners, especially those with children and/or pets, agreed that the first thing they did was make sure to create a workspace that was free of distractions.

Senior Cx Authority Raghid Gabrial developed an innovative idea to have a large water bottle in arms reach, reducing the amount of time he had to leave his office, exposing himself to other distractions around the home. He also suggests putting up a partition to separate your work desk from the rest of the room whenever on an online meeting.

3. Don’t change too much

A lot has already changed as part of the working-from-home experience. However, try to keep hold of your work routine and habits at the office so that you don’t have to adjust your mindset too much. Almost every member of the team agreed how important it was to start work at exactly the same time as they would if they were in the office. Maintaining the same morning routines, and taking the same amount of breaks is crucial.

“I try to do the normal routine when working, taking my tea as per the usual, working with a little bit of music, and to stay active. I also do a short bit of exercise with my son in the morning”, said Tender Coordinator Bernard Sano.

4. Stay connected

For many of us the Coronavirus has meant a lot of time spent in isolation, and not getting the chance to socialize with colleagues on a daily basis. This makes staying connected with everyone on the team extremely important as Sadaf explains:

“The first thing I do these days while working remotely is catch up with my work colleagues, I cannot emphasize enough on this – it’s an excellent morale booster and really sets the tone for the day. Also, one might feel isolated during this time, so it’s important that all employees communicate better and get the support they need to not lose focus and to continue to work effectively as a team.”

The Alpin HR team has continued to conduct friendly competitions to keep up work morale and uphold Alpin’s corporate culture. We’ve also had virtual lunch meetings as a stand-in for our usual company events. The team has also used the company WhatsApp group to share photos and relevant news to keep everyone connected and updated.

5. Try to find the positives

While there definitely have been challenges, our team has been trying their best to find the positive. Most of the team agrees that working from home has actually raised levels of communication, because that need did not exist before.

“Challenging as it is, working from home has really helped me prioritize my tasks and streamline my schedule so that all deliverables required from me are on time. I feel that I have more time to start the day with a bit of exercise and be refreshed before jumping into my routine, now that there is zero commuting time”, said Sadaf.

“I took advantage of having an extra hour saved from driving to Masdar, and used it to complete additional tasks”, added Hala.

6. Stay active and healthy. Stay WELL

With Alpin being an avid promoter of the health and wellness building standard WELL, our Strategic Client Consultant Camille Hubert has found herself embracing WELL principles to improve her home office.

“Working from home has been a very positive experience so far, I installed my laptop and monitor in front of the large bay window of my apartment and the sea/sky view brings a lot of serenity and calm to the working day. I also brought more nature to my office by installing plants around me to fill up empty spaces in the room to, I really feel the positive impact on my mood, productivity and well-being from these changes.”

7. There are bound to be some negatives

Although our team had a generally positive response to the working-from-home experience, there were the obvious issues. Raghid echoed many other Alpiners’ thoughts when he said he missed working face to face with his colleagues. He also described how although working from home occasionally could be great when it’s a break from the regular daily routine it can become difficult.

8. Use this as a learning experience

Finally, we encouraged all of our team to use this as an opportunity to learn. For example, Raghid points out something that could make operations way more efficient:

“I recently chaired a Commissioning meeting online for 45 minutes. I usually allocate around an hour for this meeting, and almost 2 hours for transportation. From a sustainability point of view, why can’t the same be considered during the normal business time?”

More than ever, companies are being given the opportunity to learn, adapt, and optimize their operations and services, and this is why getting frequent feedback from employees is crucial.

We regularly asked the team how the company could make sure everything continues to run smoothly, if not better than before. We improved our electronic filing and IT systems to make it easier for staff to access all necessary files to help them continue to do their work at home as well as creating a more flexibility for our employees to get a better work/life balance.

We hope you can use these tips and observations to support yourself, your colleagues and your employees and improve home-work habits while staying healthy and motivated.

Alpin are a leading specialist technical consultancy headquartered in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. The integrated team is composed of a diverse range of experts who lead their respective fields, including LEED APs, PQPs, GSAS-CGPs, sustainability trainers, commissioning authorities (CxA), construction managers, MBAs, and building physics PhDs.