work from home in COVID

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

Working from home was already an increasing trend in the past few decades, for reasons of flexibility and convenience. For the past few months, however, it’s become a necessity to keep the fast spreading virus at bay. Employees all around the globe are being 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 shift.

Last month, we made the decision at Alpin to start working remotely so as to ensure the safety of our team, without having to compromise our company’s mission. All employees were encouraged to take home any equipment they required in order to set up a comfortable home workspace, and an email ‘hotline’ was set up to address any challenges, tips, or general experiences the team was experiencing from their new offices.

After having worked at our WELL-certified office in Masdar, we had to make sure the team didn’t experience too drastic of a shift. Offering a good working space for employees is key to Alpin Values and when this whole situation started, we wanted to help them feel as comfortable working from home as they did at the office, and make sure they would put their health and wellbeing first.

After over a month of working from home, we’d like to share some of the tips we’ve found to be most helpful.

Here are 8 things to be mindful of to make the best of working from home, as described by Alpin team members:

Put some effort into creating your workspace

Sitting on your bed with your laptop balanced across your knees may now be possible, but probably doesn’t reflect the best work environment. Many of our Alpiners 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: somewhere that created a clear distinction between home and home office.

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 work from home, I had to prepare my mindset for the home office concept, and read more about it. 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.”

For Strategic Consultant Sadaf Ghalib, recreating the feeling of Alpin’s Masdar City office was imperative:

“To feel more comfortable I have managed to simulate the office environment at home, with a workspace that allows me to concentrate throughout the day and be more efficient. I feel it is of utmost importance to have a customizable and pleasant home office, one that includes ample daylight, ergonomic furniture and equipment like monitors etc.”

Eliminate distractions and have everything on deck

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. Hala had to have a stern talk with her family:

“…and especially my son; I told them to consider that I am at work, and should not be disturbed unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

Our Senior Cx Authority Raghid Gabrial also had some small tips to share, such as having your water bottle next to you at all times to eliminate the number of times you’d otherwise have to leave your home office. He also suggests putting up a partition to separate your work desk from the rest of the room whenever on an online meeting.

Don’t change too much

Entirely way too much has changed with the work-at-home experience, but keep a hold of your routine work habits at the office so that you can work with the same mindset at home. Almost every member of the team agreed how important it was to start at exactly the same time they would at the office, maintain the same morning routines, and take the same amount of breaks. Our Tender Coordinator Bernard Sano says,

“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 do a short exercise with my son in the morning.”

Stay connected

Quarantine has meant a lot of time spent in isolation, and not getting the chance to socialize with work colleagues on the daily. This makes staying connected with everyone on the team extremely important. Sadaf highlights this important point:

“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 psychologically speaking it is important that all employees communicate better and get the support they need to not lose focus, and work effectively as a team.”

To fulfil connectivity and coordination between all team members our company stepped in to help everyone in any way they could. As Hala puts it,

“Alpin helped by providing the needed tools to stay connected and motivated, through technologies such as GoToMeeting licenses and ergonomic computer monitors and chairs.”

To stay motivated and up-to-date with all our work, we implemented an initiative to start every work day off with a 15-minute ‘Morning Coffee’ meeting. According to our Operations Coordinator, Tasneem Bakri:

“Working from home for the past week, it has been a breath of fresh air to have lunch break with my family. Yet I feel even more connected to the A-team, especially with our company-wide Morning Coffee Initiative.”

Our 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.

Try to find the positives:

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

From Sadaf:

“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 commute time. Moreover, I have minimal distractions at home and am able to deliver my best in such a setting.”

From Bernard:

“With the situation at the moment, working from home gives me a little peace of mind that enables me to concentrate more on the task at hand.”

From Hala:

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

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 tumultuous and stressful day that usually awaits me. I also brought more nature to my office by installing plants around me to fill up empty spaces in the room. At Alpin, our WELL Certified offices contain many biophilic design features and it is easy to reproduce this at home and quickly feel the positive impact on the mood, productivity and well-being!”

work from home with a view

Also, read about our WELL certification and how it can help your office or work space.

The company’s health initiative Alpin Healthy has also launched two health challenges over the quarantine period, to keep up everyone’s activity and fitness levels while building teamwork and motivation, and the first of these challenges has already been successfully completed. Go Team Alpin!

Ramadan RunEverest Campaign

There are bound to be some negatives

Although our team had a generally positive response to the work-from-home experience, there were the obvious issues. For one, Raghid echoed many other Alpiners’ thought 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 daily routine, “being forced to consider it is not that convenient.”

Use this as a learning experience

At the end of the day, we could never put it past Team Alpin to use this an opportunity to learn. For example, Raghid points out something that could make operations way more efficient:

“Today I 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.

How Alpin is helping:

With the team finding the best ways to navigate their new work environments and schedules, we asked the team how the company is making sure everything is running smoothly, and here’s what they had to say.

For Bernard, it was Alpin’s support with technology:

“Alpin’s use of technology to make sure all documents and data are easily retrievable online has been a great support from the company and it’s what has been enabling us to work remotely in the first place.”

Sadaf points out how helpful Alpin’s embracement of flexibility has been:

“To say the least, Alpin has been wonderful and extremely considerate to all our needs whilst working remotely. Thanks to the company’s investments in remote communication tools, we are able to arrange meetings with co-workers and clients online and carry on with our work seamlessly. The team is always available for a chat and I feel we have never been more productive and focused as a group. I appreciate the fact that Alpin has always been flexible and highly regards a work-life balance for all its employees.”

So there you have it! We hope you can use these tips and observations to support your employees and better their work and home lives, or improve your own home-work habits while staying healthy and motivated.

This article was contributed by Fairuz Zakir