Many roles within our sector, like sales and technical positions, are difficult to align with working from home and so the industry has been slower to adopt more flexible working practices – even for office staff, in comparison with other sectors. However, with the crisis literally outlawing many from going into work, we have all had to adapt quickly.
The use of technology has become invaluable in keeping communication going between colleagues, partners and clients, with conference calling and instant messaging becoming the new norm replacing face-to-face meetings. Even prior to social distancing measures, video conference calls were becoming increasingly popular, allowing life safety staff from offices across the world to share ideas and information without undertaking timely and often expensive travel. Now that working from home is compulsory, this technology is essential for facilitating this new way of working. Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom are all great platforms which allow you to get some facetime with your friends, colleagues and clients.
With governments continuing to enforce social distancing measures for the foreseeable, in-person product training sessions have been replaced by webinars and online presentations to ensure minimal disruption to essential life safety training. While previously online learning was being used by the industry to supplement group or individual training sessions, as the COVID-19 crisis carries on these are becoming the main source of learning for people who are working from home and demand is on the rise. You can find examples of some of our life safety webinars on our YouTube channel!
Obligatory social distancing also means that some on-site tasks such as maintenance have been cancelled due to the fear of spreading COVID-19. In a recent survey we conducted, we found that around 70% of life safety professionals had been stopped from carrying out routine checks by building owners. Instead, if access is available via remote desktop software or the customer uses video mediums like Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom, support and technical guidance can be offered via these platforms. Technical support must ensure that advice is as clear and concise as possible if on-site support is restricted.
Many companies, like ourselves, have also added an online chat function to their sites, matching customer queries with a relevant member of the team to provide people with immediate remote assistance.
However, working from home can provide new challenges for those doing it. At a time like this, mental wellbeing can be just as important as physical wellbeing. For homeworkers in any sector it is important that staff have a safe and comfortable space to work from, ensuring that electrical equipment is used and stored correctly to avoid the risk of overheating and fires. If possible, workers should also set a distinction between work and leisure spaces within the home, to facilitate a more productive environment for work and a place to relax after working hours.
To support positive mental wellbeing, it is crucial that team members working from home have regular breaks and are able to switch off once the working day ends. Although a norm within the office, allocating time for breaks is especially important for homeworkers in the absence of travel to and from the office and a lunch hour which usually breaks up the working day. Staff must also remember to keep in regular touch with each other and update their team on their whereabouts to avoid feeling isolated and to reduce potential conflicts over work. Watching the news is important at a time like this, but we should definitely limit ourselves to prevent becoming consumed by it.
With the unique circumstances brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the sector has had to adjust to this way of working quickly. However, thankfully technology can ensure meetings, training and presentations are able to continue via a different but effective method of delivery.
For life safety staff using their home as an office, usual homeworking factors around safety, comfort and support must be considered to make sure that team members are as productive and happy as possible with this different type of working arrangement.
The one thing to remember is all of this is temporary and we will get through this together. The results from our recent survey on the state of the life safety sector show that more than 90% of those surveyed were optimistic about the future of the industry, despite everything going on around us. By focusing on the positive, we can remain both motivated and effective.