Our lifestyle is like a big system deployment. The Covid-19 pandemic has created another rollback to Phase 1.5 (aka Phase 2 Heightened Alert) in Singapore. It is time we get used to the roller coasters effect from the pandemic. What can these effects teach us?
Single channel industry needs to undergo massive flexi calibration to multichannel. A major shift will be high touch industry. These roles will need to toggle between face to face services to digital services. It is no surprise that our feedbacks and emails suddenly get answered with slower responses due to overwhelming surge in online services. This lead to very poor satisfaction with online customer service. On the other hand, physical stores have to layoff staffs because there are no customers to serve.
The digitalisation effects create a huge gap in consumers due to the toggle measures of the pandemic. These gaps include IT savviness, vaccinated vs non vaccinated or even capabilities to provide digital presence. Sadly, those that fall behind will soon be forgotten as we get used to the pandemic effects or the new normal. It lends an important lesson to incumbent industries that pandemic can be a nasty disruptor for some or opportunities for others.
The roller coasters measures of pandemic will be anticipated. Meanwhile, the casualties will be tough to handle and damages be done. We can only calibrate our mindset forward to avoid the bottom end of the digitalisation chasm that comes with it.
Moving a pandemic to endemic is a model that will be done for COVID-19 in Singapore. Being a port city, trade and travelling is most important and sustain isolation will do more harm than good. While I look forward to this, there are many things we are learning from pandemic.
There are a few mindsets that needs to be recalibrated for us to be adaptive. Work From Home (WFH) will stay and jobs are no longer constrained to office space. Many jobs also cannot be totally relied by external workers. Food security have been accelerated to reduce dependency of food imports when borders are closed. Digitalisation have also been ramped up to enabled automation.
Mask and Hygiene Culture
Have everyone realise that flu is lower as well? Seems the mask culture will be here to stay if anyone fall sick. Tray return is also mandatory as we move to a hygiene approach to keep the country clean. This also helps to increase focus of cleaning to sanitise instead of picking your trash.
The announcement to endemic will come soon as vaccination gain momentum. We will likely continue to practice what we learn during the pandemic. Have an open mind to continue the goodness learnt during COVID-19.
Work from home (WFH) is the new norm. However, I realise that Work On Holiday will arise as a direct effect from WFH and Singapore Phase 1.5. The COVID-19 restrictions have blurred the holiday mood. There are little differences of being on holiday and working on holiday. How many of you got bored at home and work on holiday as well?
Thin Red Line
It is surprising to see a quiet 9pm in Singapore on this holiday. The current situation reminds me of thin red line where boundaries and time blurred one another. Luckily, I will not be exposed to space travel where we will be in similar situation of isolation. You can catch the series The 100 on Netflix to see how it will be.
Pros of Work On Holiday
The good part of working on holiday is less distraction. Usually, there will be no meetings or discussion leaving you time to clear your backlogs. After all, you have nowhere to go as well during the COVID-19 restrictions. Thus, you will end up more productive working on holiday for the COVID-19.
Although you are working on holiday, do time out to take a breather. Soon, we will have no preference over holiday, long weekend or school holidays. After all, the days are similar at home.
Just when everything looks rosy, life going to be normal. Singapore is hit with another wave of COVID-19 outbreak. This time, the variant or mutant virus is contagious and affect kids more. Sadly, dinner out is not allowed as you need to mask down when eating or drinking. This time, my kid is more adaptable to Home Based Learning (HBL). However, more still need to be done to educate online effectively.
Usage of Physical Textbooks
Singapore education is still very textbooks based. Yearly, the kids have to buy 10kg of books yearly. My son is already training to carry 5kg of books daily! It is no wonder there is a disconnect between HBL and physical books. It is also time consuming for teachers to manually convert learning material digitally from textbooks.
Camera, lights and action! Another common issue is the digital tools like laptop and internet connection. Not all students have these tools at their disposal. Thus, schools have to remain open to cater for these students. I also rush to download the various applications for my son like Zoom, Google Meet and login to more than 3 teaching platforms. It will take some time before schools realise the need of a unified collaborative learning platform.
There is still room for improvement on HBL in Singapore. The pandemic have presented a good push factor towards eLearning model.
Work from Home (WFH) or Remote Working is back to default for Singapore Phase 1.5. I recently learn about a new destress toy call Pop It from my son. This toy may help those working from home especially those with kids. Its purpose is similar to fidget spinner or the traditional popping with bubble wrap. It helps you to relieve stress and anxiety and also to keep your kids entertained as well. Why is stress easily build up during WFH?
Work and personal boundaries will blur during the period of working from home. Time and space coexists with your family, in-laws or housemates. In the initial start of WFH, I often flared up due to interruptions and overlapping tasks of home and work. It is even more challenging with kids “Home Based Learning” (HBL). Knock off and Paid Time Off become meaningless as you are constantly within the working location. Gradually, stress and anxiety build up among those WFH or HBL at the same time.
Pop It and Time Out
An important aspect of WFH is division of time and space among the occupants of the home. Usually, this comes with trial and error to work out the area with your housemates or family. Hopefully, you can get a room with a door! Setting working hours break period and lunchtime is good for everyone to proper time out. If all fails, hide yourself to pop it. You can also get your kids distracted with pop it as well.
Today, I have an interesting discussion with my little son over dinner. He exclaims on how he and his friends name the new tightened measures on COVID-19 “Phase 1.5”. Just a week ago, Singapore went back to Phase 2. Yet, the numbers keep increasing despite many had been vaccinated on the frontline. What goes wrong?
Cracks in Phase 3
A rollback is typical of system deployment. We can view virus like bugs in the system. Another example is Matrix where Neo mutated and evolve. Vaccines are usually developed on known virus. Many become complacent when vaccinated and goes back to business as usual. Unknowingly, vaccines becomes a two way sword for human mindset. The vaccines are working. The implemented phase 3 is successful. Humans are the variables. Cracks are formed and this seeped through via humans.
Lesson from Deploying New System
Like all new systems, users will challenge the new system with old ways. COVID-19 measures are designed with fixed assumptions, rules and laws. However, it is obvious that some measures are vague in nature and leaves room for interpretation. Working from Home is such measure which have been always subjective and interpreted very broadly. With new processes, human behaviour will naturally select the shortest and most convenient methods. Ironically, the cracks appeared in places with “stringent checks” like hospital and airports.
The monitoring phase after Go Live is the most challenging part of system deployment. We will always aim to let go and get to steady state in the shortest duration. However, can the vaccines turn around fast to solve new bugs that evolved? If no, what is the contingency? The end result is a rollback until new measures comes in place. Vaccines 2.0!?
Singapore is back to phase 2 from 8 May to 30 May with the spike in COVID-19 cases. This time, our workforce is more adapt to remote working or work from home (wfh). It is always great to see how well we switch to working anywhere. Elsewhere, we are also seeing spike and result in travel ban from certain countries. How should the management adapt to changing government policies on the pandemic?
Adapt and React
By now, most organisations are resilient to adapt and react to different phases of government responses to COVID-19. The infections can be unpredictable with waves or cluster of infections. Business continuity remains top priority to ensure service level are similar. In some cases, we need to slow down or de prioritise certain tasks or projects.
Self Organising Team
The pandemic have result in an importance of self organising team. Centralised management of team will be obsolete in face of empowerment. As our workforce becomes remote, decision making must be empowered and teams need to be self reliant. Teams become autonomous and accountable to their projects or job scope.
For all old management, it is time to face the change from the pandemic. Management needs to create self organising teams and empowering staffs. On the other hand, workers must play their part to be accountable to their tasks without decentralise management.
Looking back to year of COVID-19, there comes a few plus point that have happen to the dynamics of working. The one good thing I can think of on top of my mind is the chance of working remotely. This method of working will have never be realised in many Asian countries if not for the pandemic.
FaceTime is a Thing of the Past
In Asia, cultures plays a an important part of everyday working life. FaceTime and long working hours is an indicator of “hardworking”. We are often told to be on time at work. Knocking off on time is frown upon and you are encouraged to clock overtime. There was even one instance where I was assigned more tasks because I was seen leaving work on time constantly (to fetch my kid).
Remote Working Gives Work Life Balance
As many found out, remote working allows each individual to gain around 3 hours of personal time. These time would have been used to spend on getting ready for work or traveling to work. We can now achieve better work life balance by investing these extra time in personal well being like going to the gym.
Working Remote can Maintain Productivity
The pandemic have shown that working remotely does not give rise to a reduction of productivity. In some cases, the productivity increases as workers are much happier with the increased flexibility and work life balance. There are also times where schedule can be easily planned with adequate rest to connect with colleagues across different time zone.
Working remotely is the new norm. Traditional organisation and management will need to acknowledge and adapt to new way of working. If not, good resources will be lost to the new norms.