“Confined” Agility

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For most of us, this year has seen a drastic change in the way we work, especially if you are working in the tech sector. The daily commute has been replaced by the short distance from the coffee table to the laptop screen, and for some that distance has collapsed into nothing.

At the beginning of the pandemic, teleworking emerged as a practical solution to social distancing, allowing people to work from home, reducing physical contact, and keeping a reasonable degree of productivity in some sectors.
While all this can be seen as a net gain, some factors such as people’s motivation, the generation of new ideas, or the ability of people to move to a different position are not being measured.

It’s too early to know the impact over the long term, we can reflect on this year’s experience:

  • Motivation and morale: This has been on a roller coaster, and not evenly distributed. 
    • People that live alone seem to be the most affected, as they suffer the lack of social interaction. Keeping the agile ceremonies in place helps to create some structure they can hold on to, but in the end, they have suffered from the confinement.
    • Parents with small children at home: Before the pandemic, their life was compartmentalised, being a parent at home, and a professional at the office. Society provided for child support, so you could be free to work. When the office is at home and you have to work and take care of your children at the same time, it becomes a source of additional stress. Some work arrangements like working after business hours can help, but they do not remove the fact that they have to cope with these two roles all the time.
  • Long term effects: The intangibles of putting people together at work are not easily measurable. How has this situation affected creativity and innovation in the existing teams? 

In our case, we have continued on the same path that we set at the beginning of the year, with no big changes in the way of working, but I think that unconsciously we have refrained from making major changes until the situation has returned to some kind of normality.

The pandemic will not last forever, but we should also not expect that things will go back to the old “normal”. We can take stock of these lessons and design a way of working that reflects what we have learned:

  • that the amount of physical presence can be adjusted to a lower level,
  • That we as humans need some level of social interaction
  • That the new normal should also accommodate the needs of families.

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