Over the past two months, we have often heard the expressions “self-quarantine”, “social distancing”, “remote work” or ”working from home”. The coronavirus pandemic has created a multitude of unique and new challenges, making it important to find new ways to work and to communicate with our colleagues and partners while taking care of our mental health and well-being, too.
Unfortunately, working from home became a forced necessity rather than an individual choice in many countries around the world, including Romania, Greece, Spain, Lithuania and Poland. Working from home represents a new experience for numerous people and the circumstances in which they are working and living at the same time are unusual for the majority of them. Our routine has changed and this situation affected us, causing anxiety or stress, but we kept in mind that social distancing does not mean social isolation. Therefore, we communicate through online instruments, trying to be as efficient as we can and even more productive than before.
Bucovina Institute, partner within the SEPAL Project conducted a research among the SEPAL team’s members, including WISE experts, ICT Specialists, Project Managers and Communication Experts. The purpose of this research was to evaluate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the SEPAL team. 13 persons from Romania, Greece, Spain, Lithuania and Poland answered to our questions regarding the personal impact and the professional one.
As we have mentioned above, this challenging period has changed our lifestyle, preponderantly regarding our work and our relationships and it will possibly change our values and our habits, too. Therefore, concerning the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the SEPAL Project’s team members’ personal life, six of the respondents declared that are somewhat worried (46,2%) and three of them very worried (23,1%), meaning that only four of the respondents manifest little (23,1%) or no concern at all (7,7%) regarding the influence of the coronavirus personally.
Needless to say, our work within the SEPAL Project it is affected, too. Given the fact that our work largely involves face-to-face meetings with the NEETs, the employers, the LSCs and also with the local partners or the project partners, we had to adapt to the circumstances, adopting different ways of working. This means that we have been communicating and working online using different tools available for free on the internet. Asking the SEPAL Project’s members about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our team’s work within the SEPAL project, we observed that they are all worried about their work on the project, some to a small extent, others to a large extent. 53,8%, meaning seven of them affirmed that they are somewhat worried, three of them (23,1%) are not so worried and another three (23,1%) are very worried.
The SEPAL team has strived to be as efficient as before during this time of crisis, working online with the young people registered in the project. However, most of them encountered difficulties. 15,4% declared that is very difficult to work efficiently in this manner, 38,5% – somewhat difficult, 15,4% neither easy or difficult, 15,4% – somewhat easy and 15,4% – very easy.
Fortunately, our team has a sense of confidence when it comes to supporting NEETs during this period. Self-confidence is vital in almost every aspect of our lives, yet many people struggle to find it. It is important for us, as WISE experts who interact directly with the NEETs to convey confidence around us. NEETs need encouragement because most of them have problems with self-esteem and this is why we must emanate confidence when we speak to them.
Thus, 4 of our team members are very confident regarding the support they can offer to the young people, seven of them are somewhat confident and only two of them are not so optimistic, marking not so confident and not confident at all.
When we bring into discussion the work from home, it is well known that this concept has become more popular in the last two months. Remote work was and still is a requirement in order to prevent the spread of the virus or to protect ourselves from it, but it still comes with its challenges. Working remotely means distractions and some people might have trouble detaching. Asking the SEPAL team how they would describe their ”working at home” activity compared to the normal work location, 69,2% chose to characterize it as challenging, while 23,1% affirmed that their work is more productive and 7,7% – equally efficient.
Another important aspect, which brings a lot of benefits, is having a dedicated workspace at home which separates your professional life from the personal life. Working in an office environment means that it will be easier to distance from the temptations, to focus, to mentally get into a working mode and to create a balance between personal and professional. A separate room that assures the necessary privacy, with natural light, clean and organized it would be ideal for you to work from home. 92,3% of the SEPAL team has a dedicated workspace at home.
Concerning the satisfaction of the current home arrangement, 7,7% are dissatisfied, 15,4% – somewhat dissatisfied, 7,7% – neither satisfied or dissatisfied, 46,2% – somewhat satisfiedand 23,1% – very satisfied.
Setting a schedule, having clear guidelines will help workers maintain a work-life balance. Routines are very important regarding this aspect, but so are the rules that need to be established with other people in your home. The children need clear rules about what they can or cannot do during the working hours. If you do not take these things into account, your work productivity may suffer. Fortunately, our team manages to keep a regular working schedule at home, 46,2% – every day, 46,2 % – most days and 7,7% – about half of the time.
After asking the SEPAL Project team to name three challenges that they are currently facing while working remotely, we managed to a make a top five regarding the biggest challenges:
#1 GENERAL ANXIETY ABOUT THE IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS
#2 SOCIAL ISOLATION
#3 PHYSICAL WORKSPACE
#4 COMMUNICATION WITH COWORKERS
#5 INTERNET CONNECTIVITY
In the end we collected some best practices from our colleagues from Romania, Greece, Spain Lithuania and Poland. We concluded that we have to take each day as an opportunity, to learn something new and to evaluate our work, realizing action plans. More than this, where work can be done online, we should use the available tools for communicating with our colleagues, partners, stakeholders and NEETs, to establish and respect a work schedule. To keep in touch with the NEETs and to offer them the necessary support and motivation is also important during this period.
The final message is: KEEP CALM! DO NOT PANIC! DO NOT STRESS!