In The Workplace

With or without a lockdown, it looks like the pandemic will continue to keep us working at home until a vaccine is discovered and health protocols are firmly established. In the meantime, what would you advise to help us maximize our time working from home? — Rainbow Warrior.

An elderly man was taking his first airplane flight. He was much more relaxed than he had expected, except for one problem. His ears would not stop popping. He mentioned this to the flight attendant, who returned after few minutes to hand the old man chewing gum, explaining that the gum would keep his ears from popping.

At the end of the flight, the man thanked the flight attendant: “The gum worked fine. I did not notice any pressure in my ears. But I have another problem. I’m having a terrible time getting this gum out of my ears.”

There are times when we presume to know how things work. Work from home schemes are a partial solution for coping with COVID-19. People managers are constantly urged to maximize employee productivity, in the hope that when the pandemic ends, everything will return with renewed vigor.

If there’s one approach that I would recommend, I will not hesitate to assign your workers for cross-trained in other jobs outside of their original job description, department, or even geographical work location. Who says cross-training can’t be done by people who are working from home?

After all, cross-training is nothing but providing opportunities to employees to perform other jobs. Management should explain such assignments well by showing workers that it’s also in their own interest. Versatility can be beneficial to anyone. It’s a matter of selling the idea to employees.

There are some approaches that you can take in convincing people to accept cross-training even if they’re assigned to work from home. The following measures, translated here in the form of objectives, may help management overcome the hurdles of convincing some employees resisting the idea:

One, to have a greater sense of job security. Talented and multi-skilled workers increase their value to the organization. This has the potential to create a general sense of well-being, motivating people who are looking for long-term relationship with their employer.

Two, to avoid demotivation and dissatisfaction. At times, people become bored by the monotony of their jobs. Encouraging workers to learn other skills at home helps minimize downtime, increase productivity and reduce below-average work performance. This also helps prevent people from looking for other jobs.

Three, to improve versatility in problem-solving. When people are assigned to other things, they become aware of the many challenges in solving operational issues which they may not have encountered before. When assigning other tasks, workers are given the opportunity to learn new insights and perspectives.

Four, to reconcile worker’s interest with other tasks. Every attempt should be made to make other tasks complement the career interests and long-term goals of each individual employee. This includes convincing them to learn less desirable tasks or consider performing a difficult project.

Last, to allow the workers to choose their mentors. This may not be limited to choosing their current boss or senior work colleagues, but may include other managers or achievers in other work areas. Mentoring is based on trust. Without trust, it would be difficult to do cross-training when the workers are forced to accept mentors they don’t like.

Unfortunately, not all cross-training programs are successful. More so if it’s not done on an eyeball-to-eyeball, face-to-face basis where the mentees and mentors can maximize the potential of such programs.

However, this is not sufficient reason to stop cross-training altogether, especially when everyone is trying to deal with the pandemic by working from home. Sometimes, the challenges include supervisors and managers who refuse to mentor their subordinates, due to their incompetence or lack of self-confidence.

To correct this issue, there’s no other way but to make mentoring part of every manager’s key performance matrix. They should be evaluated based on how they promote cross-training, if only to ensure business continuity. It’s far better than allowing people to enjoy their downtime.


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