Work-life balance redefined

Azlan Othman

In the current pandemic situation, working from home (WFH) plays an integral part in helping the government curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Senior officers at the Civil Service Institute (IPA), Prime Minister’s Office recently shared insights into self-leadership, time management, leadership methods and management of work when WFH.

The importance of being highly motivated when working from home was highlighted by training officer at the IPA Haji Noor Hosseini bin Haji Mohd Hussain.

He explained that self-leadership, whether as a head in a department or a staff member, is paramount to remaining highly motivated.

He said that self-leadership motivation when working from home is a form of trust that should be well nurtured by all civil servants. Work ethics can fade if self-management is not emphasised.

“For civil servants, it is about trust. They should think of the work done as trust and perform tasks with the right intention. They should take responsibility for the tasks performed, increase their quality and productivity of work.

“Pandemic conditions demand leaders to make transformations in leadership patterns, including determining the types of tasks that can be done at home. Leaders need to immediately act on the needs of the organisational environment, especially matters that are outside the planning, especially in these pandemic times.”

This includes defining new practises of the organisation such as flexibility, facilities and the use of technology to assist the operations of the organisation.

He said that leaders must be prepared and be proactive in facing the pandemic, and be able to support and prepare the team for future challenges. A leader must also show a caring attitude and obtain employee information through the platform, show empathy to the work style situation of WFH, be dedicated to immediate tasks and modify the leadership style to fit to the situation.

Leaders must also perform social (non-formal) interactions with subordinates and be sincere in leading subordinates in the era of WFH.

He added that when WFH, one must be motivated and determined to get up early every morning, and to not do it last minute when carrying out work and attending to family needs.

Leisure activities can be done at home. Take the attitude of not being left behind, note down every instruction and duty from their leader, have a group chat and avoid wandering around during office hours.

Meanwhile, Senior Training Officer at the IPA Mohd Norazlin bin Dato Paduka Haji Kassim highlighted time management and leadership methods while WFH.

Mohd Norazlin explained that time management can be linked to self-leadership in terms of an individual’s ability to balance time management at home and dealing with family responsibilities. He said that two time management methods can be practised, namely Priority Matrix and Pomodoro Technique.

“With regards to Priority Matrix by Eisenhower, this can help in organising an individual’s tasks in identifying the work that needs to be done immediately, planned, delegated or reduced.

“Daily tasks can be arranged according to four quadrants of the Priority Matrix namely implement (for important and key things), plan (for things that are important but not immediate), delegate (for less priority matters) and reduce (for less important matters).

“For emergency matters, it is included in the immediate or highest priority matter and is counted as an executable category in the matrix.”

Another technique is called Pomodore, which helps individuals focus on one task or activity.

“The guidelines for Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo include performing a task in 30 minutes. Every 25 minutes, one needs to take a five-minute break and after four rounds, the rest time is 20 minutes.”

The focus period of performing the task can be reviewed according to the convenience of the user, he said.

“For instance, longer break is needed for 50-minute tasks and vice versa. If a person has free time during WFH, it is good to schedule that time to do beneficial work, such as self-development and make plans for future work. One should refrain from doing matters that do not help towards handling chores at home.”

Senior Training Officer Siti Rozaidah binti Haji Jalani at the IPA underlined challenges of working remotely.

She explained that in an organisation, challenges include policy changes and standard of procedures, productivity, technology support and relationship with stakeholders, while on the individual perspective, the challenges include time, environment, technology and cost.

In managing WFH, one should follow the working hours, ensure their presence, be ethical during discussions and act according to rules.

She also said one should be competent in implementing, be motivated and reliable as well as knowledgeable about government goals, tasks, changes and implement according to policies and goals.

Decisions made must be in line with departmental goals that are smart and cost-effective. As for leadership, one must think, act and lead in line with the strategy as well as lead change effectively and ensure results and productivity, she added.

Touching on work management, she said, one must have clear expectations and prioritise tasks according to time period. Communication must be clear, orderly and bring ease to stakeholders.

In tackling challenges arising from working remotely, the equipment used must be of quality and prioritised safety of data and information.

She also believed that the surrounding environment, such as the work station, must be ergonomic, while fitness must be maintained when working, a peaceful environment created with no interruption during working hours and the technique of a “Don’t Do List” and “Don’t Disturb” used.

One should also emphasise on keeping a ‘work-life balance’, being aware of work demands and cut-off time to execute tasks, she added.