What began as a crisis abroad has spun into a global health pandemic forcing everyone into extreme social isolation. Experts, scientists, and doctors warn everyone to avoid physical contact and maintain distance from one another. Each day, human interaction becomes less face to face and more virtual. Government officials have predicted the end date of confinement to be months away. So, what does this mean for engineers, who are the problem solvers and solution finders of the world? The practice of engineering is very much hands on. It requires being human, identifying problems, and developing solutions that will make life easier for others.
To maintain a sense of normality during this confinement, engineers and all people must adjust by staying connected through other forms of communication. Engineering is very much a team effort that involves the collaboration of multidisciplinary members to develop software, products, infrastructure, process, goods, and much more. With that in mind, the utilization of technology is critical. The 5G network upgrade is underway or has been incorporated into everyday life for many of us for quite some time. This network promises to meet higher IT demands. Higher performing computer systems mean better performing networks for businesses now working remotely. Teams must be fully interactive through various virtual software such as TEAMS, Skype, or WebEx. Teams should expect to communicate at frequent interactive intervals throughout the day to continue the project momentum.
Engineers must remain vigilant in their ability to lead and influence, which can be challenging when working remotely. Managers and supervisors must develop new skills in this emerging “new norm.” This means being understanding to team members with younger children at home while they are working. Be open to making adjustments in your team’s schedule. Work must be scheduled to accommodate not only the needs of the employee, but consideration must be given to the needs of his or her family. Work will potentially be done outside of normal business hours. Developing a holistic schedule and following it is essential for success. Schedules should be developed with frequent breaks and early morning meetings, which are useful collaboratively in motivating employees at the start of their “shift” and gives direction for the day. Engineers should also make time to be available and to engage throughout the day. They should work to set goals and stay action oriented.
Because engineering involves frequent site visits, engineers should follow health and safety guidelines, social distancing, and exercise extreme precautions when they must visit job sites. When working from home, they should create and maintain a separate home office space that allows them autonomy to work productively with minimal distractions. Engineers should work to stay positive and maintain their mental health. Working from home can sometimes be more stressful than being at the office. Schedules should not only include frequent breaks but also some limited outdoor activities. Engineers should also allow time to decompress and set boundaries with employers and employees. In this “new normal,” the key is to incorporate balance.