Currently many of us are working from home, and depending where you’re located, that might well include you and the other employees in your small to medium sized shipping company. Maybe you’re running your maritime recruitment operations from your home office, or trying to meet crew changeover dates at your kitchen table. The fact is, life is a little different right now.
Of course we all want life to return to normal after the global pandemic is over, but truth be told, COVID-19 is probably going to change the way we work - like it or not.
As more and more of us embrace remote work - or at least learn how to try and embrace it! - it is likely that offices will look somewhat different in the not too distant future.
And while there are definite upsides to working remotely, it doesn’t come without its pitfalls too. The good news is that there are ways to overcome the cons, while also making the most of the pros (while making sure your employees aren’t embracing the pros too enthusiastically!)
Let’s take a look at what those pros and cons are.
The pros and cons of working remotely or from home
Let’s start off with the benefits of working from a location other than the office.
The benefits of working from home
- You can kiss goodbye to the dreaded commute to and from work.
- It’s easier to work around childcare and other kiddie-related obligations.
- You don’t have to dress up and can work in comfortable clothing.
- You can manage your time more efficiently - work when it suits you (providing you’re online and available for coworkers and clients as needed.)
- You can get more done when you don’t have to keep stopping to answer questions from coworkers or employees.
- It’s easier to concentrate without the office chitter chatter and general noise.
- You’ll save money by making your own lunch and hot drinks rather than splashing out every day at that expensive coffee shop!
Whether you’re a ship owner, ship manager, manning agent, maritime recruitment officer, or crew operator, there are definite advantages of being able to work remotely.
But while an employee might think that not having their manager physically breathing down their neck is the biggest plus of all, if you’re a team leader or head of department, one of your main disadvantages is that you can’t keep a close eye on your people!
So, let’s take a look at the not so great things about working remotely - for both staff and management.
The negative aspects of working from home
- Yes, you’ve gotten rid of the commute but you’ve also lost that valuable time between getting up and easing into the day. Now you roll out of bed and you’re literally in your place of work.
- Not having to dress in business attire can be great - but it’s also a short distance to that slippery slope from dressing casually to not bothering to shower and get dressed at all!
- You’re not being bugged by questions from your coworkers - but you’re also not getting much contact with the outside world, and this can feel isolating.
- But you are being bugged by family members, housemates or friends who don’t understand that you’re actually at work!
- If you don’t have much willpower you may well struggle with being productive and motivated.
- On the other hand, it can also be hard to switch off and put your laptop away. The lines between home life and work become increasingly blurred.
- You might not have access to all the technology, platforms, software and files you need because they’re either physically kept in the office, or they’re stored on your desktop computer in the office.
It’s like a game of tug-o-war: there are both blessings and curses to working remotely! So what can you do to overcome the negatives, regardless of whether you’re a boss or an employee?
How to overcome the challenges of working from home
Let’s take a look at the points above and address them one by one. After all, at Martide, we’re all about solving challenges in maritime recruitment and crew management and there’s nothing we love more than finding solutions to problems!
No commute means you don’t have time to ease into the working day
Try not to fall into the trap of getting up, pulling some sweatpants on, and logging straight on to start work. Give yourself the breathing space to properly wake up and start your day as you would if you were going to the office. In fact, make the most of not having to face the drive or public transport by awarding yourself a little more time to face the day.
Get up and carry out your morning routine before sitting down for a proper breakfast and a cup of tea or coffee, or a glass of juice and take a moment to read the news or whatever else helps you ease into the day. Ready to go? Okay, now you can log on!
Not having to put a shirt, blouse or suit on means you become an instant slob!
Let’s face it, there can’t be many of us who would choose to wear a shirt and tie or a full face of makeup to work from the dining room table. And while being able to slip into sweatpants or leggings is a definite bonus, it’s advisable not to let things slide too far.
Yes, dress casually and comfortably but don’t let pajamas become a part of your day to day closet! Stick to your routine as if you were going to work - i.e. take a shower and get dressed!
No annoying coworkers - but not much human contact either
This can be a tough one for many people who work from home. Some thrive on the peace and quiet (assuming they have peace and quiet!) while others start to feel lonely or unstimulated by the lack of interaction with other people.
Make sure you stay in contact with your coworkers or team through group chats on applications such as Slack, and if you’re a team leader or manager, ensuring that you check in with your people through Skype, Zoom or other video calls is a must. Otherwise your employees could be suffering from a lack of engagement - or thinking that you’re not keeping tabs on their productivity.
Some people just don’t understand that you’re actually at work!
This can be a tough one. Of course, explaining to a three year old why mommy or daddy can’t play right now is easier said than done, and if you’re in a position to, having an option for childcare will be of immense value. However that’s not always possible so finding ways to work around your child’s needs and feeding times is your only real bet.
For example, can you make those crucial phone calls while they’re napping or playing quietly?
When it comes to housemates and friends who are on different schedules, you’ll need to be firm from the get go and explain that while you’d love to go and grab coffee or hang out, you are actually at work (and being paid to be at work!) at the moment.
You’re at home - and there are just so many other things vying for your attention
Whether it’s the piles of dirty laundry staring you in the face and making you feel guilty or the temptation to turn on the TV and binge watch a Netflix series - and THEN get some work done, the motivation struggle of working from home is a real thing.
One of the biggest complaints of many freelancers or contractors who are well versed in working from home - is that they end up working more than their office based coworkers due to the lack of interaction with other people.
We say, don’t feel guilty about taking five minutes to stick some dirty laundry in the washing machine and then getting back to work. Just don’t be tempted to dive into a full blown housework session while you’re at it.
Yes, if your workplace allows, you can be flexible with how and when you work but don’t let your days become slowly deteriorating cycles of logging on, doing an hour of work, watching a TV show, doing another hour of work, going for a walk...you get the picture.
The lines between home and work are becoming increasingly blurred
At the other end of the scale you might find yourself unable to switch off. “I’ll just answer this email before I go to bed” you think or “I’ll skip lunch and work straight through and finish earlier” - then realize it’s 9pm and you’re still typing furiously.
Remind yourself that when you’re tired you’re not performing to the best of your abilities. And if you’re still sorting through piles of seafarer resumes and cover letters while sitting in front of the television with your partner or spouse after dinner, you might be better off putting your work away and focusing on your family.
We know that maritime recruitment and crew management is demanding and there will be times when you need to be on call or respond to an urgent situation, phone call or email, but try to preserve some boundaries for the rest of your work and don’t let doing things that are part of your regular duties spill over into family time.
As when working in the office, decide upon times to start and finish work, and a time to have a lunch break. And stick to them unless it’s an emergency!
You’re trying to do your job - but you don’t have access to everything you need
Gone are the days when ring binders and filing cabinets were the only way to store information. Gone too are the days when one computer was used to store all of your files, seafarer certificates, and contracts.
You also shouldn’t be relying on a software program that’s been downloaded onto your desktop computer - because that means you can’t log in and access the files or information you need if you’re working on another device, such as your smartphone or laptop at home.
This is where cloud computing for the maritime industry comes into the picture, as well as solutions such as Software as a Service (SaaS).
When you use the cloud (think of Google Drive or Dropbox which are both cloud-based solutions) to store your seafarer documents, contracts, certificates and other files, you’ll be able to log in to any laptop, computer, tablet or smartphone and access them instantly. They aren’t stored on the physical computer - they’re stored on the internet - or in the cloud.
Software as a Service works on the same principle. Before SaaS, you (or your company’s IT guy) would download software onto your PC. And of course, you wouldn’t be able to use that software program if you didn’t have access to your computer. For example, if the office was locked after hours or if you were sick and working from home.
A Software as a Service model is also stored in the cloud, meaning you can log in and use it whenever you like, wherever you are, and on any internet-enabled device.
This is why SaaS and the cloud are so helpful when it comes to working remotely or from home. It would be madness to lug your work desktop computer home with you so you can use the software programs that are downloaded onto it when you can log in to an SaaS solution and use that instead - whether you’re at home, on the bus, or in the park keeping an eye on the kids while they play!
Martide is an example of Software as a Service
So let’s say, right now you’re trying to source seafarers, search your talent pools and pipeline, add ex-crew to a vacancy, arrange interviews and determine wage scales for hired crew - all from the comfort of your home office.
But, oh no, you can’t seem to quite get anything finished because the blank contracts are in the filing cabinet at work and your seafarer database is on your work computer.
Now imagine if you were using Martide’s SaaS to power your maritime recruitment and crew management operations. You’d be able to log in from your phone, home PC or laptop and take care of everything from there.
You should be embracing technology to help you run your operations more efficiently - no matter whether you’re in the office, at your kitchen table, on a flight, or running errands.
If you’d like to find out more about how Martide’s Software as a Service can help you and your small to medium sized shipping company meet the future head on, get in touch with us today.