In Spain, after 50 days of confinement, we are preparing to return to activity. During those 50 days, our lives have been changed. We must now ask ourselves serious questions: Will these be lasting changes? Will we have learned something to better our circumstances in the future? Will we revert to our normal lives as if COVID-19 had not happened?
Hill International’s teams in Spain know that there are lessons that we can learn and solutions that we can implement following COVID-19. Here are some reflections:
-We should lose our fear of working from home. Often wrongly associated with greater loss of time and efficiency, working from home can demonstrably do the opposite. Being able to balance work in person with work at home helps professionals to organize their time more effectively. In addition, it creates a positive atmosphere of trust between the company and the worker, who becomes the owner and responsible for their time and work.
-We should minimize unnecessary travel. During the past 50 days, we have experienced how many ways we can organize business meetings, share information, and otherwise be “close” to each other. Alternative options for communicating remotely have improved greatly over the years; yet like remote working, we have also been reluctant to use these options because of the tendency to consider "face-to-face" better. This period of total immersion in virtual meetings has made us realize that many issues can be resolved effectively without a journey and its associated time, cost, risk, and environmental damage.
-We can optimize our time. A traditional face-to-face meeting is often more time consuming than a virtual meeting because of participants’ added travel times to and from. In-person meetings can also involve added dialogue without focus. The virtual meeting has helped optimize our time with no travel times and with stricter agendas, allowing the participants to quickly get through their meetings.
-We should promote technological improvements. The need to work outside the office has also revealed, in some cases, problems with interconnection, outdated equipment, and internal processes. This will force us to promote improvements both in our technological capacity and in the design of efficient processes. This will help ensure that we can carry out our work activities wherever we are.
-We should improve our workspaces. We are now well positioned to evaluate the quality of our workspaces and the materials we use day to day. Now more than ever it is evident that the workspace must be a clean space, to support concentration and facilitate daily hygiene. Different workspace models can incorporate different remote-work strategies, such as hot-desking, which involves workers using the same physical space at different times. The rules of coexistence are more important than ever and the appropriate and hygienic use of common areas and facilities must be a priority for all. This is also an excellent opportunity to liberate ourselves from the use of unnecessary paper and its accumulation in the workplace.
-We can communicate better. Isolation has made structured communication within the company more necessary. Being in the workplace often facilitates a natural exchange of communication and information. When this opportunity is limited, communication must be "forced.” Our current situation can help us identify the failures in the communication process and better encourage everyone to participate in company communication. It is a good time to identify and promote these improvements and come closer together as a team.
We have been forced to change our habits overnight. We have had to relearn how to live and work during this time of confinement, often making extreme adjustments to reconcile family life with professional activity.
Without a doubt we are social beings, and if there is one aspect that has been truly difficult for us in this situation, it is that we are unable to assert our human factor. Losing contact with others deprives us of all the non-verbal communication and interaction that helps us to better comprehend how our interlocutors feel, to adapt our messages accordingly, and to build a real emotional connection, beyond words, with the other person. This is often more comforting and effective than remote communication.
When we reunite, we will again find that space that makes us human: communication, sharing, celebration. But we must also take advantage of the best things that we have learned during COVID-19. We are a continuously adapting species and we have the opportunity to take a major step. Let's do it!
About the Authors
Marián Prieto is the vice president and country manager for Hill International’s operations in Spain.With over 25 years of professional experience, she has held management positions in several of the largest Spanish companies in the real estate and construction sectors, including investment funds related to the hotel sector, major construction companies, and consulting and project management firms. She joined Hill in 2010 and after five years leading Project Management Operations, was appointed vice president and country manager for Spain to lead a new phase in the company's growth process.
Susana Laguna is business development coordinator at Hill International in the firm’s Madrid office. An industrial engineer and master in project management, shehas 15 years of professional experience. She began her career at Hill as project manager and later joined the business development team, a position from which she has provided continuous support to the company's marketing and communication initiatives.