While the home office model was still a lucrative thing in India, The COVID 19 scenario made it a compulsion for many. With restrictions growing more and more rigid with its widespread. We took it as an opportunity to put the home office model to test.
Working at a home office may give you two instant realizations, reduced social engagements with friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and unusually increased interactions with family. And swinging between the two extremes can be mentally and emotionally taxing.
We consider most companies that have become remote employers partly fortunate if they still efficiently function in these changed situations, and would be reaching their fullest potential to go remote, if they can preserve their organizational culture and values in these scenarios.
We are going to discuss the gaps that needs to be bridged, based on my experience over the years.
Organization Structure and Communication
There are very few organizations in the space who have clearly defined process goals and delivery expectations. For instance, response time to answer a query at work. There is a good chance of being involved into an alien task of responding and clarifying confusions of your team and get easily carried away from the task at your disposal. Of course, this can be a very organization specific and subjective.
So a vital advantage of being at a home office is, having the much desired focus that you look for.
A Knowledge task requires focus
A knowledge task is something that requires specialized knowledge and skill to perform the work. And this needs a relatively high degree of focus to come up with ideas, inputs and conclusions. With a knowledge task in hand, we cannot expect the person to respond to questions and giving an ear to the queries at the same time. So while addressing someone during this period the communication should happen asynchronously. Chat Bots and automated messages could be great channels for such communication.
This enables the workers to still have an information exchange without compromising with their focus time.
Our communication rules makes it absolutely flexible to answer questions over slack. In case of someone’s personal query, it’s absolutely OK to respond within an hour or two. Also if someone’s in the need of a quick response, we still consider directly calling your go-to person, the best option so far.
We have kept the 11:00 to 12:00 time slot for internal meetings. Every employee is expected to be free from external appointments during this time. We are using a tool called Meeter to use this time efficiently. Instead of scheduling meetings with specific people, the tool is only given the information who should attend and what priority the topic has. The allocation further happens dynamically and is automated. It’s possible to save the meeting minutes and the video (with transcripts) directly in the concerned slack channel.
This has given an easy access to other employees to revisit the recordings at their convenience. The days heavily packed with internal meetings are gone and the challenge to handle large group meetings seems to become easier with the use of Meeter.
The slack bot again pops in the evening, asking us about the highlights and happenings of the day. Things that we may like to share with colleagues and also asks to rate the day on a scale of 5, explaining our thought in a brief statement. Much like our end of the day conversations.
Both the morning stand-up and the evening Day-Done-Bot are written and read carefully.
Summing that up, we give foremost importance to employee’s personal freedom and flexibility to work without hindering their personal routine and honoring the spirit of team work.
Creating (and maintaining) the corporate culture
It becomes more challenging when it comes to corporate culture. The work from home model is quite a contrast of the usual company environment to say the least. A range of events, a premium coffee machine and recreation facility in the company premise, does give a feel of belonging and working as a unit.
Everything else happens just by the virtue of meeting frequently and working together. The informal chats in the canteen are usually the best ice breakers and avenues for information exchange and departmental inputs. But given the style of the home based model, we often require to walk that extra mile for greater good and think more innovatively.
Virtual doesn’t mean Distant
With employees being remotely distributed, also means that the modes of social exchange needs to be reconsidered and reorganized meticulously. Since it’s not the usual setup, the usual things won’t suffice. Studies have shown that remote teams are as successful and competent, if their means to socialize stays intact.
We, at the organization, do meet-ups and physical interactions and consider it of paramount Importance for the long term business success. That being said, It’s equally true that this is not the only factor to consider.
With technical aids under our helm, the donut bot, for instance, initiates random conversations among employees. There are bots that may ask you about your weekend experience or you have something to share or post on a given day. In every couple of weeks, the bot may come up with some personal trivia like what’s your favorite destination, your best skill, your hobby and what not. The answers to these questions are posted on our #random channel and often strikes great conversations. A leader has a chance to initiate talks and take discussions ahead.
One a week, there is a retrospective meeting, organized and scheduled by a bot. And all the leaders and employees are expected to turn in and show up for such meets as well.
After work conversations
We schedule personal casual talks with employees, which we consider important as to get the feel of the affairs going on in all the circles of the organization. Talks as these are meant to have a little insight of the personal front of the employee with conversation on topics not related to the company.
Employees have discussions about their specific needs with their leaders, through one on ones, based on their preference or mutually agreed intervals. The aim of which is to understand how the leaders can help and aid the employees with personal goals, team goals and attaining company objectives.
When in a corporate setup and culture, we must learn to appreciate, adopt and live by the corporate values. A transparent behavior and culture of mutual help is what we envision. For a remote organization, it is important that conversations remain open and spontaneous. Conversations happening privately would essentially contradict the vision of the company. We encourage fearless talks and putting newer ideas on the table through open forums.
It’s important to mention that we don’t expect you to read everything that’s written on Slack. You can only read messages from the Team Channel and if someone mentions you in a conversation.
So, is the home office model a real success?
Bringing back the question: No, This can’t be the ideal model for every business under the sun, but it can still take away a lot of hassle we face. (Both for companies and employees) But that’s when everything falls in place. With everything said and done in the right way. Otherwise, it can be a not-so-good experience as well.
Our attempt here is to highlight that, do not rely on the new age mechanisms and communication forums, (E Files, Meeting Platforms, Chat Software) But to try and abide by the communication rules in the “new normal”. Needless to say, applicable to all mediums of social interactions.
We would be happy and pleased to know that you have an enriching experience working from home and got a positive boost in these times of crisis.
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This article is contributed by Rimjhim Mishra. She is post graduated in MBA Finance. She is result-oriented and self-driven professional with a successful track record in business expansion, sales & digital marketing, content writing, social media marketing. Having exceptional communication and leadership skills and an ability to adapt quickly to change. She enjoy promoting startup companies to help them increase their profits and solve their modern day business problems through her analytical skills. She would love to set up a time to speak with you on her perspective.