“We are moving on March 1”, read an email, apprising us of the office move we were all eagerly waiting for. The excitement of outgrowing our current office and moving into a bigger space captivated each of us. Come March 16, the entire team would be forced to work remotely indefinitely due to the COVID’19 pandemic. Strict curfews and social distancing orders that followed unsettled multiple facets of our lives. Two months into the shelter-in, the team is working efficiently and supporting our clients seamlessly. What helped us adapt to the remote working paradigm?
Communication / Over-Communication
Daily rituals like morning whiteboards, coffee brainstorms and pop-up discussions are now replaced by virtual huddles. While the meetings could always be moved online, it is important to ensure that efficiency and quality of work are not compromised. How did we make this happen?
- Home-Office Setup: Logistics for setting up home-offices were arranged weeks in advance, making sure that we had one less thing to worry about during already challenging times.
- Morning Mingle: Teams huddle up first thing in the morning to align on upcoming deliverables. Pan-team discussions foster collaboration and teammates volunteer to help shoulder the work other teams are tackling.
- Respecting Time: Discussions for problems warranting brainstorms are scheduled in the first half, leaving ample time to reflect on the outcomes through the workday.
- Communication Fatigue: Afternoon is treated as core-working hours and people refrain from setting up meetings at that time to avoid any fatigue from communication.
- Knowledge Sharing: In-house knowledge sharing sessions are routinely put up to discuss, critique and refine any new learning across projects.
- Access to Leadership: Managers and mentors make themselves accessible through the day, providing guidance and feedback from time to time.
While maintaining a healthy channel of communication is vital, being sensitive to the challenges each of us faces, due to the shelter-in, is equally important.
The pandemic has caused us to trade our morning commutes with several small interruptions through the day – home-schooling children, attending to toddlers, making that quick trip to the grocery store, or cooking for your family. Multiple organizations have brought in policies acknowledging this transformation. For example, Twitter’s, work from home announcement, which rests the choice of returning to offices with the employees, is being deeply appreciated. These unprecedented times warrant support and empathy from all. How are we at Viscadia bringing this to effect?
- Flexible working hours: The teams define their own mutually beneficial core hours, by proactively planning schedules well in advance.
- Trust: Everyone is empowered and trusted to manage his/her own deliverables and we are often, pleasantly surprised by the turn-around times the teams end up clocking.
- Set Boundaries: Managers help the team implement firm boundaries on the work hours. Without the presence of a strict closure to work, one struggles to define a boundary between personal and professional time, causing unwanted fatigue.
While this “new normal” has slowly set-in, we make it a point to still do the things that we have always enjoyed as a team. Every week, one of us puts together virtual versions of our favorite rituals and activities. Apart from being an informal platform for everyone to interact, these virtual hangouts also remind us that the existing tide of uncertainty can be navigated smoothly.
Stepping into the third month of working remotely, we feel as productive as ever and the results speak for themselves. One of our teams successfully delivered a multi-country forecast engagement in less than 3 weeks. Several employees either picked up fresh side-projects or drew the old ones past the finish line, adding new capabilities to the company’s repertoire.
While we try to habituate ourselves to the new work paradigm and the boundaries that come with it, we wonder if the pandemic has instead brought us all closer?
For someone rightly said, “we are in this together”.