“The Great Remote Experiment – the chemistry of people and technology” recap!
Let’s jump back to October of 2019. We opened a beautiful new office in Belfast, Northern Ireland, overlooking the iconic Harland and Wolff shipyard. The office was a huge investment for Teamwork, $1.2 million in renovation and outfitting, only to find it empty in March of this year due to COVID-19. We now find ourselves re-evaluating our office spaces and people policies heading into 2021.
2020 has been a series of experiments and challenges for every business. Most of us had no option but to adapt to remote work. Companies were trying to juggle business priorities, morale, culture, and fostering productivity, while employees at home were juggling home life and work responsibilities. Luckily 22% of Teamwork’s workforce was already remote and with our products made for collaboration, the quick transition was made a little easier. But, it didn’t come without challenges!
The pros and cons of working remotely
There are good and bad sides to everything, remote work is no different. Are we working from home or living at work?
Having been forced into this experiment, companies didn’t have time to evaluate the impact it would have on their workforce. At Teamwork, our workforce was made up of 22% full-time remote workers BC (Before COVID) so while it wasn’t a completely new concept for us as a company, it was still a massive shift for our employees that were working from our global offices every day.
Some of the positives to remote working, according to our employees, are:
Working your own hours – Whether you’re an early riser, or a night owl, remote work has allowed people to work to their own timeclock. Some like to split hours, some take extended breaks, others just work a normal 9-5 — whatever works!
No commuting – Gone are the days that someone finds themselves sitting in 30 minutes of traffic, or looking for a parking spot in the morning which is already making them late for their 9am meeting. They can start earlier and finish earlier if they wish!
More quality time at home with friends, family, and yourself! – Sometimes work can consume our lives, leaving only the weekends to catch up with family and friends — or even ourselves which can often be overlooked! Life was a constant rush, which is now a thing of the past.
Lower stress levels – Our employees have reported that their stress levels have reduced greatly since March. Having the ability to remove yourself the second you’ve closed the laptop for the day and switch to being present at home has played a massive role in reducing stress.
Higher concentration and productivity levels – Open plan offices often come with noise, chatter, and movement — which can be a good thing socially — but some of our employees have noted that their concentration and productivity levels have increased due to having minimal distractions around them.
On the other hand, the negatives of remote work can put a damper on the positives:
Communication and miscommunication – Communicating with colleagues over video calls or messages can be difficult. Internet issues, messages being misinterpreted, and coordination challenges are a few examples of this.
Another video call?! – Now that everyone is working remotely, the need for meetings and video calls has increased dramatically. Many people find it difficult to communicate over the phone, and it can be exhausting getting on yet another video call!
Less-than-ideal work stations – Many homes weren’t built with the ideal ergonomic work stations in mind. Employees found themselves having to adapt to unconventional work environments such as working from the couch, the kitchen table, or one of their kids’ study desks.
Lack of interaction and feelings of isolation – Offices have downsides, but one of the biggest benefits of an office environment is the social aspect. Just having people around you, a casual chat in the hall, or eating lunch with colleagues can play a massive role in happiness at work. Unfortunately, remote work removes this aspect of the work experience.
Culture challenges – Keeping the company culture alive while everyone is in different parts of the world can be a challenge. Maintaining productivity, collaboration, and morale is necessary, but it’s easier said than done when you’re having drinks alone in front of your laptop.
How we make it work at Teamwork
Having had remote employees before the ‘The Great Remote Experiment’, our processes didn’t change but rather expanded. We became very reliant on our own software to ensure the day-to-day running of the business. It is completely cloud-hosted, and can be used by teams on a smaller scale or those in the enterprise space — allowing your employees to work when and wherever they want!
We use Teamwork to coordinate everyone’s day-to-day work, project work, and manage our fully remote team. Just because we aren’t in the same room as our colleagues, doesn’t mean that you can’t be on the same page. Teamwork gives us everything to continue working together, as if we were still in the office together — staying connected, keeping the communication flowing, and getting that all-important visibility into your projects.
Teamwork Spaces has been one of the most important tools in our stack during these last few months. Having switched to remote work within the space of a few days, we set out to keep everyone up-to-date on the company processes. Our team leads wrote SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) for their teams to keep them on track, along with documenting the different work being carried out amongst teams. It became our single source of truth for the entire company.
Teamwork Chat is an employee favorite at Teamwork, allowing our teams to stay connected, improve their communication, and stay centered on the work that matters. The tool is used for both team and one-on-one conversations and its availability across devices ensures everyone can stay in constant contact regardless of where they are. Plus, since the product team introduced video calls to the platform, it has only grown in popularity. Teams can now start a video call from within Teamwork Chat, removing the need for additional third-party apps.
Keeping the Teamwork culture alive
Another challenge that we found at Teamwork was the remote onboarding of new employees. How could we give new employees an unforgettable experience and something that is in keeping with the Teamwork culture?
We developed a new employee onboarding project, which helped employees in a number of ways. It was designed to help ‘the newbie’ learn the product by using it, while also learning about the company culture — hearing from the founders, reading the company handbook, and e-meeting new people from both on and outside their team.
In addition to the tasklist, we assign each newbie a ‘buddy’. Usually, this is someone outside of their day-to-day team, to help with acclimating to the company. Their buddy will be on hand to answer any of those burning questions, jump on calls for a chat, and have virtual coffee catch-ups.
Our culture team at Teamwork has been working on a number of initiatives to help with keeping the entire company connected, for both new and current employees. We have a weekly All-Hands call with company updates, quizzes, and shoutouts. There are a number of coffee catch-ups, Women in Teamwork catch-ups, and fitness classes (including HITT and yoga!) for colleagues to get involved in.
On a bigger scale, we had our Almost Grand Council back in July, we are running a Hackathon during November, and our Christmas party is also moving online. Teamwork has worked hard to ensure our culture works even when we can’t be together in the office. Our culture is vital to the success of the company and the happiness of our employees.
Remote working is here to stay
The world going into lockdown has opened our eyes: remote working is here to stay! The new reality has made us completely rethink our people and office strategy.
The onboarding of new employees has changed, the culture has changed, and the way we work has changed. Giving employees a sense of belonging through both vision and purpose of the business is something we have found to be successful, while also applying that human-first approach to tailoring work and expectations.
Remote working, regardless of pros and cons, has become the new norm and in a recent survey with our own employees, the conclusion was that people preferred working from home but would like the option and opportunity to return to the office two days per week — which we are happy to provide!
We have in place the appropriate systems and processes to make remote working be successful for our employees, and have been leaning heavily on our data to make the appropriate decisions. There are 3 things necessary for remote work to be successful: Transparency, Trust, and Time Management. Our aim is to boost employee engagement, all while avoiding burn-out and helping them to find that balance between work and life.