During this time of pandemic many companies and organizations have had to adapt to a relatively new environment: delocalized people, employees joining a company without physical contact… But why “relatively”? Because working remotely is not new, it has been done for years in one form or another (for example, at Keepler we already had two days of teleworking before the pandemic arrived), perhaps the nuance here is that this new situation does not imply “only” working remotely, but generates hybrid contexts: people working some days in the office and others out of it, and people always working away from the office.
The point is that, as we all know, a pandemic changed everything. In the beginning, we were forced to work remotely without knowing for sure when we were going to be back, and as a result, we all have had some very interesting lessons learned that can serve us well not only as a company, but as a society when it comes to adapting a hybrid or remote work model in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the situations and lessons learned from Keepler’s point of view.
Meetings all the time
Remote work gives you incredible flexibility, it’s undeniable. Not only does it allow you to work from anywhere, but it also saves you time commuting to and from the office. This is a great improvement, but there is one aspect that is difficult to achieve with this approach: osmotic communication. I’m talking about that kind of communication that happens when you’re in an office and you hear co-workers talking about something that affects you and even you can help with it. This type of communication has been replaced by meetings, and as a result, we find that since we are teleworking our calendar has become a constant meeting. Apart from the meetings that we already had, we have incorporated all these emerging conversations into our calendar which means that right now we don’t have time to “work”. This results in the fact that after all the meetings your workday begins which can lead to burnout or difficulty in disconnecting, among other inconveniences. I believe that this is a learning process and that we really have to replace this type of communication in another way that is not putting more meetings. This is where habits and tools come into play, which I will discuss in the following points.
Many companies and organizations have had (and still have) their workspaces. This can mean that large investments have been made to create a pleasant, creative, and collaborative workspace. With the pandemic in our lives we are left in an uncomfortable situation: large investments in workstations that, taking into account remote work, can lead directly to losses. The ING case is striking but it is not the only one in the market. The lesson here is that perhaps we should start refocusing how we approach company offices. We are no longer talking about a place to work on a daily basis, but rather an on-demand, one-off workspace. For this case co-working workspaces fit well: I can have a larger or smaller workspace depending on the number of employees working in person that I have at any given time, but they also have to adapt their business model for something even more flexible as the scenario can change from one week to another.
At Keepler we have always worked in co-working spaces, since the company was created. Depending on the needs we demand, we will adapt to achieve the best approach to develop the activity in-situ. Maybe we don’t need a fixed place always present but an available space that emerges on demand when the project, team or organization situations require it.
Tools have played a key role during the pandemic. While it is true that many of them were already known before moving to full-time remote work, many of them did so taking into account that face-to-face work continued to exist. Here the change is great, not only the tools serve us to make a remote synchronization but they should directly replace aspects that were previously achieved in a face-to-face context. We are not talking about tools to work but tools to “connect”. An example of this is Topia, a tool that creates a virtual world that allows a group of people to connect in a different way than they could in a virtual meeting or virtual work board context.
One of the organizations with an advantage in this regard is Gitlab, which has been working in a remote and distributed context for years. Let’s say that their remote culture is currently enviable considering the need.
At Keepler we have experimented with various tools trying to achieve cohesive teams and organizations. Our approach is to have a set of tools which can be used in this remote work situation: Trello, Miro, EasyRetro, Jira, etc.
Full remote work vs hybrid remote
Is remote work here to stay, but will it be full or partial? There are surveys that highlight this dilemma. It is possible that before the pandemic people were of the opinion that they wanted full-time remote work, but after living through it, they are starting to look at it differently. Working remotely has its advantages, but it can also be hard and tiring if it is not done with habits that allow you to have certain levels of connection, stress and motivation. The lesson here is that perhaps it is necessary to generate flexible contexts to adapt the personal needs of employees (conciliation, avoid unnecessary and excessive time in transport….) with those of the company (productivity, committed teams, feeling of belonging….). There are already models that try to explore new ways: from the 4-day work week to the 7-day work week. At Keepler we promote a 4+1 context and people working in different territories in the countries where we operate (Germany, Spain and Portugal).
Another lesson learned related to this is the process of hiring in a remote context. On the one hand it is an advantage because instead of being able to hire people who are close to your offices, you have the possibility to do it in a much larger territory, in our case in the whole country where we operate. But, on the other hand, this measure makes everything more competitive because the candidate not only has the option of working with a company in his country but also with companies in other countries where the salary may be higher or the projects more interesting. In this context, the learning is that the culture and habits of each company have a lot to say and can tip the balance of a candidate towards a company that offers a lower salary, better conditions and a more interesting professional challenge.
The conclusion is that we still have a lot to learn and apply in our day-to-day work and that, surely, there will not be a single model to be applied equally in all organizations. The feeling is that perhaps the most tangible thing is to have a series of proposals, explore them and see if they bring improvements to the model that currently exists. After all, learning and iterating is not only for projects but also for organizations.
Image: Unsplash | @sigmund