The way we live, the way we work now
Being an HR leader in the year 2020 is an experience of a lifetime. One that has been stretched to its limits. The new world we live in has introduced changes into the way we work now and has put the capacity for HR organization’s agility to test, and thus bringing a new level of meaning to the term ‘human’ in Human Resources profession.
Many of us have been previously reluctant to embrace the idea of our core business being entirely done from home. What has been WFH for organizations, really? Well, traditionally, WFH has been viewed as a benefit, rather than an operational model. Covid-19 has imposed a reality that we, as HR leaders, have not planned to happen any time soon. This reality is difficult to be massively adopted otherwise, in the world without Covid-19.
As Shelly Kramer states it in her article “How Coronavirus COVID-19 Is Driving Change In HR Operations”: “In the pre-COVID-19 days, many companies were just starting to explore work from home policies — mostly in a “toe in the water” sort of way. Now, because we have no choice, it’s just how we operate”
And well, looking back on the 8 months of experience operating WFH…it seems to be working perfectly fine for Symphony Solutions.
And the experience the company have gained in the process is immense. We came to terms with the now cliché ‘new normal’ state of affairs, juggling multiple incompatible assignments like presenting at a meeting while connecting kids to their remote classroom, wearing a formal jacket and a favorite pajama all at the same time.
We remained the same culture, same focus - although now in an unexpectedly all-remote mode in everything
Our teams had to stay well-informed so we placed a strong focus on our internal communications. We shared real-time updates in our corporate channels, as well as via weekly TownHalls with CEO and Leadership Team members. This has shown unprecedented rise in the interest of our teams, and at some point, we realized that it sparked a new culture in our company – when office–based employees were gathering in one big room, with pizza and snacks to listen to the live TownHalls.
The first two months of quarantine were rough for Symphony Solutions, like for many businesses out there on the market. We had to address operational efficiency, optimize the teams and reconsider a number of policies. On the upside, our clients were content with how we handled the official shift to virtual, although it has been a no-new experience for some of the teams.
Initially, there were concerns about the productivity and efficiency of full WFH mode. As Adam Hickman from Gallup puts it, “The stigma of remote work is that it inhibits collaboration and productivity, which together may cost companies money” But eventually, with trying things out and adjusting on the go, WFH turned out to be the opposite. Ironically, WFH mode brought the different challenge – the challenge of over-working. At some point, one of our customers addressed us with a concern that their team is burning themselves by overworking and losing the precious work-life balance, as the lines of corporate and personal became blurred.
We handled the problem through a set of solutions already available even before – 1:1 coaching with People Partners, corporate psychologists and conversations with LM as well as by developing a new wellbeing program.
Ironically, wfh mode brought the opposite challenge - the challenge of over-working
During regular 1:1s and internal surveys, we found out that people see benefits of returning to office. People said that working in office brings better team cohesion, and helps to get things done faster. On the other hand, many people have found a great range of benefits in working from home: from choosing the place from which they work, to better harmony in managing important aspects of their life besides work.
In these surveys, people talked about all kinds of things: safety in times of danger, appreciated the opportunity of being asked about work either from office or home, talked a lot about their family reality, as well as benefits and restrictions of getting their homes as a workplace. People shared how their teams were getting used to working remotely. Many moaned about looking forward to getting back to office. Some talked about missing office banter and the like. On the other hand, people also mentioned depression, anxiety and feeling of uncertainty about the future.
The next period, starting late spring was that of expectation that the quarantine will end soon and the scenario of coming back to the office should be put in place. Following the WFH survey where 78% of respondents said they appreciate the chance of WFH during pandemia and are ready to go on like that up to 6 months or more and 92% claimed that their performance was 75-100% or above. So Symphony Solutions has officially renewed access to the office space for a third of our team following the official guidelines and sanitary norms.
We could say we found the right balance between those who insisted (yes insisted!) on working from office, and those whose concerns about their or family members’ health let them appreciate all the opportunities that are there – unlimited WFH for the time being with the full list of benefits available, which Symphony Solutions has always been known for on the market. We also supported our office-based employees with free Covid diagnosis either at a company expense or covered by the corporate medical insurance.
This was also the time when our agility and insights from the market trends gave birth to our new business model – Symphony Anywhere. And we can now speak of 7 new hires within this business unit since then. The clear advantage is that the best talent is now within easy reach, the satisfaction level grows as people can work from virtually anywhere in the world.
We understood that our new way of working called for availability, better structure and transparency of company processes and opportunities. This has initiated another HR initiative in WFH era – we have launched on-line Symphony handbook to make sure our processes are accessible from anywhere and for everyone.
Speaking of the near future, bringing our teams back to our workspaces will be easy for some, yet a personal dilemma for others. People will want assurance that the space is safe, disinfected, following the strictest guidelines. Thus, we already have a checklist to go through, should the decision be made to return to the office. This includes, lesser people in the office than before, physical distance norms, working hours regulation etc. Although we have lived in this mode since March, hybrid workplace is the model which is most likely to be implemented. Under its new “hybrid workplace” guidance, employees will be allowed to spend less than half their working hours out of the office. We will continue with flexible approaches where possible and will definitely proceed nurturing physical and psychological well-being initiatives. Those team members who opt to stay home even when things roll back to normal will most probably have to give up their assigned desks, and will work in common spaces if they decided to pay the office a visit and see their teams.
Looking into the future, hybrid workplace is the model which is most likely to be implemented
Going forward, we will be exploring new exciting business models as the size and flexibility of our business allows us to adjust quickly and actually become the trend setter. Wellbeing and overall support for the business will stay a clear HR priority. A bigger focus will be placed on team work in virtual, with front line leads, scrum masters and team leads being the center of the business vortex. New tools will be explored to serve as a communication platform. And a whole range of initiatives is underway for us to stay the same Symphony culture despite the actual location of our team members. While balancing business needs, we will offer as much flexibility as possible to accommodate the workstyles of every employee group to make sure they stay safe and productive to deliver the best quality service, and build a fulfilling and successful career with Symphony Solutions!