It is necessary to understand from what context we are starting off to go deeper into this subject. In Europe, the situation of remote work varies significantly from country to country. According to Eurostat, the Netherlands is by far the country with the highest percentage of people working from home (approximately 14%).
In Spain, the percentage of people teleworking is much lower. Before the situation given by COVID-19, the Adecco Monitor study of Opportunities and Satisfaction in Employment II found that only 4.9% of employees worked from home, and 3.2% did so sporadically. Something that can be surprising is that, according to the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, up to 76% consider that working from home is much more productive. Then, why doesn’t this situation occur more often?
Our experience over the years
In 2008, KingEclient already had two offices in Spain, but we started to implement the remote working toolkit when part of our team moved to KSA. We took this opportunity to define processes (such as daily meetings, tasks definition, work by objectives, and a very long etcetera) to achieve more productivity and efficiency in our work.
Years later, all teams already had the option of teleworking. Each team implemented a certain degree of teleworking according to its needs, and a minimum of one day of telework per week was possible in all KingEclient. Freedom of decision in each team to implement teleworking helped us adapt to every personal situation. By then, some teams in Spain already had almost 50% of their members teleworking.
When the Business Units (BU) of our extensive business verticals were at a more mature stage, we created the Operations Department to homogenize the existing processes and methodologies among all the teams. Smart working became one of the main benefits of attracting and retaining talent and started to be a differentiating element among employees.
Although there has been reluctance and prejudice among managers to implement real distance working policies over the years, and the prominent cultural side to it was challenging, we made it happen. We were pioneers, and we have acquired knowledge and experience that we can now exploit and share with others.
But… what is the ideal environment for Smart Working?
Smart Working is a way of doing telework but more effective and efficient than before. To incorporate it into our daily lives as a business, we analyzed and studied practical ways to accomplish it. One of the studies that guided us was The Ultimate Guide to Remote Work, which tells the ideal breeding ground for Smart Working, where we can find the three most essential ingredients:
1.- Talent/People: Trust among the company’s talents is the key to making smart working possible. The company must be sure that each employee will be responsible for delivering work on time or communicating any issues in time for action. In conclusion:
- Having a team formed by “doers” is very important. They manage themselves, and they need some support or guidance from the leaders or managers.
- You have to get them to trust you as a leader.
- They must be people who know how to communicate and who don’t feel inadequate without a social space in the office.
2.- Toolkit: The company’s operational skeleton must have a modular, cloud-based toolkit. We are always trying to avoid technical debt and rigidity in favor of a flexible and scalable system. All the systems must be interconnected to create BI dashboards crossing data from different sources to get advanced analytics in real-time.
Smart working must provide the workers with all the resources necessary to carry out their work in the best way possible. The following list names the essential tools that are needed to meet these needs:
- Virtual Office: It is crucial to find a messaging tool that allows you to create groups so that you can communicate as if you were in the same office. Google Hangouts, Slack
- Tasks Manager: Tool for planning, managing, and monitoring the tasks of team members. Example: Asana
- Version Control System: Whether they are creative or technical teams, it is necessary to have a tool to control the versions of code or files. Example: Bitbucket
- Passwords Manager: Tool to control and securely manage employee passwords. Example: LastPass
- A solution that allows the signature of documentation online. Example: Signaturit
- Cloud Computing Pack: Real-time collaboration tools to build project delivery.
- Videoconference or Virtual Meeting System: Tool that allows communication with team members. Example: Microsoft Teams
- Control of work tasks: They allow you to measure the time spent on tasks.
- Customer Services tool: Helpdesk and customer service software that allows easy work between departments.
- Documentary manager: On-cloud tool that allows employees to find all the know-how or sources of knowledge to facilitate the performance of duties. Example: Sharepoint
- Corporate Intranet: Internal tool with vital information for employees to organize and provide knowledge of the company’s processes and methodologies. Examples: WordPress, SharePoint
3.- Processes: Processes define the way a company acts and, therefore, a large part of its culture. They must be very clearly defined and communicated continuously. These mechanisms help us ensure that there is transparency in our teams. Also, they are dynamic and help to make up for the physical distance that occurs when we telework. We understand that to ensure a hybrid model of teamwork, it is essential to comply with the following points:
- Fluid communication: Through the defined task management tools, there must be a record of everything that happens.
- Checkpoints or daily standups (10 minutes): Quick checkpoints to detect stoppers and control the emotions and moods of the teams.
- Weekly production and retrospective meetings: Evaluation of the results of the previous week and definition of the action plan for the following week.
- A culture of shipping: Creation of motivated teams that drive internal initiatives and feel the responsibility of making things happen. It is essential to listen to the employees! At KingEclient, we work with various working groups, known as KEC Core, in which proposals are discussed to improve the company’s working environment. Among them, we find the Communication KEC Core, the Training KEC Core, and the Innovation KEC Core. On the other hand, we also work with “champions”, who are people in charge of making their knowledge about a specific subject in each team. In our case, we have Research Champions and Asana Champions. We have also implemented Team Alliances in which we have worked to learn how to manage working life with colleagues based on respect and assertiveness.
- Pair buddies: To avoid people not knowing each other, especially when you have more than one team in constant growth, we have small groups (sometimes couples directly) that meet for coffee and get to know each other.
- (Virtual) Coffees with Talent: To achieve a more intimate and individualized treatment, the Talent team makes coffees with team members on an individual basis. Given the COVID-19 situation, we have adapted by making virtual coffees.
- Performance Management: We get constant feedback from the Team Leaders in our two annual evaluations and quarterly 360º qualitative assessment surveys. We are now evaluating the possibility of implementing Small Improvements as a complement to the two yearly evaluations.
- Frequent management notifications: Obtain constant information about the evolution of the business and the strategy from the management.
- #KECActivities: Having physical contact with playful activities among employees generates much more fidelization and motivation.
Last but not least, we think that it is essential to listen to the employees and understand their individual situation to make sure that they are happy and comfortable with their own circumstances, whatever they may be.
It is absolutely true that the COVID-19 will be a turning point in the process of transforming companies. The global alarm state and confinement are elements that put workers in stress situations out of the ordinary, and we must understand that.
On the other hand, we can say that those companies that had made efforts before COVID-19 towards a more flexible culture and the digitalization of their processes and tools have been able to react much more efficiently than those that had not, and therefore, have controlled a possible negative impact on business continuity. We have to take this as an antecedent to be prepared to deal with anything that might bring this situation into our lives as companies and workers from now on.
As we have seen, companies with systems in place, as is KingEclient’s case, have taken advantage of the current context to test the stress of their systems and processes. This has served to change the perception of many managers and directors who have seen the potential of remote work, especially for improving productivity, cost savings, retention, and recruitment of talent.
If you want more information about smart working or need us to help you overcome teleworking’s challenges, we can do so with our methodology and experience in the digital environment. Contact us here.