Making Work-from-Home Work (Part 2)

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In our previous article of “Making Work-From-Home Work (Part 1)”, I shared about what motivated us to implement telecommuting into our culture. Now, here’s how we did it in Carigos:  

Productivity Infrastructure  

To break away from the traditional desk-bound job and to implement a successful work-from-home program would mean accessibility to work resources wherever you go. So how did we break the chains from work computers, business landline, confidential documents and approvals (etc)?  

Team Communications Maturity  

A key consideration that moulded our work-from-home approach was minimising productivity loss. During the initial discussion, there was an assumption that we should expect some productivity loss when working with teammates not physically in the office, due to lack of direct access to colleagues, timeliness of information sharing and clarity of communication. Instead of falling down this slippery slope, the team took ownership of their own productivity, even when working from home. This means doing whatever it takes to keep productivity high, including:  

Cloud Computing: Fortunately, we were already operating (almost) entirely on the cloud, so almost every teammate had the ability to work from anywhere as long as there was an internet connection. 

Cloud Telephony: As a service provider, customer calls are inevitable. This prompted us to replace the landline with Cloud Telephony,a system that takes our business phone onto the cloud and through it, mobile phones are effortlessly connected to the business phone system. This enables our Sales & Operations team to enjoy the flexibility of working from home while keeping their personal contact number private.  

Confidential Document and Approvals: With email accessibility and cloud computing, team leaders can give approvals via email or e-signing. Cloud Productivity tools like Office 365 also make it easy to control access to different folders and password-protect sensitive documents.   

  • Being readily contactable during official office hours
  • No hesitations in contacting each other, even from home. If a teammate needs a quick clarification with another, they can chat, voice or video call through Microsoft Office 365 or Microsoft Teams.
  • Scheduling our “Deep Thinking” or “Do not disturb” hours. Another reason our teammates asked for telecommuting is finding the time and space to remain uninterrupted for work that required deep thinking and focus.  Working from home offers such an opportunity, and publishing do-not-disturb time blocks allow teammates to respect such needs while the individual stays contactable.
  • Video and call conferencing during meetings. Establishing voice or video calls as a norm allows the organizing of meetings even when teammates are working remotely; these enable them to be up to date with the latest information despite not being physically present.   

Leadership & Management Capabilities  

Working from home means we are each trying to communicate objectives, deliverables, ideas, challenges and priorities primarily via email or voice, without the richness of hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language.  This is especially challenging for leaders trying to steer the direction.  

Clarity: Telecommuting has heightened the need for my leadership team to be clearer in defining and communicating outcomes and deadlines, and accounting for the achievement of the outcomes.  We are articulating company and leadership objectives and key results, and reviewing them weekly to drive alignment and clarity of outcomes.  

“Routines! Routines! Routines!”: Establishing routines for checking-in with remotely working teammates to review projects, surface challenges, and drive alignment and clarity is critical, especially in our highly dynamic space, where decisions to change directions or priorities in response to market feedback happens frequently.  

Leadership Commitment   

Admittedly, working remotely can be an inconvenience. Instead of walking to a teammate’s desk at the office, it would require 2 additional steps to call them on the phone; if they even pick up at all! Given these inconveniences, teammates’ frustration with the work-from-home scheme may silently build-up, leading to an extent of putting off contacting another teammate until he/she is back in the office; both being counterproductive.   

As leaders, it is easy to succumb to these frustrations and say it is too hard.  Ultimately, we as leaders must want to make the ‘work-from-home’ system work. Personally, it was shifting my mindset from “This will be quite inconvenient for me” to “What does it take from me to make it work?”; from checking off work-from-home as a program that will entitle us to claim ourselves as enlightened employers, to really becoming as employee-centric as we are customer-obsessed.  

Ultimately, work-from-home is still in experimentation; but my teammates are making the most of it. Despite – or perhaps, due to – teammates working remotely on some days, our business has continued to grow, and we are achieving our business targets.   We are committed to making work-from-home a success as the benefits towards my teammates brings about a ‘win-win’ scenario for both our clients and us. For these people of talent, I aim for Carigos to become a place that they want to join and stay, because of our work ethics and for the culture we nurture.  

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