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Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth. - Mike Tyson
I think what he said best applies to the recent coronavirus pandemic. I bet, even a few months ago, no one would have anticipated the current situation. However, the whole world is now facing the post-coronavirus pandemic era, experiencing crises in both the real economy and the financial market. If anyone still doesn’t know what VUCA means, I want to tell them to watch coronavirus pandemic and its changes. We are literally going through the midst of a volatile, uncertainty, complex and ambiguity era.
The coronavirus pandemic also had a major impact on Buzzvil. Although the global situation has not yet ended, and much of the future is uncertain, I am writing to share the countermeasures we have come up with so far and seek solutions together. The examples of other companies that have preemptively introduced telecommuting have been very helpful in our decision-making and standards-setting process, so I would like to share this article too.
How did telecommuting take place?
Buzzvil’s core values are communication, autonomy, growth and indomitability. As the name suggests, it is a company that emphasizes communication and cooperation, so it has never implemented telecommuting. In fact, even until the day before the telecommuting started(February 24), we had been watching the situation of the week. However, the situation unfolded unexpectedly. Every day, confirmed cases increased by several hundred. And many people gave mixed opinions. Eventually, we convened a leader’s meeting in the afternoon and figured out the expected problems, and then quickly introduced telecommuting from the next day. And it has been almost a month and a half so far.
I wonder how it was possible to make such a relatively quick decision. Of course, since all members have laptops, there are no physical limitations, and fortunately our organization is made up of about only 100 members. Nevertheless, the decision was never easy. In particular, it was difficult for us to accurately predict “what problems might occur” because it was something we hadn’t tried before. In general, it feels more frightening not to know what we don’t even know. If our company had to set regulations and detailed rules all at once and then implement them, this kind of decision would have been difficult.
In this situation, I think what could help us is an organizational culture of “fire-aim,” instead of “aim-fire.“We decided that there was no problem in implementing this, so we did it first, and the problems that occurred afterward were solved then and there. In particular, each team leader proceeded with work considering the situation of each team, and important issues were decided together through a leader meeting. We also created ground rules one by one, and reflected the tips and know-how of the members through anonymous surveys. It was also helpful to have an environment in which we could work autonomously with OKR or various collaboration tools. Thanks to the agile response of everyone in the early days, telecommuting is now running smoothly as if our employees had already experienced telecommuting many times.
What can happen while telecommuting
Buzzvil’s ground rules for telecommuting are simple. Participate in conference calls so you don’t lose the strength of face-to-face work, and make calls right away if you have a problem. What I personally consider more important is the “continuous reflection of ideas”. There were not many respondents. However, some of them offered the tip: “The desk and the chair are important! They should be placed far away from the bed! Separate the rest area from the work area!” What was also meaningful was that the employees shared the inconvenience they actually experienced, and that allowed us to update the rules. For example, “Please have a meeting after we connect the earphones.”
Interviews, onboarding programs, and biweekly general meetings were all conducted in the form of video conferences. In fact, there were quite a few new employees who joined the company on February 24 (Mon). They were embarrassed because they had to start telecommuting the next day they joined the company. It is also important for new employees to grasp the company’s atmosphere and build relationships beyond simply exchanging information and knowledge in the early days of joining. However, such a process does not seem to be easily achieved by telecommuting. However, there were few other problems, and the video interview was smoother than expected. In particular, the entire online meeting was held in real-time, like YouTube Live. It was a new experience and fun.
It is important not to miss the trivial interaction between employees while telecommuting. The advantage of telecommuting is that you can have your own time, but the disadvantage is the absence of interaction with people. We recommended 1:1 chatting over coffee company-wide. Naturally, channels for sharing lunch photos or freely chattering communities also appeared. Our team also had an online tea time. Each of them prepared a drink they wanted to drink and sat in front of their laptop and had a conversation about their recent daily life rather than work. Telecommuting companies emphasize communication with one voice, but I think communication is an issue that will become more important as the telecommuting period increases. Long-term isolation creates depression, which needs to be prevented. After all, the company is run by people, and we are all heavily influenced by our emotional intimacy and relationship with each other.
Telecommuting - what‘s it all about?
Buzzvil conducted an online session four times to gather opinions about telecommuting. I want to share the results briefly. Here are some of the positives of telecommuting they reported: “You can save commuting time,” “You could cut down on unnecessary work,” and “Your concentration increased.” There were also interesting comments: “I became acquainted with some colleagues through video calls”, “I was able to look back on myself because I had more time alone”, “I like working at home because I have more resources at home, like books, for work.” Here’s what many people related to: When working in the office, you are more likely to do sudden requests or urgent tasks, while telecommuting, you have less interference so you can focus on more important things. This is a surprising insight that we discovered through telecommuting.
On the other hand, the disadvantages or problems of telecommuting are: “It is difficult to distinguish between work and life”, “It is difficult to communicate because collaboration occurs asynchronously”, “It’s a pity that there is less space for chatting.” Interesting comments include: “I have to work only at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. “I want to go outside,” “I don’t have regular working hours, so I keep working even after the end of work”, “I can’t have a meeting using the whiteboard.” In particular, some people said that they felt vague anxiety, “How could anybody recognize that I’m working hard?” It may be an opinion we could relate to. A similar phenomenon that people experienced was gaining weight as they continued to work at the desk and their overall activity decreased.
Yuval Harari, the author of , insisted in the recent Financial Times article that “global solidarity, not nationalist isolation,” is necessary. His words are not just for races or countries. His words are a message that should be applied to all organizations and companies. Buzzvil is responding to the coronavirus pandemic in the way we have listed so far, but this is by no means the only answer. There are many organizations in the world, and each organization has different characteristics and culture. I hope we will overcome this crisis together by bringing together the wisdom and strength of the group. I hope everyone will survive and meet again, and I want to end this article with familiar sayings like:
We will find a way. We always have.
[Note: Buzzvil Telecommuting Ground Rules]
1) When conducting a conference call, turn on the screen and proceed. The strength of face-to-face meetings is that non-verbal messages and nuances can also be delivered. In order to make use of this as much as possible, the ground rule is to turn on the screen unless it is impossible. In this period, a minor touch is important. Please try to increase it together!
2) If there is any problem with communication, call immediately. The advantage of working in the office together is that if you have a problem, you can meet right away and solve it. To this end, if the other party’s response is not available or is not smooth during communication, the ground rule is to immediately call. Please work together to get a quicker response during telecommuting hours.
3) Continue to share work requests and work processes with everyone involved. When the telecommuting period is prolonged, it is becoming more important not to miss records and communication. Instead of using Direct Message, we will set the ground rule to request and discuss work through Group Channel. If an urgent issue occurs, create a new channel and invite related staff to discuss it, and delete the channel when the issue is over.