By Daniel Abrego
A few weeks ago, I was talking remotely to a manager who is an incredibly driven team player. Midway through the Zoom meeting, one of her kids interrupted the call. She immediately apologized and wrote another apology a few hours later and it got me thinking about why she felt the need to apologize when we’re all working from home and we can’t pretend that work and life aren’t overlapping. Remote work is a non-traditional model. As much as it has changed the way we work, we have to change too, and we could benefit by taking some of these changes into the future workplace.
Many like the flexibility that remote work allows and they like being trusted to get the work done during the hours that they get to choose. But I don’t think once we get back to “normal” we will be 100% at home because nothing beats meeting in person. Some degree of remote working is here to stay and there are lessons we should not forget from this extraordinary experience.
Consider hiring remote specialists:
What’s been a game changer for us is hiring a head for remote work. The role requires someone with the skills, influence and ability to support employees working from home. If remote working is going to be an important part of our future, and let’s say you have some percentage of employees who prefer to work from home even one or two days a week, consider hiring remote specialists who know how to manage off-site employees, keep them connected, and help them get the most out of their careers.
Think outside the box:
I often hear companies are missing out on being together around a table and brainstorming. While some feel it is a privilege to work from home, others seriously see it as a crisis to their creativity. There is a general consensus that people are more collaborative and inventive when they run into each other, share and discuss on the spot. While I appreciate the argument, we must not let these limiting beliefs take away from what can be an incredibly creative time. On the days we thought we were doomed and going backwards with the bizarre dynamics of Zoom, we forged through with virtual whiteboards and other digital solutions. We saw other upsides too, such as being able to hire talent without geographical constraints and hearing their varied perspectives. So, do not be quick to judge on a blended situation. Thinking outside of the box can lead to success for your business in the long term.
Keep it physical:
We all feel good when we walk back into the office after a long holiday and get back to our desks, familiar routines and faces. Even for your remote workers, you have to ensure some visits at the office to encourage a feeling of connectivity to the company. Meetups once in a while create this sense of belonging and help build trust and relationships. Eye contact, a simple thing that’s hard to do on Zoom when you’re looking at the camera and at the screen at the same time, is vital to communicate confidence and getting your view across. Posture matters when you’re speaking. What you do with your hands matters too. I feel it’s not wise to forget these skills no matter how digital it gets.
This crisis and lockdowns got us to appreciate our families and to get to know our neighbors and help them out. We got to know the small businesses in our community who delivered food to our doorstep, our kids’ teachers who had to scramble and be resourceful and we reached out when we could. Even if you are a tech company, are you not a relationship-driven company? Our lives revolve around relationships and this experience has taught us how to treat each other. Let’s not put those walls back up. Let’s sustain what we have learnt and extend this new understanding and empathy to our workplace and customers.
Change is the only constant:
Cliché but true. We had no choice but to embrace remote work and as a result I’ve seen workers who never used to speak up being more vocal on Zoom which seems to be an equalizing platform without the pressures of sitting at a conference table in suits. I’ve had glimpses of my employees’ lives with the art on their walls and the books on their shelves and learnt more about them. We’ve learnt to get over the awkwardness at the beginning of Zoom calls – it’s a kind of new intimacy. We get to share information instantly and democratically with the whole team at the same time because it’s all digital. In many ways, the pandemic has revealed discrepancies and lack of awareness that we would have never addressed otherwise.
So keep an open mind. With workarounds and constant experimentation, there’s a bright side to everything. We are all eager to get back to our offices but embracing uncertainty and change is the hallmark of a business that thrives.
Daniel Abrego is Managing Partner of Tsahala Holdings. He specializes in supply chain optimization with a long standing interest in the pharmaceutical field. Tsahala Holdings has a vast portfolio which includes Intercontinental Logistics Corp., Farla Medical LatAm, Metuka Trading Corp., Quality Representation and Services, BioTech Security LatAm, UniHealth Panama, REPCORP and Tu Farmacia. Tsahala Holdings is based in Panama City, Panama.