As I write these lines, the distance to my employer is 9,000 km. A year-long experience has fully confirmed the belief that, despite some limitations, working that way is sustainable. The time difference when working from Asia to Estonia requires good time planning and it is not possible to go for lunch with a client, but those aspects do not substantially affect the result of the work.
When I moved to the Philippines three years ago, I was surprised at the prevalence of working for American companies or companies in Asian financial centers such as Singapore or Hong Kong. The job advertisements indicated whether or not the position required a physical presence already before the spread of coronavirus. The pandemic added to the trend, and today’s job postings containing the phrase “without leaving home” can be found on all channels. An additional dimension of convenience is time saved on commuting in major cities, which in the example of Manila is 2 + 2 hours a day for many workers. So it is a win-win-win game. Employees are gaining, employers gain a lot and the environment benefits from lesser commuting.
Limited human resources and growth expectations of the new economy could encourage companies operating in Estonia or in Scandinavia in general, to recruit more boldly from outside. To prevent language skills from becoming a stumbling block, the possibility of recruiting from outside should be taken into account when designing jobs and processes. When planning in this way, working remotely is not just flexibility for colleagues who, for some reason, want to work remotely temporarily but a systematic approach to the growing problem of staff shortages.
How to compensate for lunchroom chit-chatting?
The pandemic has also brought us a more systematic approach to managing people. The contacts that have been taken for granted so far must be carefully planned and used to the maximum. In my work, I see companies have implemented meetings with team leads and regular development talks due to forced distance working. However, these meetings have merely a business focus and do not replace the role of an office kitchen socializing.
With the help of technology, people working remotely can be guided to communicate more on personal topics. That is how chats on Teams, Slack, or any other platform are used, creating virtual “chatter” opportunities. Over the pandemic years, many new and cool solutions of this type have entered the market.
In Asia, it is popular to support the discussion of non-work topics in these channels. For example, the employer in Slack has a separate channel for mothers of toddlers, a group dedicated to pets, or a group of gardeners. By supporting family orientation or hobbies, the company helps to balance the lives of its team members, and the sense of belonging to the team grows as well.
An IT company with various Asian offices spoke about a great example of a workout initiative. A board member initiated an internal steps-collecting competition to compensate for limited movement associated with working from home. Employees who added the steps of their family members to their scores received extra points. Once again a good example of pointing to balance in our lives.
Company culture = values + processes
Remote teams have an ongoing master class in performance management. Metrics, systems, and processes, highlight inconsistencies between company values and employees’ personal values. Do our processes still support the company’s values? With the move to the home office, some work processes had to be reorganized and adjusted to be even more addressing company values.
The personal example of leaders is even more crucial than before. Not only energetic leading, but a manager who follows values and operates systematically creates the work culture of the company. If the manager has a “too busy” excuse to change or postpone plans, employees will use the same. Scheduling training in time management does not change the situation or practices in this case.
The importance of communication cannot be underestimated. Does job-related information reach everyone and how to monitor everyone’s well-being and coping with remote working conditions? It would be good to monitor the situation more often than once a quarter, so that team members could feel valued and involved daily, and managers would have full confidence in the well-being of their team members.
Recruiting remotely is more demanding than a job interview in the office
I asked Catherine Grace Abad, who works as a Chronos Agency HR manager in Manila for a Singapore company and recruits team members virtually, what she sees as the biggest challenge in recruiting from a distance? “The hardest part is to keep the talent in the company, not to find one,” was the quick response. A strong employer brand works even more as a retainer of talent in a company than as a supporter of recruitment. Catherine also admits that it is more difficult to recruit and retain top executives remotely than in an office-based workplace. Without face-to-face meetings, the human relationship will inevitably become weaker. It is a candidate-driven market and the job market for remote positions are quickly evolving.
Moticheck & me
I am blessed to contribute to a company whose values perfectly match mine, and I can do so even though I currently live far away from Estonia. To ensure sustainable actions, I must take responsibility for the balance between my work and personal life. Our company operates today without an office and this requires efficient information systems and clear processes. Sometimes our meetings are not fully effective because we also want to share human joys and sorrows.
As an employee of the home office, I set clear time limits to accommodate both daily activities and time dedicated to the family. In plans and dreams, everything works great. In real life, the washing machine sometimes seems to be the most important thing ever, and some days I forget to prepare dinner as I have been so concentrated on my work tasks. In these cases, a good joke and focus on what’s most important helps – I belong to a team that makes the world a better place through the development of working life.
Pille Parind-Nisula, June 2022
Moticheck supports the Remote Working program arranged by Smartwork Association with awards for Remote Working Badge receivers 2022. A webinar will be live in Estonian on June 21, 2022 “Employee experience monitoring as a remote leaders’ superpower”