By Alvin Hermanto – Principal, Relab

It’s a strange time to be in business now. Like everyone else, our digital design agency has had to change the way we work to ride out this Covid-19 pandemic.

I must add that we’re relatively lucky to be in the digital space and service industries with a continuous need for our work, even during this unprecedented business climate. I know it has been devastating for businesses in other industries, and I hope most will get through unscathed.

And so far, it has been good.

I think there are a few factors that will determine whether your business can thrive in a virtual world. The tangible factors are your organisational structure, reliable cloud services and technology, as well as clear workflow and HR policies.

The intangible factors are harder to get right, and it comes in the form of good teamwork, accountability and company culture. All I can say is, if your company has a bad culture or too much office politics, you will struggle to shift to remote work, no matter the technology or process you have in place.

Clarity of role and organisational structure

As a small company, our structure is pretty much flat, and everyone has a role to play. Before we shifted to working from home, we made sure everyone fully understood their roles, what was expected of them and established communication guidelines to avoid any misunderstanding when we can’t physically see each other.

Perfecting the workflow

I believe that at the end of the day, productivity wins, no matter what the situation is in the economy. Our team agreed that no matter what happened, we would stay productive.. Basically, we spent one full week reviewing, testing and refining our remote workflow and technology stack to accommodate remote work.

Investing in the right technology combo

We are fortunate to be living in a time when there are so many choices in collaborative software and platforms that allow people to work together from different locations. Our office servers are segmented for 3 different purposes, one for “Work In Progress”, the second for “Completed Work”, and the last for “Archived or Legacy Work”.

Digital design tools like Figma, workshopping software like Mural and collaboration hubs like Slack were already heavily used by our team, as well as Atlassian products like Jira and Confluence for a streamlined project management process. It’s worthwhile to invest in a good technology stack that lets you shift the way you do work and automate your processes easily.

Excellent teamwork and comradery

We didn’t want to lose the “one team” soul we had before the lockdown, so we made sure that we all stayed connected and motivated each other to make the transition easier. We like to back each other up and are quick to offer a hand when someone needs it.

True, it is different when you don’t meet each other every day, but comradery can transcend an office space. Good teamwork is an inexplicable factor that you either have or don’t in your company. It’s the intangible good vibes you feel when you work together.

Accountability and transparency

I don’t like micromanaging anyone and I don’t think any employee loves it either. But we still needed to get a lot done while working from home. We’ve always had a transparent and honest working culture, where we choose to trust each other. That means I don’t have to check up on someone to see whether they will finish on time because I know it is their priority.

I encourage people to give updates rather than wait to be followed up on because it makes everything so much easier for everyone involved in the project. Accountability should be embedded in your working culture, and there are scheduling, project management and communication tools to help.  

However, there’s one challenge that concerns me with working from home, and that is losing the personal touch with our customers. We touch base with our customers through video conference meetings, online chats and even phone calls if needed. This was our main form of communication even before the pandemic, but now it has become an art itself and I’m mindful of how we conduct ourselves online.

This period has made me ponder many things, including the need for a big office space and how to improve our processes further. I’m sure many businesses are looking at rejigging or transforming many areas once they get to the other side of this health and economic nightmare.

Our team is even learning more about one another. We are appreciating our home office, out-of-work hours and being able to learn and enjoy new things that we usually have no time to do. Our partners and customers have also been great in adapting to the rapid changes. It was our commitment to make them feel like nothing has changed about our services, and the feedback has been encouraging.

I personally find people being a lot nicer to others. I’m always happy to see little things like that. Oh, and if you’re reading this and need to chat about anything, I’m more than happy to spare time and see if I can help you. Reach out to me through alvin@relab.com.au.

Stay well, stay positive.