Working from home – is this the new normal?

How the Inspiretec team has adapted to the Covid 19 lockdown and established new ways of working from home.

By Helen Baldwin24th April 2020

A brave new world?

Just over month ago on 12th March we decided that, given the fast-moving progress of the Covid 19 pandemic it would be prudent to test our business continuity plan (BCP). Little did we realise at the time that events would move so rapidly that within a week of this test we would move our whole operation to ‘working from home’.    

Like most companies in the technology sector we have developed a flexible approach to working from home over the years and have encouraged all of our team to utilise working from home one day a week.  We have advocated the benefits of taking a day each week to work in a quiet place away from office noise and a possible long commute to get complex work done.  This felt quite progressive when it was introduced two years ago but the transformation that has taken place in the past three weeks has shown that working from home maybe the new norm for many people post Covid 19.

Being effective is key.

Over the past month we have adapted quickly to remote working.  We learned lots of important lessons from our ‘test’ run and acted quickly to ensure that the team were able to continue to operate the business as usual.  This involved home set up for technical kit correctly to support secure remote access to all our business-critical tools along with practical things like desks and chairs.

Our team have resolved issues quickly with a true sense of community spirit and people have come up with proactive ways to ensure they continue to be effective. Concepts used include reducing attendee lists to meetings, setting up less meetings by ‘rolling’ multiple meetings in to one and having quick calls instead of sending emails. As a result, we have continued to deliver projects and support live services for customers despite our entire workforce being remote.

Being flexible and supporting our working families.

Supporting peoples requests for flexible working has always been important to us and the recent challenges for working families has been amplified when schools closed. We have adapted our approach to working hours to enable all of our team to flex their day around home commitments such as home schooling, childcare or family activities such as the daily walk.

Keeping connected is vital.

We have used Microsoft Teams as our main channel for communication for some time and this has been pivotal to ensure we stay connected – the functionality enables that important face to face communication for one to one meeting’s as well as team events like daily stand up’s and group meetings.  The team have also introduced virtual ‘tea breaks’ and evening socials to help drive out the feeling of working in isolation, video is especially useful to get those visual clues when having a conversation.

Culturally, regular communication is really important at Inspiretec and we feel it’s vital to hold regular ‘town hall’ updates where we can share news.  In this new working from home model we have adapted our communications and we have started streaming weekly ‘live updates’ which have been well received by the team.  We won’t being getting any Bafta’s, but the team appreciate the opportunity to ask the Management team questions in a ‘live’ setting.

People want to be productive.

We have seen that the team have worked hard to ensure that they are productive and contributing. We’ve taken to sending out a weekly anonymous survey, designed to take regular take temperature check of our collective well-being. The survey has highlighted that over half of our team find that they are actually more productive working from home.

Perhaps this is because people are typically more comfortable at home, with less interruptions and much less travel time (commute or business) which has helped people get more out of their day. In fact, 78% of our team feel that working from home is working well for them, giving more time with the family and opportunity to spend time on hobbies such as fitness.

Time will tell if this will be sustained and the novelty may indeed wear off.  A survey run by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) over the last two weeks, found 50 per cent of respondents were not happy with their current work-life balance, with 48 per cent putting in longer and more irregular hours than they would under normal circumstances.

Having the support needed to sustain a positive healthy mental attitude has never felt more important and we are passionate about asking people how we can help using services such as our Employee Assistance Programme.  We are adapting activities that we would normally do in the office and we are check pointing morale on a weekly basis.

Putting it to the test.

Just a few weeks ago we wanted to demonstrate with 100% confidence that we can continue to deliver our customer projects and support commitments in the eventuality that we cannot work in the office together.

Within a week of the test we were there, and we have been able to manage this transition with the hard work of our team and the support of our customers who have been amazing.

What lessons have we learned.

Over the first three weeks we have learned that we have a brilliant team who can respond quickly to change enabling us to transform our operation to fully working from home in just a few days. 

We have demonstrated that working from home on an extended basis can work and for some people is preferable and may indeed become the new norm and we are excited to see how we can apply the learnings to make Inspiretec better in the future.

However, most importantly, it has been truly rewarding to see how people have rallied over the past few weeks, with a great spirit working together to resolve challenges and support each other.  The sense of family at the heart of our culture has developed as a result of this situation and we are very proud of what has been achieved.

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