Peculiarities of remote work: How Redwerk copes with the challenges in quarantine
May 20, 2020
May 20, 2020
Hello, world! Nice to meet you - I am Kseniia Yatsenko, HR Manager at Redwerk. Now that we all have to work in isolation, maintaining the team efficiency is our primary concern. We do realize the need to promptly react to the changing agenda, that is why our HR specialists take necessary measures and work out new rules and programs for managing the employees on the fly, as we come across new challenges. From the moment we started working remotely and until now, we have encountered a number of obstacles, and some issues had to be solved momentarily. I would like to share my experience and tell you more about the ways we use to handle arising difficulties and keep our spirits high.
First of all, I would like to tell you a few words about the company. Redwerk specializes in full-cycle software development. We have plenty of successful projects in our portfolio. The company was founded in 2005, and since then, we have managed to grow our market share, assisting businesses of various kinds.
We are a stable company with clearly established work processes and a code of conduct. However, the reason behind our success lies in that we appreciate every employee and do our best to follow our corporate values - work-life balance, no-nonsense, no-bullshit, eco-friendliness, conscious consumerism, and social responsibility.
In March, when the quarantine restrictions became official, we began shifting the bulk of our work operations online to avert the possible spread of COVID-19 among the employees. As far as I can say, many companies viewed the transition to remote work as a daunting task as most of them have a clear hierarchy structure and a multistep communication system. Fortunately, at Redwerk, we have a horizontal organizational structure. This means we all are equal, so we can easily communicate with colleagues, regardless of their post, seniority, work experience, or any other factors. At the same time, this management style implies a high level of responsibility and independence, as you are the one who will be held accountable for your decisions and actions. The horizontal structure also means that employees should be proactive and engaged without constant reminders and performance evaluations.
Considering the facts above, I believe our company hasn’t suffered much from the transition to remote work; we had been well-prepared even before the outbreak.
On 12 March, it was decided that anyone willing to work remotely can do so. However, closer to the end of March, when the situation with the spread of the coronavirus deteriorated, and when strict lockdown policies came into effect, all the teams at Redwerk switched to remote work. Obviously, preserving productivity depends not only on one’s professionalism, diligence, and outstanding work ethics but also on their living conditions and immediate environment. Redwerk offered its employees to take the things from the office that could help them work efficiently and feel comfortable at home.
It was equally important for us to understand that employees can create a cozy “office spot” at their homes to separate business from domestic life. Whereas some of my colleagues already had a fully equipped home office, others decided to work from a well-lit kitchen or a soft couch. We also have luckers who work in fresh air, from the comfort of their backyards, or the so-called “nomads” who frequently go around the house with the laptop in their hands.
Compared to other companies, Redwerk didn’t have much trouble in going remote as employees who have worked at the company for more than a year have the privilege of working remotely one day a week and one month a year. Many of our employees had already tried the remote work scenario; therefore, work from home did not turn into a terrible ordeal. Nevertheless, quarantine brought some changes to our lives.
Redwerk also offers a flexible work schedule: we can start our day within the range of 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.; the most crucial part is that you need to work 8 hours a day.
During quarantine, it is especially important to maintain discipline and productivity; PMs and HR specialists help with overseeing.
Logging of work hours in Jira is the matter that deserves special attention: at the end of the day, every employee reports the number of hours spent on the tasks they were working on earlier during the day. This approach allows a PM or CEO to easily monitor employee performance and track the progress of each project.
To make the communication effective to the maximum extent, we use a bunch of communication channels. Whereas Slack is our main corporate messenger, Skype, Telegram, and Zoom are our backup tools. Apart from that, all the work-related issues are solved with the help of Jira and Confluence.
We encourage our employees to regularly update the status bar on their Slack profiles for us to clearly understand whether the employee is working or having lunch at the moment. It takes less than a minute to indicate a break, yet it means a lot to those who will try to reach you. One more rule of thumb is to keep your phone notifications on and check the messengers from time to time to easily connect during business hours.
We had to quickly come up with new communication formats within the team because of doing all the work and interaction online. Now all the virtual meetups are conducted with a camera on as it fosters the sense of mutual support and allows us to be closer to each other.
For sure, communication with the team became more intense. Before the lockdown, I would just approach a colleague in person and discuss a matter on the spot, and now I have to make some calls or send additional texts, which adds up and becomes time-consuming.
Congratulations on birthdays, work anniversaries, and other significant events have also become part of video-conference calls. It is good to have such casual and sweet moments.
Our corporate English classes were not cancelled: they moved online too. Therefore, our progress in mastering the language has not been stalled.
New beautiful traditions are born. We like sharing the news, and now, every Monday, we discuss exciting things that happened to us on weekends. All team members readily post photos or videos featuring their latest achievements, trips, or hobbies. Even during this short period, we managed to learn a lot about each other.
Some of the usual corporate activities were tailored to the online format as well. For instance, we prepared for Easter together by learning traditional Ukrainian techniques of painting Easter eggs.
Remote work is not for everyone. Some employees have to put more effort to stay as productive as in the office. Some, on the contrary, get so immersed in projects that forget to draw a line between work and pleasure. Others may face difficulties with setting up a working space or get distracted by family members, and the list goes on. When all these minor stressors accumulate, they cause fatigue and irritability. Being isolated, people need support, understanding, and recreation more than ever.
We try to support every employee as much as we can - with informal conversations, online entertainment activities, and small presents. As for our recent initiatives, we have delivered practical gift-packages for every employee (protective face masks with a unique design and company logo, sanitizer, fruits, vitamins, coloring books, and crayons for your spirit). We would also like to have morning exercise meetups to stay cheerful and energized for the rest of the day.
It these trying times, it is important to provide care to those who need it most. All our team members regularly participate in fundraisers or assist in arranging Redwerk charity campaigns.
On top of that, many employees make independent donations and support the initiatives of their own choice.
For example, from the very start of the quarantine, the Redwerk team joined the Let’s Help charity event. It provided the elderly living alone, from Desnianskyi District in Kyiv, with essential foodstuffs.
I must admit that together we managed to overcome the difficulties caused by the isolation and quarantine restrictions. Our key to success lies in responsibility, hard work, timely adaptability, and mutual trust.
I hope that our experience will be useful to you too. What issues have you faced while working remotely? Feel free to share your lockdown stories in the comments section.