Remote work trends: People-focused and data-driven
- Posted on March 8, 2021
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
When it comes to the pandemic and the pivot to working remotely, Avanade employees were lucky. We had a strong technical basis that we could leverage when it became necessary for everyone to work from home. But we also had to adjust. Instead of mix of meetings in person and online, all meetings were now online. Before the pandemic hit, calls would be 95% audio only. Since then, calls are 95% video calls. In these first few weeks, Microsoft was able to adapt remarkably quickly to support the significant uptake in Teams usage, as well as in video calls and the desire to see your entire team during a call. Since then, most of us have been spending many hours each week in Teams. Working with colleagues, but also with clients and partners.
clearly confirms what we were all feeling. Time spent in meetings had increased by 200% over the course of a few weeks and the use of video in these calls had increased by 1000%. Avanade's own Workplace Analytics showed similar trends. The impact on technology was significant but the impact on people was even bigger. Being in video calls all day is intense and tiring. Not being able to physically meet with your colleagues makes collaboration more challenging. As you can't accidentally bump into colleagues at the coffee machine, the number of people that you interact with goes down. You end up having calls with your team and the people that you cooperate with directly. On top of that people were worried about their own health, and that of their family members. They were also worried about losing their jobs and about having to combine home schooling and working fulltime.
We were very lucky, as the global Avanade organization immediately communicated that people's well-being was our top priority. For several months we provided job security for everyone and arrangements were made with everyone who struggled to work their contracted hours because of caring or homeschooling duties.
As a local leadership team, we set up regular all employee meetings and opened up a Teams channel, where we shared our own experiences and tried to keep communication going, encourage people to ask questions and share concerns and where we repeated the message that everyone's personal well-being was our top priority. As the number of meetings, messages, and emails increased, we often felt like broken records. Wondering if people wouldn't get sick of hearing us say the same thing over and over again. It turns out that most people don't. You can never repeat a reassuring message too often. And while you may feel that you are oversharing, many people will still miss the messages that you are trying to get across. I've learned not to trust my own feeling about how much or how often I'm sharing information and instead listen very closely to the feedback from my teams. They are in a much better position to determine the impact and the perceived repetitiveness.
We've tried out several formats and different technologies. Of course, Teams is at the heart of our communications. In the beginning, we used Teams Live Meetings as we were afraid of reaching the 250-attendee limit of normal Teams meetings. That had a downside, as interaction in a Teams Live Meeting is more difficult than in a normal Teams meeting. Luckily it turns out that with approximately 400 employees you are unlikely to reach 250 attendees in a virtual all employee meeting (although we do occasionally get close). We also learned the most effective way to share content in a Teams meeting. Our colleague Louis Herber even wrote (in Dutch).
Flexible working at Avanade means that it's up to you to determine when and how you will work your contracted hours. This must be aligned with your team and your client, but our going-in position is that we will be as flexible as possible to support what works for you. During the monthly Avanade well-being weeks we have a specific focus related to everyone's well-being. Some of the areas that we've highlighted are "Space and Boundaries", "Kindness and Compassion", and "Flexibility and Perspective". Sessions are organized that provide inspiration on these topics and people get additional time (during working hours) to reflect on these topics and their well-being in any way they want.
Working from home, not being able to bring teams physically together, and dealing with additional stress and anxiety doesn't just impact our people. It impacts leadership teams in the same ways that it impacts everyone else. Microsoft's Remote Work Trend Report mentioned above indicated a 19% increase in manager-employee 1:1 meetings and an 115% increase in chat messages for managers. On top of that, leaders need to reassure and regularly check in with their teams, allow people time and space to share concerns and offer opportunities to connect in informal ways. They also need to adjust the channel and style through which they communicate. A change management team and strategy can help to determine the most effective communication channels, as well as analyze the impact of the messages.
Avanade Netherlands' change management team also helped us implement the cultural reinforcement program that we were working on in a completely online environment. More about this in my next blog!
If you are interested in discussing my experience in dealing with the changes of the last year, as well as the tooling and teams that have supported me, I would like to invite you to leave a comment and we'll set up a no-strings-attached session with myself and , our Avanade Netherlands Workplace lead.