Our CEO, Simon, shares Adaptavist's take on the future of work for Jellyvision's Webinar series.
As the world eases cautiously out of lockdown, organisations forced to plunge into remote working are reflecting on the lessons they’ve learnt and devising new plans for the future. Many clichés have been thrown around—’new normal,’ ‘unprecedented change’ and ‘we’re all in this together’—to name but a few. But going beyond the words, what does this all actually mean for organisations going forward? How should meetings change? Should managers have new responsibilities? Is the 9-5 workday obsolete?
To get to the bottom of these questions and adequately prepare for what’s next, we’ve got to look back on what worked, and what didn’t. A few weeks ago, our CEO, Simon Haighton-Williams, took part in a Jellyvision webinar series, ‘What’s next with work?’ Joined by panellists from Upwork and Jellyvision, Simon weighed in on the approach Adaptavist has taken throughout this crisis, how our employees have coped and what’s permanently changed for us. We thought you might be interested in the three main takeaways—here goes:
1. When under pressure, people adapt
Alex Muehl, VP of Implementation at Jellyvision, explains how impressed she was by how people adapted to the current crisis: “What’s surprising is how quickly people shifted to looking at the long game. Many of us hoped this would be a temporary situation, but clearly it’s not...I love to see my team starting to think about what work is going to look like 6 months to a year from now if things aren’t changing and how can we better support our customers.”
For Simon it was all about the resilience of Adaptavist employees to deal with the changes that came with full remote working. Kids on the knee during Zoom calls, working in incredibly small apartments (often without the luxury of outside space), coming up with innovative ways to keep up morale—what’s been evident over the past few months is that employees can adapt, and fast. Eric Gilpin, Senior VP of Sales at Upwork echoes that sentiment, telling us how quickly Upwork employees, “embraced change” and had the “resilience to rebound” from the difficult situation we all found ourselves in.
Just one example of Adaptavists letting their hair down and having a laugh together amid this crisis was our ‘Zoom Bash.’ What’s that you ask?! Well, organised from the ground up by our Design team, the Zoom Bash was a Friday night (or lunchtime depending on where you were in the world!) party that catered for all employee music tastes. We had a DJ in one Zoom room, an acoustic guitar in another and people could come and go as they pleased.
Here you'll see our DJ in action and get a taste of our promo material—apologies for the blurry shots, it was a wild evening!
2. There’s no-one-size-fits all
There has been a lot of talk of introverts teaching those of us who relish a bit more social interaction how to cope during this crisis. But in reality, we can’t be divided into just two camps. Our current situation has really taught us that everyone is different, and we all need different things. Eric explains how, for Upwork, the frequency of communication increased dramatically and sending quick video updates to their teams created, “a video empathy that allowed us to have a better connection with our team members.”
Some of us are happy working with one screen rather than two, some of us need to take time to be with our children in the afternoon, some crave just 10 minutes a day talking to another employee about something non-work related. What’s important is that organisations recognise, respect, and cater to these differences. Simon rightly explains we all have to be tolerant of family life going on in the background of Zoom calls, noting, “we’re all doing work, it’s all kind of important work, but kids are important as well...and we have to have tolerance and flexibility for those things!” Simply put, if it isn’t already, flexibility should be at the forefront of your strategy going forward. It’ll make your employees happier and more productive. Win-win.
From a management perspective, understanding the mixed needs of your team and keeping lines of communication open is even more important when working remotely. In fact, sometimes continuous communication is the best way to get things done quickly—as Simon explains, “Our weekly executive meeting ends up being a coffee more than anything because we’ve dealt with things in real time.”
Of course, employees should always feel comfortable to reach out to their managers, and managers should be aware that sometimes people just want someone to talk to. In Simon’s words, “you need to give people the safety valve to be upset about the things that are happening in the world, or how they feel about it.”
3. Tech is easy. Culture is hard
Finally, a key point Simon made is that you can have all the technology in the world, but it won’t build your company culture. It’s back to the age-old mantra, ‘your tools are only as good as the people using them.’ On tooling, Eric explains that Upwork has, “relied a lot on different types of productivity tools to build confidence in the leadership that our teams can be effective and they can execute on their goals in this new environment.”
What’s more, Upwork has actively been investing in management training at the moment for all team members to build empathy and improve their diversity and inclusion training across the organisation.
Creating a culture that is open, fair, and flexible starts by ensuring everyone feels heard and empowered to do the best job they can. That’s as true whether you’re in an office or at home, and ultimately, it starts and ends with the people. In Simon’s words: “Most of these things are about culture. Technology's kind of easy, we’ve all got Zoom and Skype and Slack. It’s about getting people to do what they want to do.”
For Simon, as a remote manager you’ve got to be more “deliberate,”—finding the opportunities to call someone a few minutes, even just to say hello. As we—along with so many organisations globally—continue to figure out the best way forward, we’ll do well to ensure our people are front and centre.
We’d like to give a huge thank you to the team at Jellyvision and the other panellists who made this conversation happen. If you’re interested, you can check out the full webinar here: