Effectively lead a flexi-workplace, and 5 foolproof ways to do it
Work culture has now shifted indefinitely. As someone who once took their first steps in the office-life through the learning-by-doing method, I now look back at my early days as a newbie, my transition into a company-builder, the havoc wrecked by COVID and how my team and I came out of it unscathed and dare I say, even better of!
Office culture for an observant learner
Starting out, I did almost nothing remotely. Pre-COVID, I probably attended less than 50 online conference calls, and only with internationally located people; otherwise, we worked together every single day. This was not just about work culture; it was about having built a habit for myself.
I am a creature of routine. My daily routine for the past decade has involved a structured combination of sports and working-in office. My earliest lessons in understanding team dynamics and interpersonal behaviour came from being together from 9 a.m., 5 days a week, which made the working process a lot more involved, insightful and fun.
Even as I shifted to building companies full time, my affinity to structure and routine didn’t change. Retrospectively, my habit of setting daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals helped me immensely. Every aspect of setting goals and challenging myself is my hobby, and along my journey, I picked up the best planning, communication, and creative tooling, to make my life, and that of my team simpler.
Times of crisis and adapting to change
With the oncoming of the pandemic and the resultant shutdown in 2020, adjusting to the remote-only way of life was…interesting, to say the least. As a startup studio, there are certain elements of our work that are harmed without direct, interpersonal contact; management and future founders meeting and building a rapport was crucial to ventures taking shape from scratch.
On one hand, the lines between time of work and time outside of it were blurred to a great degree; supermarket deliveries were happening in the midst of meetings, a conversation about allowances for work-time coffees were in the talks, and office chairs were being carted home for remote-office setups. The crux was, everyone was a fledgling, figuring out how to navigate this new way of living and working. But on the other hand, it gave my team the freedom to think outside the box (literally and figuratively) as they settled into the new routine. It incentivised them to document their work for ease of access, and in the moments we did get-together, we had a better, dynamic relationship with one other because we had more reasons to catch up with each other — as colleagues, and as friends.
The aftermath and understanding the new normal
As time passed and regulations were laxed, we were at a different crossroad. Until early this year, we could justify that remote-working was a consequence of necessity; What about now? A survey by HR thought leaders Gartner showed that 99% of HR specialists are of the opinion that remote work is from now on, a permanent aspect of employment. With the world embracing the post-COVID normal, we need to evaluate our way of work to pick up the best of both — remote, and in-person.
5 ways to lead a flexi-workplace
As a member of management, as well as a stakeholder in Builders, there are things that my team and I implemented to hit the sweet-spot between team members who work best remotely, in-person or on a flexible schedule. Here is a brief walkthrough on what we did (and what you too can keep in mind) to create a productive, engaged and dynamic flexi-workplace:
- Create a goal-oriented way-of-work
The days of tracking productivity by measuring time is over. At the end of the day, a healthy workplace needs to recognise that individuals work differently, and ultimately, a team member’s contribution in achieving goals is what matters, not the number of hours in a day they spend in front of their screen. Our current studio framework is 100% goal oriented. Yearly, quarterly and monthly goals ensure that the team can adapt at whatever pace they see appropriate to achieve it, and are not boxed in by managerial expectations. Furthermore, we shifted our focus to team entrepreneurship; every member of our team is working towards achieving our goal with the stakeholder mindset — no one is a cog-in-a-wheel at Builders.
2. Document everything
Let’s collectively move away from intercepting colleagues in hallways or hitting up their personal messages to assign them a task. Document task management centrally. You could use Excel, Sheets, or specialised tools Like Asana (like at Builders) to create, assign and follow up with tasks. This way, everyone in your team or organisation can see who’s doing what, and leave feedback or step in to assist without any confusion. Do this with meetings too! Maintain a space for all meeting notes, so that any team member can go onto the platform and find it for themselves.
3. Communicate transparently and systematically
We have team members from different time-zones and work schedules; clear communication is at the core of our way-of-work. Schedule recurring meetings at a fixed time every week or fortnight. Create a framework for this meeting’s agenda such that the entire team can share their progress beforehand and not waste time catching up. Use the meeting itself to discuss pain points and next steps. More importantly, identify a platform where you can communicate this and leave templates for all teams’ easy access. We use Notion for this.
4. Hire observantly
Create a framework for a clear mission statement so it resonates better within the team and network. This mission statement becomes your identity — as an organisation, brand and an employer. Following this ethos, we have created our ‘Why, How, What’ statement for the studio and ventures. This way, we can look for people ideologically aligned with our mission early in the hiring process, instead of having wasted time and effort hiring someone who doesn’t mesh with the team.
5. Curate socialising opportunities
Sure, you’ve hired go-getters and goal-achievers. But a workplace is not built on task management alone; you need to put effort into making it a space where colleagues can also bond with each other. This can be exacerbated by flexi-schedules, especially if all the team members aren’t in the office on the same days. Introduce exclusive ‘social time’. At Builders, this takes shape in the form of TGIF — a biweekly event scheduled on Fridays when the office joins for a couple beers and games like Bingo, Kahoot or quizzes; the idea is to have everyone mingle organically in an informal environment. These games are remote-friendly, so everyone gets to join the fun!
Change is the only constant aspect of our environment — work, or otherwise. It is imperative that we are on the constant lookout to adapt to change, or we risk dissatisfaction, stagnancy in growth, and complacency. The pandemic and its aftermath has taught me and my team that actionable points of creating transparency among each other, and placing value in the time we meet can help create an environment where ideas are abound, tasks are completed, goals are met, and in true Builders style, champagne popped!
What has your organisation done to adapt to the new normal? Let’s talk in the comments below.