Lean Practices for Remote Teams
A spanner in the works
In recent years, our workspaces have embraced technology yet our work culture harks back to the industrial age — where productivity is equated with physical presence, long hours, and top-down hierarchies. The lockdowns effected to check the spread of Covid-19, have disrupted global economies, and organisations are being forced to think of how they can do things differently:
- How can we reset organisational structures, reporting, performance metrics, processes and team management to function as remote teams?
- What lean practices and protocols are needed to establish, sustain and motivate remote teams?
- How can this transition be a long-term goal, even after the lockdowns ease up?
Employees, on the other hand, are asking other questions:
- How can we adapt to the new work culture, and find other modes to communicate?
- Is it possible to find a balance between work and home — with enough self-discipline to make time for both?
- How can the new work culture address mental health issues like burn-out and stress, as also, bridge the digital divide between team members by providing healthy avenues to unwind, exchange banter, and let off steam?
At HasGeek, we were just as keen on understanding how this transition could play out. End-April, we kickstarted our Lean Practices for Remote Teams series as an exercise in sharing experiences and insights from people on both sides of the table: employers, and employees.
Hiring for inclusivity
On 24th April, our first session with Rahul Gonsalves (Obvious), Ashok Hariharan (Bungeni Consulting), and Shipra Pandit (Juspay Technologies), delved into how a remote work culture can help hire for inclusivity.
Think about it, does your workspace have wheelchair access? Are there provisions in your company for child care? Any allowances made for other disabilities? These are important considerations, yet our workspaces ‘exclude’ a rich pool of candidates, and we have normalised those criteria in our hiring practices.
As Ashok Hariharan iterated, “we are in the habit of hiring IITians, and engineers, and believe they can do everything. Yet the ‘right fit’ for the job might be someone who has less structured working hours, which can help them cope with a disability or structure their time around a child. In my experience, candidates that are offered flexibility are more likely to stay on with the company, rather than others who chase after bigger paychecks.”
Shipra Pandit adds that by providing flexibility as a perk during the hiring process, and the opportunity to allow people to define their own working hours — they saw a marked rise in women candidates who brought different skill-sets, discipline and innovation to the organisation. As JusPay, works with niche tools — team members need to be willing to learn, and diverse teams, with more women seem to be more motivated, and goal-driven too.
To clarify, inclusivity isn’t the major goal of remote working, it is a desirable fringe benefit. As Rahul Gonsalves succinctly put it, “we did not set out to hire for diversity, we wanted to create a workplace that was more representative of the world we live in.” For his company, this was especially crucial, as they are committed to developing products for people — and a homogeneous team, would not have been able to understand the nuances as well as a diverse team. Moreover, he adds, “if we measure the axes of diversity, women are among the easiest to include, but other criteria like disability, caste, class, and sexuality, also need to be considered.”
Creating an ‘employer brand’
So how can we recalibrate our hiring processes and frame our messages to reach more diverse candidates? “The journey starts before hiring,” Rahul Gonsalves clarifies, “a company needs to establish an ‘employer brand’.” How can a company project what the day-to-day culture is like? Does it offer any fringe benefits? Is it possible to establish a channel of communication for potential employees, even when a company is not actively hiring — so that roles can be created to match employees, rather than the other way around?
Keeping the conversation going…
These were just some of the many interesting questions thrown up during the session, you can access the full interaction here.
We’ll be having another session this Friday, 1st May, with a new set of speakers, focusing on how you can become an effective remote work employee (yes, it is the International Labour Day, the irony, is not lost on us!).
During the session, there were some questions from the audience too. We’ll be compiling the responses to these from our speakers shortly. If you’d also like to add your two-bits, please respond in the comments below (please indicate the question numbers you are answering — hehe, school style!)
Q1. Ragamalika Karthikeyan: How do organisations ensure that all employees are on the same page as far as values are concerned? And how does this work in a remote work setup?
Q2. Rashmi Chaudhary: How to track the presence of employees and the work they are doing, when a large number of people are working from home simultaneously in an organisation? How can we keep the employees engaged while they are not physically present at one place (during work from home)?
Q3. Varsha BG: I am the only woman in my team. We have been chasing a deadline and it seems like everyone else in my team is online and working 24/7. I feel I am at a disadvantage. What role can an HR play here? Another point I want to bring up is mental health. Are managers sensitised towards what people might be going through during a pandemic? It’s not a typical WFH situation, so what are organisations doing in this regard?