As the pandemic hit Europe in March, our priority was the safety of our employees.

Early on in March, within 24-hours we shifted both our Malta and Malmo offices to a fully remote working structure. We are used to working remotely with colleagues across our offices and have supported flexible and remote working arrangements, but never did it cross our minds that we would have the whole company working remotely. During this transition it was of utmost importance to maintain continuous communication and transparency with our heroes and keeping all teams connected.

Our mindset immediately switched to ‘anything can be done remotely’ and instilling this mindset across our organization was key. Managers worked very hard to ensure their teams stay connected, while also collaborating cross-functionally in the most effective way possible. A common challenge amongst managers was around giving feedback remotely. In addressing some of our challenges, managers were given access to a remote leadership programme where they could discuss and address their challenges and upskill their remote management skills.

Similar to some other companies, we witnessed high levels of productivity, which was positive for the business. This however still raised other concerns. Were people working around the clock? Are they able to separate life and work? Are they being effected by pandemic related news? Are parents coping? What is the impact on their mental health?

This has not been a normal remote working situation. People working for fully remote companies, get to work from anywhere they want and get to leave the place they eat and sleep in, if they wish to. They also enjoy periodical company meet ups, where they can physically meet their colleagues. The situation we were in, did not allow us to do any of that.

Communication and technology have been the most vital throughout this period. We have optimized our online communication channels, educated and reinforced messages for our teams to create a routine, exercise regularly, get ready for their day at their home office as they would normally do to come into the office, and so on. We have also introduced a new digital form of recognition thanks to “Hey Taco” and also bridged a stronger relationship between our offices by understanding what it is like to be on the other side of a screen, when you are not able to have that face-to-face interaction.

Throughout this period gathering feedback from all our employees, helped us understand their own personal experiences and their challenges. These insights have not only helped managers in managing teams remotely more effectively but has also indicated challenges we needed to address organizationally.

Our Hero Wellness Program which began a few years ago took a virtual form too, part of which included online fitness classes, and occasionally also delivered healthy treats to our heroes’ doorstep. We also ensured that peoples’ wellbeing was being taken care of while everyone was adapting to these new changes on a personal level. Change effects people in different ways, and naturally this shift was easier for some and harder for others. Working with Richmond Foundation in Malta and Blue Call in Sweden, we continued to make sure that online therapy is within easy access to our employees. We cannot underestimate the longer-term effect that this pandemic is having and will continue to have on our heroes especially those who are more vulnerable to mental health problems.

There is no set date for us to return to what we once called our normality, we must therefore continue to be agile in our way forward, strengthen our core structure, keep our core values within sight and continue to pursue the obstacles that come before us. We have learnt that remote working works with the right structures in place but nothing beats being in each other’s presence, at least periodically.

Throughout this whole experience we’ve learnt new skills, developed new habits and strengthened our culture. We have also learnt that anything is possible, organizations can adapt even in the most testing times and collaboration and transparency should always be at the core of any organization.

Authors – The HR Team

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