WAT – Working Apart Together
Working Apart Together (WAT) is the new and trending HR concept, thanks to the recently strongly increased number of employees being forced to work from home.
In times before Corona, nearly all of our colleagues, except the sales people located in different European countries, were physically present in the Contraload headquarter every single day. Our open office working concept creates informal communication between departments, colleagues, and management. Our team leaders get the overall picture of the actual market situation, business updates and state of mind of the employees mostly out of casual hallway conversations. The small talk in coffee breaks and short meet and greets while getting the next snack or grabbing a fruit from the fruit basket, served as a bubbling source of information. We have experienced that the open office space leads to a company culture that thus facilitates quick and effective problem solving, exchanging of best practices, knowledge sharing etc.
It requires a different kind of communication during our current lockdown to keep our culture of exchanging information openly and regularly going.
Team leaders have been setting up new routines of regular catch up calls with their teams, not only on a local level but on a business unit level. Communication remains highly important to continue to do business at our best. In the sales department I now see the faces of my remote working colleagues more frequently than before. Sharing knowledge, best practices and customer experiences are extremely helpful to get a broader view on current business and market shifts. Best practices can be exchanged on how to approach challenges that occur across Europe or just in a specific region and how to respond to them in the best possible way. With this new habit of online meetings, more frequent and in depth teamwork has actually been increased across borders as opposed to the old ways which were mostly fueled by FtoF meetings on a more local and ad hoc level.
In our company we have seen the benefits of this new habit. Should this be considered to become a permanent additional communication tool even after the crisis ?
WASAT – Adding the socializing aspect to the formula
WAT (Working Apart Together) – the concept is great and works well in this crisis, but what is the effect on our company culture? As Laurent Taskin, Professor of personnel policy at University Catholique de Louvain, stated in an article in the Flemish newspaper De Tijd: “Working at a distance creates also distance to the job. The longer we do this, the less we identify with the company”. The company culture at Contraload form the links that hold all the parts of the chain of our business together and make it strong and successful. We decided to not only follow WAT but extended this concept to WASAT – Working and Socializing Apart Together to tackle this concern of alienating from one another.
Our “Fun Factory” Team at Contraload contributes highly positively to the enjoyable social aspect of our company’s culture through organized events at our headquarter. Ladies night, Spartacus Runs, badminton games and Contraload lunches once a month. This offers the opportunity for employees to share great moments and laughs with each other on a regular basis.
These occasions enable everyone to get to know colleagues in a non-working environment and increase bonding and team spirit. But the disadvantage was that these events were not always accessible to every employee due to fact that, especially for remote working sales people and smaller satellite offices in other countries, the distance to come over was simply too large. In the past, we were trying to make the schedule according to when most of the colleagues were available and present at the headquarter and enable them therefore to participate. Well, the new reality of literally no one in the company being physically in the same geographical location forced us to reconsider what we do, how we do it and why we do it. Now, we are having different virtual social activities every week that everyone from everywhere can join such as the Friday Happy Hour, Yoga classes in lunch breaks, or sharing interesting content about the company or about personal development. It is a nice experience to virtually embrace all employees wherever they might be situated to participate in these events. It creates fun times and integration for each and every one, which is amazing and actually a further improvement compared to what had been practiced before Corona shook up our lives. We feel closer despite the increased distance.
I strongly believe that every crisis comes with opportunities to grow and come stronger out of it. The new reality is forcing us to shift our mindsets which I believe we will still be able to benefit from even after the crisis is over.
Do you think that you can also integrate this new habit of social intracompany communication into your own company where employees work remotely?
Stay safe and stay home – we are in this together, all of us!