Almost overnight, everyone was pushed to adapt to the circumstances brought about by COVID-19. Most people spend about two-thirds of their lives at work — interacting with colleagues, working with suppliers, and serving customers face-to-face. Having to stay productive while living through this generation’s worst pandemic is both challenging and frightening.
This pandemic has shown how many businesses here in the Philippines lack the flexibility to take their work online. It has served as a wake-up call for business leaders and entrepreneurs to take a hard look at their operations and figure out how to digitize these activities.
This begs the question: What should our “business as usual” look like once we get back out there?
Many businesses are mistaken — you’re only seeing one side of it if you believe that removing fixed working time, holding online meetings, and offering laid-back dress codes constitute “flexible work arrangements”. Some businesses believe having a social media page is proof that they are ready for the future. But being truly flexible goes way beyond that. As a business leader, you must review your entire business model to see what changes need to be made to ensure your company is ready for what’s next.
Race to change
When businesses are allowed to resume, managers must make it a priority to secure their employees’ welfare and business productivity. Here are a few things you can do in the short-term to make your business more agile and flexible:
- Invest in cloud-based software.
Take a quick look at the everyday tools and software that the company is using. When the lockdown was imposed, was it convenient for your team to hit the ground running from wherever they were located? Don’t wait for another crisis to happen to make you realize that you should have taken your operations online sooner. If your company still uses local computer servers, it’s time to get on the cloud.
Here are some recommended online tools that you can start with:
- Google Drive: A secure place to store files and share documents that anyone across the team can easily access. All you need is a Gmail account!
- Slack: Unlike WhatsApp or any other messaging platform, Slack was built specifically for business communication. It comes with a wide array of integrations to make project management, file sharing, and easier wherever your team is working out.
- Asana: The best thing about Asana is that it gives you the same satisfaction as actually checking off a task from your notebook! Whether you’re working in the same office space or not, this platform will make collaborating easier by having visibility on who’s working on what, building project plans, and automating routine tasks and processes.
- Hubspot: A robust CRM platform for inbound marketing, customer service, and sales with no trial period deadline. You can use Hubspot’s free version forever, or add on features that you will eventually need later down the line.
- Salarium: A proudly local made HR platform to easily manage attendance, payroll, and payout with a minimal service fee of P50.00 per employee.
- Wave: An accounting software that lets you create and send invoices for free. Features also include automating recurring invoices and recording payments.
- Paymaya: Another homegrown brand that lets you collect credit, debit, and prepaid payments on your customized e-commerce platform. You can easily integrate Paymaya to your website too.
- Proposify: If your sales team takes too much time to put together proposals and contracts, Proposify will help you create, track, and send documents conveniently.
- Craft more output-based performance indicators.
Your company has to look beyond monitoring attendance and, instead, start evaluating how much value the employee brings in on a daily basis. Setting up Objectives and Key Results, more commonly known as OKRs, is one way to start. Check out this link for a quick example.
Work with your people managers to put together OKRs for each position. The point is to be able to easily track the progress of measurable goals that were set. Having this in place will make it easier for your company to manage teams and individuals as you adopt remote work policies. Similarly, this helps protect the income of employees as they will be measured now primarily on output and not just hours rendered.
- Set up work from anywhere policy.
Many companies have been practicing and reaping the benefits of remote work for some time now. If you haven’t tried the set up yet, you may have been forced to do so given the circumstances. Once the lockdown is lifted, you should look to give employees the freedom to work from anywhere. It’s recommended that companies do this gradually — once a week to start then scale up as necessary.
Additionally, consider the need to observe social distancing in office spaces. The usual building density ratio in the Philippines is at about 1 person to 5 square meters (1:5), sometimes even less. Building management will further reduce the number of people allowed on every floor, making the facility operate 40 to 50% less of their usual capacity. Putting your teams on a rotation to work from anywhere will help observe healthy distancing measures.
For the long haul
Sticking to your “business as usual” ways may not be enough anymore. Not only do companies have to survive during this time, but they also need to innovate or even pivot before they can begin to thrive again. After making the recommended adjustments, consider taking these bold moves for the long-run:
- Have more comprehensive health and sanitation efforts
The effects of this pandemic will permanently change even the most basic habits. People will now be warier of social distancing and personal hygiene.
Start by getting an HMO plan for your employees if you don’t already have one yet. Investing in a healthcare plan for your team shows that you care about their well-being.
Companies may require employees to declare their travel history when they take vacation leaves. Even if it’s “just the sniffles”, your employees should understand that calling in sick is necessary. Assigning a health officer would also be a great initiative. This will ensure that someone is looking out for the health and well being of everyone in the company.
For example, once Acceler8 resumes business operations, we will be observing social distancing within our workstations and common areas. There will be a lot of emphasis on cleaning schedules and practices. Even before the lockdown was imposed, Acceler8 already invested in deploying HEPA Air Purifiers and uses only hospital grade cleaning solutions for its facilities. We have also nearly tripled the provision of rubbing alcohol and anti-bacterial handwash in all our locations in Makati. Buildings, where we are located, will continue taking temperature checks to ensure that anyone who is sick won’t be allowed inside the premises.
- Permanently adopt remote work policies
Now that remote work has been proven feasible and effective, you may want to consider updating company policies to permanently accommodate this. However, with the many benefits that come with remote work, it also comes with costly concerns for employees who work from home. In the Philippines, two to three generations of the family are typically housed under one roof. It will be difficult for your employee to focus on work when family members are just a few meters away. In contrast, those who live alone will have to deal with loneliness and isolation from working at home.
Working out of a flexible workspace can address those concerns. Support your teams by signing up with coworking spaces. Ideally, choose a few spaces spread out across Metro Manila so that employees don’t have to commute too far. It’s a good alternative to working from home – one that ensures that the internet, network security, and maintaining a conducive social work atmosphere requirements are met.
- Decentralize your HQ
Business continuity plans have been put to the test and most of them have fallen short. This outbreak is unlike any natural calamity that we have dealt with before. It has impacted most businesses, leaving behind the lesson on the importance of maintaining healthy cash flow.
As a result, companies may avoid long term or cash-heavy commitments moving forward. Next to payroll, office space is usually the biggest fixed cost and longest commitment that companies take on. Your company can easily shift from capital expenditure to operational expenditure by assigning teams to work from serviced offices on flexible lease terms of 3 to 12 months at a time. Taking the opportunity to put down less cash upfront for rent deposits and expanding or downsizing as necessary will be instrumental for your business.
Instead of just keeping it as a BCP option, you can take a step further by fully committing to decentralizing your business spaces. One of the early cases reported in the Philippines was an employee of Deloitte who tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the company’s offices and the entirety of the affected buildings were forced to close down for a few days to disinfect its facilities. Almost immediately, hundreds of employees have been misplaced and left to find alternative workspaces.
There will definitely be hesitation in being in shared offices or any public spaces for that matter. But contrary to what most people predict, coworking spaces actually have an optimistic future ahead. Our neighbors over at Hong Kong share that a local flexible workspace operator received a 25% increase in sign-ups this quarter compared to the quarter prior. Even when given the choice to work from home, the behavior suggests that people will still take the option of working from anywhere but home.
Flexible workspace operators can expect a greater demand, not just in Metro Manila but in all markets. Although the demand may be a different version of the coworking spaces we know of now – for flexible workspaces to thrive, we’ll have to innovate and adapt to these new demands. We have been pushed to rethink our business model and how we design our workspaces. Soon, we will begin to offer services that we haven’t considered before. We aim to capitalize on the fact that remote work will become widely accepted by offering tools and services that will make remote management easier. All while strengthening our core services of offering convenience, cost-efficiency, and a vibrant community that businesses can connect with.
We live in a highly volatile and interconnected world. Businesses must navigate within these challenges in order to stay relevant and continue making an impact, especially during the aftermath of this pandemic. COVID-19 has shown us that Murphy’s law stands true: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. We owe it to ourselves to learn from this crisis and make the necessary changes.
Acceler8 would be happy to help you bounce back.. Take that first step to flexible work. You may view our website www.acceler8.ph to view our plans or consult with our team through firstname.lastname@example.org for your specific business requirements.