By now it is a cliché: the coronavirus outbreak has fundamentally rearranged our lives. As an example, many companies had to switch to working from home office almost overnight. This was also the case for TrM Translations: suddenly, and without any experience, we had to start working from home.
We hope that our experience gained during this transition can help other businesses where, similarly to our translation agency, it had not been customary to work from home before the pandemic. Using our positive example, we would like to demonstrate that a successful switchover can happen without any previous routine even in the case of companies experiencing organisational resistance against home office.
We are presenting the changes we made to this end and the helpful tips we received from [email protected], our HR consultancy partner.
How did we work before the pandemic?
There was a duality in our work. We were in contact with our partners and customers remotely, online and over the phone, even before the virus – and our office did not experience significant walk-in customer traffic, either. However, our in-house team enjoyed working in the comfortable office, happy with each other’s company, the many potted plants and the noticeboard full of colourful postcards sent to us by business partners on their world travels. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, home office was rarely used. Neither colleagues nor management had a liking for it.
What drove the organisational resistance related to home office?
The most significant factor was the lack of companionship. There were fears that working from home would have a negative impact on team cohesion. We feared that communication would be slow, and onboarding and training new colleagues without meeting in person were outright unthinkable. We thought it was more difficult to give feedback this way.
However, our consultancy partner quickly dispelled our fears. They gave us a lot of useful advice and ideas on how to make communication smooth in such a situation, as well as how to provide effective feedback if not done personally.
What challenges did we encounter at the outbreak of the pandemic?
Even though our IT system would have allowed for home office through our NAS and VPN setup, our VOIP telephony, our cloud-based project management solution and cloud-based billing system and, of course, laptops, we resorted to this setup only occasionally, so we had no significant experience. This was the biggest challenge. Adding to the conundrum, at the beginning of the year the company saw personnel changes. We also had to reinvent our workflows that had almost exclusively relied on the office setting.
Fortunately, most of these fears were not confirmed. Not having to go to the office gave a sense of safety in the face of the deadly coronavirus. We also realised that most work processes can be handled remotely.
The transition at TrM Translations was much smoother than we had anticipated. The occasional increase in administrative workload and the slowdown in communication did not seriously hinder work. We realised that many processes involving hard copies can be solved by involving a courier service. Thanks to our increased online presence we could even attend professional events and courses from the safety of our homes.
Much as we had enjoyed the office camaraderie, the lack of each other’s company also turned out to be easier to bear. Work-related communication and the training of new staff were not a problem, either. We were even able to continue our internship programme under these unprecedented circumstances. We received a lot of help from [email protected] on these matters.
And what will the future bring?
Our initial experience already showed that actual personal presence is only necessary in a handful of cases. Thus, it became clear that smaller office space is sufficient. Therefore, atypical forms of employment will also come to the fore at our translation agency. At the same time, we wish to make our home office experience more conscious, formalised and even better organised, and in this we continue to rely on our partner.
Maintaining team cohesion and integrating new staff is still a challenge. [email protected] offers a new, related, service we would like to try. This is a twelve-week team rebuilding process supporting personal interactions through directed group discussions and games, taking only one hour each week.
TrM Translations (www.trmtranslations.com) is a dynamic service provider of the translation market. Our clientele includes multinational companies as well as small and medium enterprises. The backbone of our success is our mission: providing foreign language services that our partners can fully rely on. Our work is carried out in accordance with the ISO 9001 quality assurance standard.
[email protected] (officeathome.net) specialises in consultancy and training services focused on flexible employment, offering comprehensive solutions to small, medium-sized and large businesses, ranging from the design of the implementation of flexible corporate cultures to extensive training services and effective operation of home office programmes. Our decades of leadership experience gained in home office settings and many years of training background focused on remote work distinguish us from other consultancy and training firms.