WHO has declared COVID-19 a pandemic.  The implications of this virus will be far reaching, impacting supply chain, financial services, airlines and tourism industries to name a few.  I believe it will challenge the survival of many small businesses.  As such, fighting, containing, warding off COVID-19 has become a theme that is actually uniting us.

We are all in this together.   

There is overwhelming evidence that the most effective way to fight the spread or “flattening the curve” is social distancing.  This has been proven effective in Taiwan, Singapore and even the epicentre of the disease – Hubei.  As we grapple with what lies ahead at a personal and professional level, it is clear that working from home / remote collaboration is going to increase.  As a software business, we at Bondle are accustomed to remote work environments.  In fact, we love the flexibility and increased productivity it offers the team.  However, we understand not all companies are used to such environments.  Therefore, based on our experience, we outline a few of the PROs and CONs of working remotely.

PROS

  1. Increased productivity – Most people will see an instant increase in their productivity primarily due to reduced / no travel time.
  2. Increased flexibility – Team members can now work early in the morning and then drop kids to school or go to the gym and then log in to work. There is an increased level of flexibility when you are not required to be in the office during “working hours”.
  3. Saves money – Travel costs along with reduction in coffees, lunches and the occasional post-work drinks definitely adds up to at least 2 movie tickets per week.
  4. Extended time with family – This is my favourite perk.  We can now squeeze in a few extra minutes to spend time with kids, spouse or even our pet.  This feel good factor in turn results in increased productivity.

CONS

  1. Distractions – While there are distractions at work, there are enough and more distractions at home as well. Everything from Netflix to a longer than usual lunch break or the inviting couch.  It is indeed difficult to resist some of the homely temptations.
  2. Reduced interactivity – Over time, you will miss the coffee catch ups, the run ins with colleagues from other departments or just the casual banter over lunch. We all need social interactions to not only stimulate us but also to give us a sense of belonging.  This reduced interactivity sometimes leads to a reduction in creativity.
  3. Increased communication overheads – Not everyone is adept at communicating via video calls, voice calls or over chat apps. Sometimes we end up spending more time explaining ourselves or going back and forth with our colleagues on matters that may have been resolved by hashing it out on a piece of paper at work.
  4. Unplugging – For some it becomes hard to unplug from work.  We think it is important to be “online” the whole day just in case someone pings you when you are not at your desk.  Would it then create a perception that the person is slacking?  I know many people who do not enjoy working from home for this reason. It actually causes a degree of mental stress.

We hope these points bring about awareness of some of the benefits and challenges of working from home or remote collaboration.  To be clear, none of these challenges are insurmountable.  Awareness increases empathy and perhaps helps in figuring out mitigation strategies.

The role of technology in enabling remote collaboration

Technology is the critical cornerstone that makes it possible for remote teams to communicate efficiently over geographical distances, and get their stuff done.  Here is a list of tools that we recommend you consider for a smooth work experience

Zoom – There are many video collaboration tools out there but I find Zoom to be the most reliable, with high quality video & audio.  It also offers facilities such as a digital whiteboard that is widely used during our calls.  It has a simple user interface and is easy to schedule calls and intuitive for participants to join in.  Alternatives are Google Hangouts or Skype.

Google Docs – To be honest, I think Google Docs are not as user friendly as the Microsoft Office Suite but it is great for working on shared documents such as spreadsheets or presentations.  We use this for co-creating content inside the company.  For those who are not authorised to use Google products, (usually Microsoft shops), try using the Office 365 products for collaboration although I must admit I have never used them myself.

Bondle – Needless to say, we run our entire operations on Bondle.  I use it for interactions with my team, clients, investors and the Board as well.  As compared to internal collaboration tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, Bondle is a single tool that will help you collaborate internally and externally on the single platform.  The power of Bondle is apparent when you are dealing in a document or task intensive conversation with built in folder structures, version control, document encryption and a task management system.  The automated Audit History ensures every key activity is time stamped and provides transparency and governance for high fidelity conversations.

Above all, you need to focus on the backbone that powers these tools – Internet.  Invest in a good Internet connection, whether you’re at home or elsewhere: when working from home, a lot of the times you heavily depend on your Internet connection (and your co-workers heavily rely on you). This is a fact. So, it makes perfect sense to invest in the best possible connection you can get.

We hope you remain safe and enjoy the time with your loved ones as you prepare to adjust to the new culture of remote collaboration.