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Remote Working

21st Century Intern: Being A Graduate In The “New Normal”

By Future of Work, Remote Working

Written By Keano May

2020 was no fly-by year with its effects long still to be felt, we’ve seen huge shifts in the way we socialise, consume media, travel and, most importantly, work. Major employers like Mondelez, Nationwide and Barclays are opting to allow a significant portion of their workforce to work from home, with Nationwide allowing as much 98% of its workforce to work from home. This caused a shift from a model that for years, saw hundreds if not thousands of employees in one building.
As employers adjust to the thought of what office space really means, employees new and old are adjusting to what the future of being employed looks like.

Interning In A Remote World

As a post-graduate entering a world of work that has dramatically changed overnight (and having been fortunate enough to have exposure to the world of work pre-pandemic), I had a fixed idea of what formal employment and workspaces should look like. This idea has radically shifted as the “work-from-anywhere” trend continues to increase. Being in an office and working remotely are different experiences, there are some discrepancies worth noting when entering the job market as a Padawan (intern).
Here are a few I’ve noticed:
  • Time management is extremely important and using notepads as reminders is a bit outdated; it’s more efficient using software that helps you link tasks to your calendar to keep track of your “To do’s”.
  • As an Intern, you aren’t expected to know everything but a willingness to learn and take on tasks goes a long way.
  • You have control over your workspace set-up, try to find the space where you can be most productive.
  • Your workspace isn’t your only space, make time to move around and get the blood flowing. Not being in a formal office space allows room for home exercise routines.

The Positive Impacts of Remote Working

Companies like Capitec have reported fewer sick days and increased productivity from its 2000 Head Office staff and call centre staff since working from home. Other major employers like Shoprite and Dimension Data are aiming to have longer-term work from home policies, with a hybrid model likely to be adopted.
Personally, the positive impacts of remote working has been notable as an intern. As a graduate, new to the job market, I was concerned about getting to work and how much transport would cost. With remote working, a significant amount of time and money is saved on commuting.
This allows resources to be saved and reinvested towards achieving financial goals, improving ones physical health and much more. I have also noted an increase in work productivity – this is largely related to finding a work pattern that best suits me and having an employer that allows time for discovery.
The “New Normal” presents significant challenges for employers and employees and when entering as an intern, the challenge can seem very daunting. These challenges (however difficult they may seem) present unique opportunities for growth and development both professionally and personally. As an intern, currently in the thick of things, it turns out that things become less scary after the first time you’ve done it.

Keano May is an intern at dY/dX

Remote Work 101: Spatial Design For Optimum Performance

By Future of Work, Remote Working

Written by Jon Friedman

As humans, we are psychologically wired to think in physical spaces. Our behaviour and thoughts depend on the space we are in. For example, think about the headspace you have when in the kitchen, office or the gym. Each space will prompt different thoughts and behaviours based on your experiences in that space.

A good example of our dependence on the space around us is the doorway effect. We’ve all had the experience of walking into another room only to forget what we came for. Our attention is constantly divided amongst a number of tasks, from simple to complex. Many of the complex tasks are made up of simple tasks which we carry out automatically. When we leave the context of one room, it can cause us to forget an action that we were carrying out subconsciously.

How does this impact the way we work?

The doorway effect shows how our work environment is crucial in allowing us to carry out tasks much faster without having to think about them. Having different rooms and spaces can help us to be more productive at whatever specialised task we are doing by creating a context that helps to automate the many small and mundane subtasks needed.

At the moment we are unable to spread our day across many venues and most of us stay in one place staring at the same screen for most of the day. Remote work has many benefits, however, it requires new techniques to maintain a routine and differentiate between deep work, meetings or breaks.

New ways of communicating

Services like Slack, MS Teams or Discord are examples of how a communication service can create virtual ‘rooms’ to mirror real life. Different communication tools take on a distinct character and pattern of interaction. The way you communicate in Slack is not how you would communicate in email or even in Microsoft Teams. Different Discord servers feel like different homes or buildings. Things like customisation can make you feel at home and create a sense of community.

On the other hand, these elements create a  sense of novelty when you go to a new server. Different channels within the server feel like different rooms and with voice chat, people are free to move around them and socialise.

When I was studying I would often work with my friends on Discord and we would have different channels for work, gaming and even a procrastination station. Having these virtual spaces created rituals to break up different parts of the day and put us in the right state of mind. This also let us help each other in real-time even if we were working on different tasks.

Out with the old, in with the new

We organise our physical tools and workspaces to optimise our flow and allow us to work undistracted. Digital workplace design should emulate this. It is important to create virtual spaces to simulate real-world environments and assist us in reaching the optimal flow state without procrastinating.

Digitization is often centred around automation, but the creativity and quality of the work environment are driven by much more than efficiency. I have often found that the older generations lose their sense of connection with other people when they are communicating through a machine, but the youth see this differently. Our virtual experiences are rich and immersive. In the future, I believe that coworkers will be able to communicate emotively through Teams, voice chat or even GIFs, without losing their sense of comradery. It’s not that I don’t want to work in an office, I just never have and might not ever have to.

Jon Friedman is an intern at dY/dX

The State of Remote Work

By #COVID19, Future of Work, Remote Working

dY/dX partner, Nevo Hadas, speaks to Avi Kay on ChaiFM

COVID-19 accelerated the remote working movement. Many companies are still scrambling to keep up with the massive shift to digitization as well as the change in work culture and environment. dY/dX partner, Nevo Hadas,  joined Avi Kay on ChaiFM to discuss digital workflow processes, remote working policies and preventing burnout in a work environment that’s non-stop. Listen below.

Avi Kay:

A couple of months ago, we spoke to Nevo Hadas, who is a partner at dY/dX. It was one of the first interviews we had about working remotely, working from home and not being at the office. It was quite novel and quite exciting to discuss those things while sitting in my hotel room while Nevo was in his kitchen doing this interview, and now all of a sudden, many, many months later, this is how we operate.

We’ve learnt a lot over [this time period] and by we, I am talking about myself. I didn’t believe this was possible. The first time I [started working remotely], I was like a scared kid outside the principal’s office, not sure of what to expect. Now it’s a routine and I am absolutely loving it. If the meeting starts at 10 o’clock, [you can jump right into it]. It’s not an hour to get there or an hour to get back. You can quickly get to the point and move on. How are you finding it, in the real world? What’s the big picture?

Nevo Hadas:

For us, very little has changed actually, because we have been doing this for so many years. The big shift [we are seeing] that companies are really dealing with now is, as you said, it’s becoming a reality and we are seeing CFOs looking at their balance sheet and income statement and saying, “Do I really need all this property? And now what am I doing with this?. And from there, we see the impact on the HR department, saying “We will never have an office again because you guys are looking through a used office space”. We see the impact on them rethinking [things like] how do they keep everyone in touch, engaged and working together?

So we are really seeing the maturity of the process accelerate very very rapidly, which is exciting.

Avi Kay:

Was this inevitable or did Corona actually create something that a few geeks like yourself would’ve done, while the rest of us would’ve stupidly plodded back to the office?

Nevo Hadas:

I think it accelerated something that would’ve taken another couple of generations to impact. So, I think it would’ve happened, but it would’ve been fringe, may be at the moment it was 1- 2%, maybe in 10 years it would’ve been 8%, maybe 30%, but the COVID environment has accelerated it out of the box, so we’re almost 20 years down the line now [compared to] where we would’ve been naturally.

Avi Kay:

Nev, I think we have hit a  nerve here because we have sms’s coming in sharp and fast. Jeff says, “It’s all good and well, but the telephone lines don’t cope; every time I call a call center, I have to call two or three times, the lines are terrible and I often hear a kid screaming in the background, it’s just not professional. How do we get that right?

Nevo Hadas:

So, I think this is what people or businesses are struggling with right now. It is the shift to digitalization that has hit them too quickly and they haven’t thought through all the aspects yet. Everyone is just responding at the moment. So, if you look at what will happen over time, and these are things that we are already seeing in company policies,  even at the call-centres that he is speaking about, people working at home will get a better line working from the company. There will be better infrastructure that will be distributed. People who are working from home will get better speakers or better headsets.

If you look at what is being offered for home decor and the home office, there is a sound deadening element that you can buy for your house – that is going to grow. So our entire concept of how houses are furnished and what kind of houses we buy, all these things will shift. So this is a very uncomfortable year or two but I think what you will see three, four, five years on, this will stabilise and we won’t see the difference between these two environments.

Avi Kay:

I am doing this interview now with you from Israel.  The line is clearer than when I used to do the same interview from Johannesburg. We might have been 2km away from the station, maybe 10km from you [at that point] and now I am thousands of kilometres away and it is crystal clear.

Nevo Hadas:

Correct, I mean before this call I was speaking to someone in the UK, before that it was Germany – it does not make any differences anymore. It’s not so much the telecom infrastructure, it is just making sure that the environment that you are connected to is okay. And I think what happened, especially in South Africa, a lot of people that are in entry-level jobs don’t have the infrastructure around them in their homes and we’re gonna see that shift.

That’s where company policies have to really change, to say, “How do I enable people to work from home to work more efficiently?” Because actually there is a big saving for people in the low-income bracket, who do not have to commute and won’t have to worry as much about childcare. It’s going to change their lives and their children’s lives and I think that is a real big benefit.

Avi Kay:

Before I get back to the questions, let me jump in a little bit. Give us a clear taste of how your business has grown, and how you found the last year, how have you enabled other businesses to adapt, change and grow? More importantly, how have made the CEO or CMO, who has been there for many years, but who is not quite comfortable, feel more comfortable [in this shift].

Nevo Hadas:

I think firstly we have seen lots of growth in the mid-size and large corporate businesses. Some companies are already working with us and we saw those projects accelerate, like Vodacom and ABSA. For me, what was so interesting about that, was that they had to go through an immersion process of understanding there are different ways that work can happen and a lot of it is about letting go. The key learning we had was that we aren’t focusing enough on the loss. Give people enough time to mourn the fact that they have lost the corner office. They have lost that sense of physical power or physical environment, and they need to transform through that. Once they can get over that shift,  of  location and place, they are far more willing to accept the process of digitization.

The first realization is that company culture will change and I think there’s a version of loss there too. We are finding the guys that are doing it successfully, are putting a long-term plan in place They are saying, “In 5 years time, we know that this can be done a lot better than it has been done today and we have to be proactive about how this world is changing.” They are starting to look at their policies, looking at ways of working and saying, “What are things that we need to do or put in place so that our employees are taken care of and could be more effective remotely than they are today?”

There’s levels of digitalization, levels of digital working – [many leaders are] emulating what they did at the office but at home. The teams that are really getting it right are moving more into asynchronous communication. More and more stuff is being done outside email, outside the zoom calls; either through messaging which is very asynchronous or through a digitalised workflow. So the entire process of work is shifting.

The big things people are struggling with is, “How do I know if everyone is doing their job? I can’t see them, so what are they doing? What are they up to?” And that’s because they are trying to manage people who are working within an inbox, an email, which is very disorganised and unstructured. You can’t see very clearly what people are doing. When you move towards a digitalized workflow, which is a lot of the work we have been doing with corporates now, you get a very clear view of what people are working on. You can track time that covers everything from an administrative job to marketing. It gives you an advantage and opportunity to allow people to be more efficient and effective in what they are doing and very clearly giving the entire organisation transparency so everyone is aware of what’s happening in the business. It’s the significant shift in how we approach work that really needs to take place. Firstly, how you approach people and then how you approach the work that the people are doing.

Avi Kay:

We have a question for you, Nevo. “I  am CFO at a large company and I would like to know what the experience across the  board is. Have staff members who have been given this responsibility risen to the challenge or taken advantage of it? What is the general trend in South Africa at the moment?

Nevo Hadas:

Staff have risen to the challenge. That is the good news. Most people have risen to the challenge and worked super hard, have been very effective and they are really putting in the hours. The flip side of it is that there has been a lot of burnout. I think we are going to see more and more burnout moving forward. When I speak to our compatriots in the UK, that’s what they are worried about right now. They are worried about burnout and the impact it is going to have on the medical health system. People are going to have mental fatigue and are going to be exhausted because they spend a lot of time in front of the computer and do not have enough time walking around and doing other things. Remote working plus COVID-19  has made burnout a big challenge.

I would say to him that the biggest challenge to how effective his people have been, boils down to his team leaders. There are team leaders who have transitioned very well into merging remote teams. You can see that the teams are flourishing, being more productive and more active than before. Team leaders that have not done very well had a lot of disengagement, and you can see the behaviour clearly. That’s where you have to put in the effort. So it’s how the team leaders are leading their remote teams.

I think people appreciate and have risen up to the autonomy that they have experienced through this. That is the key that teams need – giving people the autonomy to do their jobs properly.

Avi Kay:

In terms of burnout, in your experience, what is the solution to creating gaps, holidays, recovery time… How does one do it?

Nevo Hadas: 

There are a number of strategies that you can put in place. The first simple one, is a  team agreement. Agree on times where there are no meetings. For these hours a day or two days a week, whatever you can do. Some businesses have a rule where there are no meetings on a certain day,  some people do it half a day, twice a week. Some do it for a few hours here and there and actually say that this is a “no meeting time”. That is very valuable because it allows you to switch off and focus on tasks. In many ways, it can be energizing.

Zoom is actually exhausting and there is a lot of research now on Zoom Fatigue. The fatigue is caused by the video because I am looking at you on the screen, but your head is smaller than it should be. It’s not the ideal environment, so your brain is working overtime trying to make the pictures make sense. So a) time without meetings, b) you have to be conscious of investing and allowing people to engage in activities that are not work-related. Because work-related stuff is so easy to do now, you actually have to focus on non-work related work. Non-work related work was easy to do because you would always be doing it, but now the work-related stuff is so easy. So, you have to focus on the non-work related stuff. 

For example, we organised a chocolate tasting with a company called Honest Chocolate based in Cape town, and they did a virtual chocolate tasting for us. They shipped the chocolate to everyone’s house, and we all got onto the Zoom call with the chocolate. We had an hour or 45 minutes, where everyone was tasting the chocolate, telling us where the chocolate comes from and exploring all the different flavours. It was a great experience and brought everyone together.. Those are the important things that you need to do that helps invigorate the team. They get more excited and it makes the day better.

Avi Kay:

Nev, I am listening to you and I am thinking… This is so simple! Why is it that not everyone has thought of it? It’s a whole new world,  a whole new way of doing things. What is so important at the bottom is to connect with others around the world so that you can get reinvigorated and reconnected.