‘How we’ve transitioned to a hybrid workforce.’

‘How we’ve transitioned to a hybrid workforce.’

How three local and global businesses tackled COVID-19, and the new internal processes they’ll be sticking with.

BY Business Chicks, 13 min READ

Thanks to our friends at Employment Hero

Léne Marx, Samantha Daniele and Kim Annesley know a thing or two about working remotely. Like thousands of others across Australia, their companies been working from home since the COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in March. We chatted to the People and Culture leads about the positive opportunities this has presented, and got their tips on increasing productivity and staff engagement when you’re not sharing an office.

Léne Marx is the People and Culture Manager at ADAPTOVATE, a consulting company that works with organisations to impact their operating models for the better, or as they call it, scaling Business Agility.  

We have a team of about 60 permanent employees all over the world.  Our team are mostly made up of consultants, however, we also have the “engine” team members – an amazing all-female Business Services team including People and Culture, Branding, Recruitment and Finance. Our gender balance across ADAPTOVATE is at 50% and our leadership team is nearing 50% as well. Our recruitment style promotes diversity at all levels, including diversity of thought, which underpins the values of ADAPTOVATE. 

Being able to adapt and innovate has never been as critical. At ADAPTOVATE we’ve had to really look inward and test and learn as we navigate the unchartered waters that is COVID-19.  We’ve had to take steps we never thought would be necessary to survive, and as a team we’ve come through this crisis together. From identifying new opportunities for ADAPTOVATE to helping our clients transform, to remote working, to designing online training modules, to forming a global community of contractors, our close-knit global team have adapted and innovated their way through this. When COVID-19 hit, ADAPTOVATE’s revenue plummeted and we faced months of uncertainty but we’re turning this ship and becoming our own success story!

COVID-19 had a significant impact on the team, especially for those who continued working with clients on projects.  Those team members had to be creative in finding ways to deliver work that was previously thought only possible to deliver face-to-face. There were also challenges in keeping our clients engaged and showing our value, as they too were trying to work out how to adjust to this new way of working. Through it all we have demonstrated that we can make remote and flexible working successful. 

The lockdowns have showcased the power we have to work collaboratively while not being physically together in the office. Some lessons we have learned are:

  • Have the right tools in place and ensure everyone knows how to use them.
  • Support team members in setting up a routine when working from home, encourage exercise and breaks.
  • Focus on the now and what is in our control.
  • Take nothing for granted.
  • Use technology to have shorter meetings that answer a single question. 

At ADAPTOVATE we use Slack, Employment Hero, Culture Amp, Teams, and Zoom to stay connected. Operationally, Miro is our tool of choice to promote a collaborative work style and we use Jira for project tracking.

Staying connected and maintaining our culture while having a geographically dispersed team is  a fundamental toof agile working, and something that we’ve applied since the inception of ADAPTOVATE. Our tactics include pulse check surveys, a fortnightly global team meeting, weekly Partner pipeline updates, weekly local office meetings, virtual happy hours, and social connection activities like quizzes in Slack, virtual cooking and cocktail classes or art presentations.

To support the mental health and wellbeing of our team and to further help the sense of connection, we’ve created our ‘ ZenDAPTOVATE program. The program consists of online meditation sessions, virtual yoga sessions and mental and emotional well-being training and tips. We also have ShineOuts on Slack, where we visibly thank each other for helping one other, doing that little bit extra to make a difference and living our values. 

Samantha Daniele is the People and Culture Manager at Pharmacy Alliance, a member-based company with over 760 pharmacy members across Australia. 

Our team is geographically diverse, with a head office of 36 people located in Southbank, Melbourne and another 30 team members based remotely across Australia.

Prior to COVID-19, support for flexible working was inconsistent across the leadership team. This this lack of support came from how they were experiencing working from home, and projecting this unproductive experience on the team. Since we’ve all been forced into a working from home arrangement, we have thrived as a company. It has been invaluable for our leadership team to see productivity maintained (and even improved!) in some areas. This has built greater trust in team members to still be able to perform and deliver. We are slowly moving away from tracking time spent at work to outcomes delivered.

You do not need to be in a meeting room to hold a productive meeting or connect with others. We always had the technology to support a flexible workplace, but the behaviours to take up this opportunity were slow. With all meetings now being held over Teams, we’re bedding down these behaviours that can continue beyond the pandemic. 

Working from home every day has given us a greater appreciation for how our field team experiences work. We’re now delivering better workplace programs, policies and communication for these team members because we are looking at this from the same lens. 

COVID-19 has accelerated our IT strategy – our IT team are over the moon. All team members have access to Office 365 to stay connected while working from home, and we rely heavily on Teams.  

We have weekly stand ups for the whole team on Monday mornings. This is an opportunity for the team to hear from our leaders and stay across news, updates and key projects. Some teams hold Friday night drinks over Teams with a fancy cocktail or mocktail in hand and a have a strict ‘no shop talk’ policy. 

The top theme I hear over and over is how our team now have a greater work life balance. One manager shared that he has had experienced more nights eating dinner with his family during the pandemic than he had had over his ten-year employment with our company. This warms my heart, but also highlights the issues with work life balance we had prior to the pandemic. 

Kim Annesley works in the People & Culture team at Cube Group, a consultancy at the centre of positive change, working with clients across many public value settings. 

Although we already had flexible work practices in place, I think there has been an adjustment in juggling the demands of being at home with children, and learning how to shut off from work when you are literally living in the workplace. 

There is also a mental and emotional strain associated with being in lockdown, so the health and wellbeing of our team (who are nearly all in Melbourne) has been a significant priority for our leadership team. This has been supported by a proactive EAP, our #copinwithCOVID Slack channel and regular check-ins across all levels of the organisation.

There have been positive outcomes and learnings over the past few months. Transitioning many of our work practices to online environments has resulted in time efficiencies and outreach to a broader audience.  We have successfully run client workshops that would have previously taken an extended period of time across multiple locations, and included stakeholders in remote areas.

We rely heavily on platforms such as Slack for communication when we are under the same roof – and even more so now we aren’t! We continue to rely on Employment Hero for our monthly check-ins, formal reviews, sharing new procedures and employment contracts. We use both Teams and Zoom for video conferencing and have enjoyed exploring other virtual collaboration tools such as Miro boards, Spatial Chat, and YoTribe.

We try to maintain some sense of normality and routine by holding our team meetings at the same time each week, and prioritising one-on-one check-ins. We continue to celebrate our wins, milestones and shout outs to team members demonstrating our values. To collaborate (one of our values!) we have explored different tools and set up open-ended Teams “meetings” with colleagues to work “side-by-side” to replicate working next to each in the office and to maintain a sense of camaraderie.

We are used to coming together socially – usually around food! – and although this is difficult to replicate, our team has enjoyed participating in fun team sessions – think COVID-themed costumes, plenty of music references, singing and quizzes.

The future world of work will undoubtedly look different and there are likely still more benefits to be imagined. Increased flexibility in where and how our team works is a key benefit, but I think there are opportunities to explore this further in terms of how work is allocated and delivered, as well as new ways to collaborate in the hybrid workplace – technology is not the only answer! Operating as a hybrid business – and doing it well – will unlock benefits for our team to balance their lives in new and different ways, and will undoubtedly attract new and different talent to our organisation.


Want more tips on navigating the new way of working? Read on for practical tips on keeping staff engaged and productivity high when you’re not sharing an office space.

Employment Hero is an all-in-one HR, Payroll and Benefits platform that powers employee management from anywhere, anytime.


©2020 Business Chicks

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