Brilliant Basics Edition Podcasts
Ben Ingram on Remote Employee Experience
Ben Ingram, Head of Employee Experience at Brilliant Basics, discusses remote working techniques as a number of businesses are advising their employees to work from home during the coronavirus outbreak. The discussion covers how to maintain productivity, perform daily rituals, sustain work culture, and ensure a healthy mind and body.
Hosted by Anand Verma, European Head of Digital Services for Infosys and Founder & CEO of Brilliant Basics, Infosys’ Design Studios.
“I think what we've realized is that we've had to go above and beyond that and begin communicating more with all of our staff. Not just within the confines of a project and the team structures we have in place, but making sure that there's time to chat socially. Those conversations that would previously happen over a coffee or as you're taking a lift up and down the building with someone... Building in time so that people can still engage with the wider community.”
- Ben Ingram
What are the things that Ben is seeing at Brilliant Basics and how they are managing the situation in their own company?
What does a week look like for Brilliant Basics right now?
What are these fun things that Brilliant Basics is doing as part of this difficult time that we're going through as a community
Ben talks about digital tools that enable people to continue working.
Ben talks about “dress for success” when working from home – looking presentable or coming to work in your pijamas?
Businesses have a vast amount of young workforce. What are the things that managers should support?
What are some key takeaways from how to innovate in this kind of situation?
Every company has core values and the type of culture they want to be known for. With isolation and with working away from people, you're not sharing as much as you normally are. What are some of the other things we should be thinking about from a culture perspective that allows us to innovate new ideas? Or be creative?
Anand and Ben talk about some of the things that companies can do in terms of health and wellness in virtual environments.
Ben talks about transparency.
What are some of the things that companies and company CEO's can do to help out the local communities and neighbors, and so on and so forth?
How can we support the small and mid-sized businesses?
Ben and Anand share 10 tips on how to create the best conditions for yourself and your work whilst away from office.
Music by Ruhan Verma, 13-year-old upcoming Drummer and Producer
Anand Verma: Welcome to this Knowledge Institute Podcast, Brilliant Basics Edition. A number of things have changed dramatically in the last six weeks or so globally. Two weeks ago at Brilliant Basics we made a decision to work from home, do some stress testing on telecommuting. A number of businesses are also advising their employees to work from home due to this really deadly and unfortunate corona virus outbreak. I'm here today to talk about this issue, but also I'm here to talk about some positive news around working from home. What are some of the daily rituals that people should consider adopting, how do you maintain productivity, ensure healthy body and a healthy mind. That's what we'll be exploring today in an exciting and remote conversation because this podcast is getting recorded remotely. I'm here with my colleague Ben Ingram who is our head of Employee Experience. For this edition we're calling it, "Remote Employee Experience." Ben, welcome to the show.
Ben Ingram: Thank you very much for having me.
Anand Verma: Ben, just to get the conversation structured... The very first podcast that we had with you was about employee experience, and now we are in a really interesting situation. You're remote, you're working from home, I am remote, I'm working from home. I'm calling it REX which is Remote Employee Experience. I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the things that you are saying we are seeing at Brilliant Basics and how we are managing the situation at our own company. Then we'll start to explore how our employee experiences are drastically changing with this change in environment.
Ben Ingram: I think you can't really write the story any better if you think of the conversations you and I have been having for the last couple of months about employee experience and the challenges of catering to the holistic needs of staff in all manner of offices and working situations. Never, I think, did we prepare ourselves for what was going to come... The challenges that not only our clients were going to face but us ourselves in having to have our entire workforce begin working remote.
Anand Verma: Just to add to that, while we are lean and nimble, and we had the foresight to take some actions early on... A lot of our people had some remote working experience already. We are all laptop bound orientated, we would take our laptops to our clients. I've heard that a lot of large companies have struggled to even have laptops as part of their hardware policy.
Ben Ingram: Well, I think it affects large and small if you look at Infosys more broadly... That a large portion of that staff is desktop based and they've had to facilitate the movement of a number of desktops. At the other end of the spectrum we're seeing small to medium sized businesses all over the country, all around the world, having to very quickly purchase a large number of laptops to facilitate their own staff going home.
Anand Verma: Yes. We put some posts out on LinkedIn the other day about working from home, and the overwhelming feedback I've been getting is people are now open to learning from people who are saying, "These are the tips and tricks that you can apply." From a very basic level of productivity to all the complex levels of mental health and wellness, for example. Exercises and taking breaks in between meetings and calls and what have you. Ben, what are some of the things Brilliant Basics are doing right now? What does a week look like for BB?
Ben Ingram: We've tried to maintain all the rituals that we have back in the office... That's our Monday morning all staff stand-ups, it's our Chai'n'Chat Wednesdays, it's our What's New through internal sharing on a Friday. Even, albeit BYOB, having a drink together towards the end of the week. I think what we've realized is that we've had to go above and beyond that and begin communicating more with all of our staff. Not just within the confines of a project and the team structures we have in place, but making sure that there's time to chat socially. Those conversations that would previously happen over a coffee or as you're taking a lift up and down the building with someone... Building in time so that people can still engage with the wider community.
Anand Verma: Yes. From my perspective as the CEO of the organization, another tip that I would love to share is we created a cross disciplined team to represent this response team given the corona virus outbreak. We meet every two days. People represent clients, people represent delivery, facilities, security, health and safety. We have a group of around nine or ten people, and Ben, you're part of that as well from a morale perspective. Morale is as important as some of the functional areas around this, because with isolation... And isolation is not a negative word, but isolation meaning you're not in a social context constantly that we get used to. That COVID 19 response team at BB are meeting on a daily, or every other day basis, and they're talking about how to keep the communication going with people. Because in this uncertain and unfortunate situation communication is key. Sometimes over communication is not a bad thing as well.
Anand Verma: You have been doing something really amazing with this care package idea that you had. I would love for our listeners to hear this in terms of what are these fun things we are doing as part of this difficult time that we're going through as a community.
Ben Ingram: It's one of the first things we did when we sent people home. We realized that whilst working remotely is difficult in the best of circumstances, we find ourselves in a time where this is combined with really, to be quite honest, fear of what is going on in the wider world. We wanted something that would perk up our people's day and also help them to join in with some of those rituals and ceremonies. So, we sent them all out a note, included the Chemex that we use in the office, so that no one had an excuse not to come with a hot brew on Wednesday... And some seeds to start planting their own indoor gardens.
Anand Verma: Yeah. Also, we did a bit of communication from the element of, what are the properties of the herbs and seeds that we sent. Then you made it a little bit more fun that people can share on Slack. So, we gave a reason to again, connect with the community. It wasn't that expensive or... It was complicated given that we needed everyone's address and posting it, but I think people rose to the challenge and came together as a team, and the feedback has been fantastic.
Ben Ingram: Precisely. It's not just the success of the community things that we're doing, but the reason it's been so important to have that cross functional team in place is... What I don't think we realized before we left the office was that we were going to lose our eyesight. We don't have visibility of what our team's doing every day, we don't ask people as we're going to the kitchen to be able to see how they are, so we need to create those opportunities. We need to make sure that we are making contact with all of our people on a regular basis to check in with them, make sure they've got everything they need, and that they can get on with, not just their jobs, but their lives safely and well.
Anand Verma: Great. Let's move on to the structure that we had set up in the Employee Experience podcast from the very beginning. We said employee experience is made up of digital, physical, and emotional/cultural. I just want to explore that a little bit more in our conversation and start to talk about, "What are some of the things that we can do digitally working from home?" The physical environment has completely changed. Rather than having one central studio, which looks amazing... Everybody's congregating together, ideas are colliding. All of a sudden, people are in their own environment. Some people are lucky enough to have their own study area, and other people have a desk, and some people are working from bedrooms because they're sharing flats or houses. So, physical environment is really interesting. What are the things that we should be thinking about doing in terms of some tips and tricks?
Anand Verma: I'm really interested in this other topic which is emotional, cultural, and this whole mental and physical wellbeing as well... In terms of what people should be thinking and doing as well. From my perspective, and we have discussed this earlier, while there are constraints and some of the negativity out there, I think this environment also creates opportunity for positivity and innovation, and creativity as well. So, we start with some of the things that we are seeing from a digital tools perspective and what are the tools that are making life a little bit more easier given the situation we are in.
Ben Ingram: Yeah, I think it's a good place to start, and I think we can split digital in two. Begin with digital tools enabling people to continue working, and then start looking at digital tools and the role they play in both physical and emotional which is where we've seen by far the most change in people moving home. We've been quite lucky. I think we're fairly progressive in our use of digital tools, whether that be Slack, Miro, Jira. We did a survey at the end of the first week of people working from home and found that people actually on average felt that they were scoring an 8 out of 10 for their efficacy of working from home and being enabled to do that. We've seen great support globally from companies such as Miro opening up their platforms to make it easier for large groups to work together, and for teams to be able to share ideas and collaborate without the businesses having to take on that additional overhead.
Anand Verma: Miro is a collaboration tool? Is it M-I-R-O?
Ben Ingram: Yes, consider it a giant digital whiteboard. At the end of this week, we will have run two large workshops involving people from all over Europe and the United States very successfully. I think key to that is a good bit of pre-reading, making sure people understand what the tools are that we're going to be using, ensuring there's a clear structure in place, and energizing. We'll talk about this when we get on to a little bit more about emotional... But making sure that people are engaged. As they continue looking at the screen, which I think is becoming our predominant position, that they feel energized and they feel refreshed as they move through those sessions.
Anand Verma: And Slack is a tool that we're using for messaging, but Slack does much more than messaging. We can start to integrate surveys, we can start to integrate a number of other aspects into Slack. I'm sure there are messaging tools like Teams and Google Hangouts that also do something similar, but we are used to Slack. It's been a powerful tool because we created multiple channels to support teams on projects but also on some of the community helping as well. Then we are big fans of Zoom where we are recording this podcast. We've done our Monday stand-up, what we call Better Together, every Monday at 9:30. We did our Better Together stand-up earlier this week on Monday. We had more than 75, 80 people joining on Zoom with the video on. One of the rules of video conference is to switch on the video so we can see your faces. That was pretty successful. In regards to Zoom, are there any other tools that make the communication and collaboration better, Ben? From a digital tools perspective?
Ben Ingram: Well, I think it's important to consider all the tools we would normally use. That's instant messaging, that's email, that's WhatsApp, that's phones. As we've previously done, I know a lot of other organizations I'm speaking to have, and some are having to start doing this now, is set some standards in place for what each of those tools is good for. I think, generally speaking, we've all got better at becoming less reliant on email. Email is there for when you need that chain, you need something recorded, and you need to include all those attachments. Slack is by far the broadest of them. You'll see if you join BB we split our channels. Everything from the project and team channels that you'd expect to keep work moving, to a general thread that's for company announcements and importantly, now the random channels and the Act of Kindness... Which is somewhere to go to share something that has nothing to do with work, but brings a smile to your face and gives people an opportunity to gather and communicate socially.
Anand Verma: That's amazing. The other one we are talking about is, as you put it, Get Your Head in the Cloud. What is exciting about that is when we are talking about this topic, you and I collaborated on iCloud to share our points of view on keynote, for example. So, it doesn't need to stop just with the messaging. You can actually become more productive by collaborating on presentations, or creativity, or whatever that happens to be that's kind of floating your boat. Let's talk a little bit about the setup for success. Relating to Zoom, you want to be presentable. Of course, people are wearing funky shirts and the wardrobe is going to be [inaudible] finally because shirts, and T-Shirts they can't wear in the office they're wearing at home... Which is fantastic, actually. Bring some color into the conversation. Let's talk about your views on dress for success as well, because this is the big part of making us presentable, ready for work, rather than coming into work in your pajamas.
Ben Ingram: Yeah. This is going to bring us into some of those psychological elements that we need to start thinking about more. It's a well known fact that getting up in the morning, having that coffee, having a shower and getting dressed is something that makes you feel confident. It makes you feel presentable, allows you to step out into the world feeling better about yourself, and it's being more productive. It's why we do it going into the office and it's important to maintain that at home. I'm still yet to see someone fully suit up for a Zoom call but I think it's coming.
Ben Ingram: I think the other things to consider... And it's important where we start to talk about the diversity of the staff we have, particularly over age groups, is to just be considerate as well of the spaces people do have, and the fact that you are now, coming into people's homes. We're all house proud, and I think we do need to remember some of the times that we will be speaking to people who don't have much space... Are sharing that space with others. So, really be considerate of that when we're asking people to join in different sessions. Giving people the time to set themselves up in a space that they feel comfortable in and they feel happy to allow us to come into.
Anand Verma: That's a good point as well. I was playing with Zoom yesterday and you can start to create your backgrounds. If you don't want to show your messy study room like mine, you start to create backgrounds. That allows you to create this virtual environment so that you feel that there's a bit of a fun element, but also it allows you to feel comfortable in that situation.
Ben Ingram: Yeah, and we're seeing that across different platforms. Zoom, like you say, have the custom backgrounds. Microsoft Teams you can blur your background... I think similarly in Google Hangouts. It's just about communicating these tools and just being considerate, like we say, of people's own comfort... What they do and don't want you to see.
Anand Verma: Yeah. Let's move from the digital side of things to the physical environment people are in as well. Being in their own spaces at home, not being able to interact with their colleagues they're used to... Especially for the millennials, the youngsters in our company, the associates and senior associates. We were talking to one of those a few days ago. We asked, "What do you miss the most?" She said, "Interaction with my other colleagues... My other friends in the office." Now, this creates challenges. What are some of the things that they can do, Ben, in your opinion? Especially when there's a young workforce... And this is true for Infosys as well. There is a vast amount of young work force, they're coming from universities academia as true for us as well. What are the things they can do? And what are the things that managers should support, as well, in the process? That allows them to feel engaged, empowered, connected? Also, the check-ins that are happening on a regular basis. Say, "Hey, how are you doing?" I would love to hear your point of view on this important topic.
Ben Ingram: Yeah. Again, let's split that in two. Engage with the work they're doing and with their teams, and then engage with one another in community. Never before has it been more important for everyone to have a personal plan in place. We facilitated a fantastic session with all of our management team a couple of weeks ago. I think, one of the best ideas that came out with that was every single project brief should have a people brief with it. I know, particularly, as a junior going into a project, that it's not just about delivering it for the client. It's about getting something out of it for myself. Where am I going to learn? What am I going to develop in terms of my skillsets for that? That will really help with keeping people engaged with projects.
Ben Ingram: On the community side of things, it's giving people time. One of the things we've seen across the board is that the workday is expanding and is coming on average, I think, to between nine and ten hours a day. Once people are up, that time that's usually commuting, [inaudible] got children. They're online and they're just thinking, "Well yeah, I may as well just have that first call and get it out of the way." Before you know it, it's gone from 7, 8 AM in the morning to in some cases, 7, 8 PM at night. You've been looking at the screen all day, jumping backwards and forwards with Zoom.
Ben Ingram: We've been talking about this earlier... Of building in time to get away from work and engage with people socially. I was talking to some of our juniors just yesterday, and they'd started a lunchtime Zoom room... All to login and get talking. They were worried because they were still working to deadlines. We've spoken to line managers, we've spoken to project managers, and we've made sure that we can start to align these times across projects. So everyone does go for lunch at the same time, so they can get online into these Zoom rooms, and so they can connect to one another and decompress.
Anand Verma: The other day I was thinking about giving people a quick call. I've been on the phone saying, "Hey, how are you?" And, "How are you feeling today?" And, "What can I do to help?" I think that kind of interpersonal connection is so important, and it can be done across large companies as well as small companies. With large companies they normally have a pyramid structure. There's a manager, project manager, account manager. So, we really encourage the managers to actually reach out to their teams, check in on them... And especially in the current situation. Because somebody is feeling unwell, you just want to check in, "Hey, how is it going?" Because I think you put it quite nicely, there are a lot of invisible staff. When you're in the office, every staff, every employee is visible right in front of you... At least most of them. When you're not, everybody's invisible to you. So, how you deal with this invisible staff situation is a very interesting and important topic to keep the morale high.
Ben Ingram: 100%. I think the first port of call for this is line managers. You do have that pastoral responsibility. Don't take someone's Slack status as being, "at my desk," as an affirmation that they are set working and they're fine for that day. Check in with them. That's got to be your first port of call. If you feel that you need to go as far as having that checklist of who's being spoken to and are people being checked in on at least once every two days, then put it in place to begin with until that becomes more of a mainstay.
Ben Ingram: I think outside of that, it's then mix up who people are speaking to. I've mentioned our Chai'n'Chat that we did on Wednesday. We used a really great feature from Zoom which is Breakout Rooms. You can manually or automatically assign them. We had about 30 people join for that session and we randomly distributed them into rooms of four people. I was lucky enough to end up in a room with three people who aren't on any of the teams that I currently work with... Which was really nice and really refreshing. I got a chance to speak to people who I don't usually interact with on a day-to-day work basis. We got to learn a little bit about someone else and check in on them.
Anand Verma: Yeah, absolutely. I think that those are the moments you're making new friends as well. It can work in a positive way, rather than trying to push people where they don't want to talk or they're not expressing their feelings. Ben, just to introduce the podcast again. We're talking about working from home and remote employee experience. We are calling it REX. I'm here with Ben Ingram, our head of Employee Experience at Brilliant Basics.
Anand Verma: Ben, let's talk about some of the complexity of maintaining culture, health, wellness. It's a huge topic. This has been a topic in the office environment anyway for a while. I think this topic is even so much more important for us to share our points of view and some ideas, tips, and tricks. With working remotely, you're also coming up with some new challenges that were not seen before. One is the culture challenge. Every company has core values and the type of culture they want to be known for. Then you have got this whole concept of mental wellbeing of people. With isolation and with working away from people, you're not sharing as much as you normally are. You're thinking a lot and listening to all this bad news coming from all the news channels right now. We've got to make sure that there are some tips and tricks we can follow there which would start to make people feel better and valuable.
Anand Verma: Lastly, the physical wellbeing. I think we're trialing out some really interesting stuff that might be useful to our listeners as well. Let's start with the cultural part first. I think you started to allude to that with the rituals and daily routines. What are some of the other things we should be thinking about from a culture perspective that allows us to innovate new ideas? Or be creative? Whatever that happens to be in the companies' minds.
Ben Ingram: I think the first part is to play with those rituals. We're starting to... Whether it's theming some of those more social get togethers or playing with the usual structure of them. It's creating some of the greatest social interactions we've seen in the company since probably our Christmas party. Which is ironic, given that these are interactions that are happening completely remotely. I think beyond that it's start to think a week or two ahead. These nice moments, as much as they do only every so often happen by chance, they do also take planning... Care packages being the prime example. Start to think ahead. It's not something, particularly given the current climate and what's going on in the rest of the world, that you can turn around quickly. So, make sure someone's responsible for them, and also give people notice. It's all well and good planning a Friday get together for all your teams. But you tell them about it on Thursday, and I guarantee you that 50% of them are going to be on client calls that they don't feel they can move.
Anand Verma: Yeah. I think sticking to that time, and keeping connected, and doing what we say we do is so important. Because people look forward to those rituals and those meetings, if I may. I think some of the discipline that we forget at home is as important to have followed through to build this culture of connectivity. The next one I'm really excited about, and we had this meeting as well, is innovation. Our purpose is to make life simply better. We are now in an incredibly privileged situation. We're not in the medical field or we're not driving buses and trains and stuff. Those people are right in the coalface of their job and they're servicing and supporting us. I do believe that there's a responsibility and opportunity to innovate in this situation for the people who need innovation at this point. What are the some key takeaways from how to innovate in this kind of situation?
Ben Ingram: Yeah. Well, I think necessity is the birthplace of innovation. It's that famous saying and never before has it been truer. It's been fantastic to see the response of a number of different organizations and businesses who are not only responding and innovating to support others, but also having to adapt their business model. We look at other service industries... Fitness instructors. Or we look at restaurants who are having to turn digital so they can keep their employees working. They can't keep paying them when they can't keep producing that revenue.
Ben Ingram: Something we've spoken about when we've got people in the office and we're starting to implement ourselves is... Again, creating those moments where we do come together and we do respond to briefs that we're working on in areas that we think we can deliver value. We're going to be doing that here in the next few weeks... Is carving out time in people's schedules so that they can come together. It may be a small hackathon on areas that are close to everyone at the moment. So, one of the concepts we're going to be taking into that first hackathon is, "How can we support those professionals that are supporting us during this pandemic?"
Anand Verma: We are looking at the power of our teams to come up with ideas. We're not looking at just one kind of people... Actually, a lot of people have come forward, be it a technologist, or a designer, or a strategist, saying, "Here is an idea," and that we can take it to market. We are applying almost a startup speed idea, pre MVP, and then taking the idea to market... Just to see how we can help in a really fast way. I think we really urge the listeners to think about if they do have spare capacity or if they can release some time. Some of the people's brain power can be used in making life simply better for a number of professionals out there.
Ben Ingram: Exactly. Like you said, it's about harnessing those superpowers. I've not spoken to anyone in the last few weeks that doesn't want to help. We've talked about this in other areas of Employee Experience. The purpose is so important right now. Everyone wants to come to work and know that they're not just walking home with that paycheck at the end of the month, but that they've done something good for the world, for their community. Now there are some causes that everyone's driven for. I think, as you say, it's about looking at your team, looking at your organization, saying, "Where can we add value?" Not just so that you do deliver that value, but so that your employees feel that they've achieved something at the end of it.
Anand Verma: I think this also allows people to learn as well... Almost a safe environment for trying something and learning. When people don't know how to do it, they can go to digital platforms that are out there. Udacity, or Udemy, or some other platform that Infosys has "lex". To think about, "Hey, I always wanted to learn this skill because that skill will be used to solve a problem that I'm solving in this kind of context as well." I would like to move forward with the health and wellness part, Ben. To talk to about some of the things that companies can do in terms of health and wellness, and we are trialing some of these things out in our virtual environments. So, let's talk about some of the tips and tricks for what people should be doing... Employees should be doing with regards to maintaining their healthy balance between physical and mental.
Ben Ingram: Yeah. I think we can plot this across a bit of a timeline. I think we're currently in the shock phase of people starting to work remotely from home. For those of us used to being in an office environment that is quite a stark change. We're still not sure of exactly what's happened with corona virus and how long we're going to be in this situation, but the longer it does go on, the more things start to arise.
Ben Ingram: Looking at that initial moment of shock... That initial phase of shock. As we first begin working from home, we're all in different situations. Some of us are home alone with our partners, some in a flat with three or four other friends. Or in some cases, people that we may have only just met having moved into a new house share. As businesses, as management teams, the first thing we have to do is accept that life is going to get in the way more than it ever has done before, and make sure that our teams know they have the space to flex around their needs. Whether that's because you've got three children now running around because the school has been shut, or it's because you're sharing the only communal desk you have in the flat with four other people. These things are going to get in the way, they are going to cause challenges, and we can flex around people to let those work themselves out a bit.
Ben Ingram: I think after that it's making sure that people get away from the screen and look after their physical and mental wellbeing. I [inaudible] my first at home workout and whilst for the first five minutes may have felt a little silly and definitely concerned of what the neighbors thought at the music I had pumping out... At 10 minutes into it breaking into a little bit of a sweat felt immediately better. Not only did it break my day up, it also made my day feel a little bit more normal. We've got to keep those behaviors and those rituals that we have for our own health and wellbeing going internally.
Ben Ingram: There are so many great people out there that are making fitness and mental health services available to everyone. We're keeping on our yoga sessions that we usually run in the studio. Our fantastic instructor Donna is now doing those remotely, and we're actually laying on more of a variety. So, some of them are still the classic yoga classes, some of them are more meditative, and more about taking that half an hour, 45 minutes out of your day. There are a lot of tools online as well to cater to whatever your fitness needs are. Whether you're a real beginner with absolutely no equipment at home, or you're fortunate enough to have a few bits and pieces lying around.
Anand Verma: Absolutely. I'm doing something similar at home as well. I go for a walk just after lunch. I do take a lunch break for 15, 20 minutes and then go for a walk. My wife basically tells me, "Let's go for a walk." I think that changes the game... Just coming out of the room into fresh air. Even if it's raining, I think it just freshens you up remarkably. I just need to get a little bit more disciplined like you to start working out. Maybe I'll try that for next week. One of the big things that I can share as a CEO is we can't do this all alone. There is a need for managers to be a big part of it. Managers need to feel... Not just about managing the projects but also be quite empathetic about how they're dealing with the team members. Assessing their team members... Whereabouts are their abilities to produce the best work, checking on them, and asking, "Hey, how's your family?" "How are your kids?"
Anand Verma: It's so important to make people feel that there's somebody for them there in this uncertain time as well. Like we said, over communication is not a bad thing right now. Nobody will say, "Hey, don't talk to me." This is a time to over communicate. I also believe that regular check-ins from the manager to the people they are managing is incredibly important. So, I really recommend that if you're in a situation where managers are just managing projects... I think that's half of the job. The other half is just looking after the welfare of their team members.
Ben Ingram: Yeah. I think the thing that supports that that we've talked a lot about is transparency... The whole way through the business and also out to your client. We're all in this situation together and we're all facing the same challenges. I think the great thing we've seen is everyone coming together with a willingness to support one another. Now internally, that means that our managers know that they, themselves have someone they can come and speak to. There are frameworks in place for coping with whatever changes may arise. I think we have also had a great response from our clients where we've said, "Look, we are going to do everything we can to still deliver the great products you're used to." I think, we're very proud to say that we are not just maintaining that level of quality but excelling in a number of different ways. Them understanding, "The person you speak to may change ever so slightly. We may need to shift a meeting every so often, but please bear with us." The response, as I say, has been overwhelmingly positive.
Anand Verma: 100%. One of the big responsibilities we have is the enemy is not in our business or in our clients business. The enemy is out there for everyone. So we have to fight it together, we have to be better together, stronger together as well. Community has to play a major role in this... And are doing so. Like we said, we are in an extremely privileged position to be helpful citizens in solving some of these challenges we are seeing. So, I really recommend managers and CEO's to give some time to support the community. We have created a group internally where people are helping do shopping for elderly, for example... And help the neighbors, for example. Ben, what are some of the things that companies and company CEO's can do to release some time to help out the local communities and your neighbors, and so on and so forth?
Ben Ingram: Yeah. I think it's like we were talking about before, appreciating that people do have a little more time in their day. A lot of that time is when people do want to give back and support their communities. I think all of us as businesses, as managers, we've got to recognize that it's not just about making sure we come through this. It's about making sure society comes through this. We want to come back to a way of our day-to-day that we're used to, and that means helping as many people as we possibly can to survive and thrive through this process. Rather than expecting all of our employees to go out and do their own bits and pieces... Before we even get to superpowers, let's just appreciate that as we come together as teams who are used to working together effectively to deliver more than we can alone, how we can turn that same effort on to our communities?
Ben Ingram: We've seen on Slack... We've got a channel that's just sprung up today all about things that are happening to people as individuals, communities. As soon as someone hears an idea that they've not seen in their community... Whether it's their building, their street. We've just been able to move that seed and plant that idea somewhere else.
Anand Verma: Yeah. Also, I think managers and CEO's empowering the system to be self-managed by people. If people have got an idea and they want to start a channel, we should let that happen. There should not be any compliance and governance. Nobody's trying to do anything bad right now. It's all about supporting in their own way the communities, neighbors, and everyone.
Ben Ingram: Exactly. Engage with it as managers, as senior managers. There's nothing a team loves more than seeing the people at the top of the organization are getting involved as much as the most junior members of staff. We've really seen the impact of coming together like that.
Anand Verma: Absolutely. The next subtopic that I wanted to raise on this call... On this podcast is, "How do we support the small businesses?" Those personal trainers, and yoga teachers, and teachers, and many other professions who are not getting the demand or the business because people are not going to those places. Restaurants and what have you. I do think that small businesses and the SME sector are the lifeblood of any country. We're in the UK and I think 60 or 70% of the businesses happen there. Any thoughts on, Ben, what can we do with regards to small to mid-sized businesses to connect with this unique situation we are in? Where they continue to thrive or at least make their ends meet, as well as they feel included in our conversations?
Ben Ingram: I think there are two really great opportunities that we as businesses... Particularly those of us who are used to working in the digital sphere, can contribute to those SME's and those instructors. Those restaurants that you mentioned. The first is to share ways of working. These are people who are used to working face to face. We, over the last few years, have got better and better at working remotely. I was talking to a friend of mine who runs a martial arts school which has had to shut down because of the government direction. He'd never heard of Zoom. Two days later, he's now running classes for all his members so that they're happy to keep paying. I think the other side of it is... And like we said before, with supporting the community. Coming together.
Ben Ingram: We're seeing a huge spike in service requirements for people who have sat at home and now need to... Not just fill their time but feel as though they're nourishing themselves outside of the work they're doing. Connect them with people. If you know someone who's doing really great things, you know someone who's offering those training sessions online, share it amongst your teams at work and expand the audience that these people have.
Anand Verma: Absolutely, and all of this can be done by staying at home. End of the day we also have to stay at home, make sure that as per the government directive... This is in the UK. What they have said is, "Isolate yourselves just to stop or reduce the spread of the virus." It's not that tools are not there. We can do all of this by staying at home and being careful about the situation we are in. Ben, just to wrap this up in a positive way... What I would like to do is just share some tips, eight or ten tips to our listeners. How to create the best conditions for you and your work whilst away from the office. Let's rattle through these 10 things that they should think about, look about. If people want to add more to this list, we'll create a LinkedIn group or some sort of LinkedIn blog where people can contribute and learn from each other. Over to you.
Ben Ingram: Yep. I think number one is take some time to stop and reset expectations. What is work going to be like? What is life going to be like over the coming weeks as we all adapt to this new work setup? With that comes number two, which is be transparent to staff and clients. If you're facing particular challenges, be open about... Like we said, people are more than willing to be supportive.
Anand Verma: This one is measurable. We're running our own morale surveys on Mondays and Fridays just to gauge what people are saying. That allows us enough to do something about it. It's transparent and measurable. Would you agree?
Ben Ingram: Yes, exactly. I think the advice I'd give when it comes to surveys is don't feel that you need to veil a question, as I think we so often do when we're speaking to someone face to face. We're asking outright, "How would you rate your morale out of 10?" We want to see those really honest answers, and we're getting them, and it means we're able to act upon them. Our third point is really, over communicate. It's never a bad thing, and it's really to stop us getting into this position of having invisible staff. Don't let anyone fall behind the group. Make sure people are checked in on, both in terms of the work they're doing, but also how they're doing personally.
Ben Ingram: Number four is adjust schedules for longer days. We're seeing this across the board... Every organization we speak to. People are spending more time sat in front of their laptops. Make it clear to everyone that the expectation is not that we expand our days and we now take advantage of not having to commute. Schedule in time to step away from the screen, step away from work entirely, and build in those moments to connect with people socially.
Anand Verma: This is a good one because this is all about... I think, what is the ruling? After every one hour of being in front of the screen, take a 10 to 15 minute break. I think it just breaks the day quite nicely, which means that... Think about scheduling meetings with breaks in between. I looked at my calendar yesterday and today. There's zero breaks in there, and I feel completely numb after 6:00. I don't think that puts us into a high productivity situation anyway. So, just do it. Take a break, and make sure your calendar reflects that.
Ben Ingram: Exactly. Similarly, to setting standards for that, set standards for tools and the behaviors we use them. Make it clear what email is for. When we're using VC... Whether it's Zoom, Teams, we want people to turn their cameras on because we want that connection. We want to be able to read that body language. Make sure that Slack or your IM platform is split out into different channels and people know what each one is for. It's important that we can work and play at the same time, but we need to do them in the right places.
Anand Verma: Yeah. Shall I quickly rattle through the other five? Ben, is that okay with you?
Ben Ingram: Please do.
Anand Verma: The sixth one is create and play with rituals. This is a big part of building culture. We have rituals about Monday stand-ups, Chai Wednesdays, either What's New Crew or Cocktail Fridays. There's going to be a fun cocktail coming up; hopefully tomorrow or next week when we're doing... Those rituals are an important part of people looking forward to it, and make sure that culture that we have built internally in the office remains outside with a little bit of more creativity. We've talked about already... Take time away from the screen, work and play. I think don't lose that time just taking a break and looking at your WhatsApp. Just remove the screens completely. Use that time to do a little bit of exercise, or blast the music... Just to take your mind away from that meeting you just had.
Anand Verma: Keep fit is a big one as well. So, it's stay healthy, keep fit. My personal trainer texted me today saying that he's got a Skype channel. We're meeting a personal trainer tomorrow to see how we can bring this "keep fit" via Zoom, or Skype, or something similar. A lot of stuff on YouTube and many others as well. Stay social. This is all about making sure that you don't always talk about stuff that is work related. Like the example you're giving about these associates are creating their own channel to talk while they're having lunch, for example. Or talk about a movie, or a song, or whatever that happens to be is quite interesting and exciting. Having those multiple groups operating is good fun as well. Isn't it?
Ben Ingram: Yeah, and outside of the organization too. I saw a great thing on LinkedIn the other day where this guy is working through his phone book... Doesn't matter if he's not spoken to the person in years. He's going to pick up the phone to them and he's going to have a conversation. I think that's so powerful because especially at the moment, we don't know what people are going through. Having someone pick up the phone to you could be the thing that really makes your day.
Anand Verma: Amazing. Ben, thank you so much. I think this is a new challenge for chief HR officers, chief marketing officers, CEO's. We have a lot to give to the community. In a bizarre way I think this has brought us together. We are re-looking at our benefits policy. This is here to stay, this is not going away. But what I realized in the last two weeks, is it is has actually pulled us all together more than what we had before. I think there is a sense of common purpose, common cause. I hope that continues for a better society, for better product, for better people, for better planet. I think we can harness this positivity. We can look at this as a remote employee experience that connects with the real physical employee experience that happens in the studio. I really believe that there'll be many other good ideas coming after this podcast from various people, but this is our starter for 10 that we wanted to add to our podcast list.
Anand Verma: Ben, thanks for being a guest today. I think the work you're doing is phenomenal, and I'm hoping that more of this conversation can happen offline and online post this podcast as well.
Ben Ingram: Yes. Thank you for having me, and thanks those of you listening. We're going to keep pushing this message and addressing these challenges as they rise.
Anand Verma: Great. Everyone, you've been listening to Infosys Knowledge Institute Podcast, Brilliant Basics Edition. Today, we talked about remote employee experience, working from home, how to keep morale high, as well as productivity higher. Talked about community support, we talked about managers doing their bit in making sure their folks are doing well... Not just from a product perspective but also from an emotional and cultural perspective. Thanks to our producer Yulia De Bari and the entire Knowledge Institute and Brilliant Basics team for pulling this together... On such a quick notice. Until next time, keep learning and keep sharing. Stay home throughout this difficult period to support the cause that we are all going after as a community. Thank you.
About Ben Ingram
After training as an Engineer Ben began work in the creative industry, designing customer and employee experiences for clients including major automotive, retail and property brands. As Innovation Lead he is responsible for shaping opportunities and leveraging emerging technologies and insights to deliver future-facing solutions. Having delivered work across Europe, the Middle East and Asia he has great insight into working with diverse audiences.