Adapt to succeed
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin.
When the pandemic started, we experienced, as many families, companies, and individuals, an important period of uncertainty. In the personal and family sphere every one of us was challenged and had to overcome many difficulties. However, in this article we will focus on what happened at the company. We did not know what was going to happen with our teams, our clients, our information systems considering people had to work from home. Facing the difficulties of such a big change is not easy because the way we had everything set out changed drastically and unexpectedly from one day to another. Towards this reality, adaptability and creativity were key. It was important for us to maintain closeness internally, among the company, as well as with clients.
From our Human Resources area, the focus was people care. We used different resources in pursuit of this priority. Some of them were respecting protocoles, making sure that office conditions were adequate (which included different actions, from buying a sanitary carpet to having sanitizer everywhere or a distance thermometer at the door), restricting face-to-face meetings and promoting teleworking, providing hardware and peripheral provisions so that collaborators could work from home, trying to understand and be more comprehensive than ever with schedule changes, among others. And other resources had the purpose of maintaining us close and together, such as organizing virtual after-office meetings in which we invited comedians and magicians and sent snack boxes to eat during the virtual gathering. This meant it was not only about the virtual after-office itself, but also about all the expectations that were formed by each of us as collaborators before the meeting. “Virtual after-offices played an interesting role in maintaining a positive work atmosphere, they were good moments to see people beyond being locked up. Sending breakfasts for special dates such as the Developer day are nice gestures, they bring the company closer to the collaborator”, says Federico Rezzano, Team Leader and Scrum Master. The moment in which the email from Human Resources was sent, announcing that we were going to have a virtual meeting, gave the start to the whole experience. It continued with the unexpected moment in which a box full of delicious snacks arrived at our homes, which we, of course, opened to see before eating it, but then put in the refrigerator and waited till the moment of the after-office meeting to eat it together with our co-workers. The fact that a little snack box arrived at our houses, mixed our job, which we associate with a formal environment, with a cosy and intimate atmosphere, that characterizes our houses. This contributed to making the experience even more magical, as we ended up sharing with our families too, telling them what we were going to do at the moment of the after-office, who was the guest on that occasion, and showing them the snack box.
These actions were not the only ones that gave place to maintaining a positive work environment and closeness while working at a distance. One of the main aspects that impacts how people feel at work and how they feel towards their coworkers and bosses is what happens on a daily basis. “This is why, from the Human Resources department, we approached Team Leaders and asked them to be closer than ever to the members of their teams, accompanying them day by day and strengthening the circle of contacts that occurs in the work interaction.” explains Mariasol Elizalde, Responsible for the Human Resources department. It was important for us to know how each person was overcoming this particular situation, how they were feeling, what they may need. “I created moments to talk one to one with almost every member of the team and had the possibility to detect when someone was saturated or bored with some task. I always tried to identify when there was something that was making someone’s work unsatisfied, and looked to improve the situation at an early stage”, says Federico Rezzano, Team Leader and Scrum Master. Juan Arrillaga, Design Team Leader, believes that staying closer in spite of the physical distance depends solely on authenticity and real care for others. “We generated moments to actively listen to each other, which have to be real, close and above all, responsible. It is not only about listening to coworkers’ problems, but also doing something to help”, says Arrillaga. There was not a lot of time to plan, it was a moment of contingency and the Human Resources department and Team Leaders tried to be resilient and receptive to improvement proposals.
The start of the pandemic was not only a time of uncertainty, fear and vulnerability, it was also a period of months in which we had much more time than usual as we were locked up at its beginning. Therefore, to maintain motivation among collaborators, we encouraged people to use that irregular time to develop professionally. Part of being resilient means transforming a difficult and challenging situation, such as the coronavirus disease and all of its consequences, into something positive and productive. This was not only a merit of the company but also of our collaborators, as they took advantage of this time to grow professionally. An example of this is that the participation in English classes incremented: “People identified or managed their time in more useful ways. This is maintained nowadays, in this stage of “post pandemic” or at least a more hibrid time” says Mariasol Elizalde, Responsible for the Human Resources department. English classes were always dictated at 8 o’clock at the office. “The pandemic and the teleworking allowed people to be able to attend these classes without needing to get up so early, at 7 o’clock or earlier for people who may live far from the office”, explains Zelmar Dufrechou, Member of Administration & Finance. People felt contained and accompanied by the company.
Concerning our relationship with our clients and our results in their projects, these were not affected by the phase of the coronavirus disease. This may partly be because we almost always worked with clients abroad, which meant the interaction was always remote, for the most part. Even though we worried about helping our clients during this period of time, with what we had at our reach, we also saw they gave their best, which strengthened the relationship even more. They did not notice a change or a negative impact in their projects and their consequent digital products, due to our previous preparation. Before the pandemic, Onetree allowed people to work remotely two times a week, and provided laptops and an internet connection for everyone. This allowed our collaborators to have everything sorted out when everything changed from one day to another and our homes became our offices. As we explained throughout the article, we had to adapt in many aspects: our interaction, our new “workplace”, our time management, but having the necessary implements to successfully develop our jobs was not one of them, we were prepared for this. Clients kept seeing the same positive results they saw before the pandemic, the turnover did not change on their projects, they continued seeing the progress they pondered and kept having meetings. We did not only try to keep delivering as excellent as before the pandemic, but we also worried about how the clients were overgoing this particular moment we were all living around the world. Maintaining a positive relationship with clients does not only depend on complying with schedules, dates, and expectations, but on seeing the client on the other side as a person and being empathetic with them. With a perspective on the future, Zelmar Dufrechou adds: “People are free in Onetree. If positive results in clients’ projects are maintained, I think collaborators will continue to work from home”. “I believe people value the possibility to work together and be close to each other, but I reckon it will be optional”. Not only did we adapt to the challenge the pandemic meant for us, but we knew how to make the most out of it. This was reflected in the growth our team experienced, not merely in the number of people but also in the addition of new countries, which can be seen in the following data:
- Branch office in Colombia opened in 2021: 12 collaborators at the moment.
- The team doubled in Argentina
- 123 collaborators in Onetree in Uruguay, Argentina and Colombia