Six months later or how people adapt to remote work – Part II

PART 2

This is the second part of the article dedicated to remote work. You can read the first part with the interviews of our team members here. Today we are going to learn the points of view of our head of recruitment department and head of HR department.

Iryna, Head of Recruitment Department

  • How did you take the news about compulsory work from home?
  • Calmly, without any panic, taking into consideration the situation in Ukraine, it was quite a logical decision.

 

  • Is it your first experience of remote work?
  • I have been working from time to time from home earlier, but it is the first time when it has been for so long.

 

  • How fast did you manage to adapt to new work processes?
  • Quite fast, as my position allows to shift quickly to online work. Moreover, some stages were moved to an online mode while we were still in the office.

 

  • So, in general quarantine did not have a great influence on routine tasks and workflow, did it?
  • Absolutely no. When I worked as an HR Generalist it was more difficult. There is no problem with that as for now, as all my work is on the Internet.

 

  • Could you share your own lifehacks of a fast and painless shift to remote work for those whose position doesn’t imply such an easy shift?
  • There is no single algorithm suitable for everyone. You have to take into account specifics of work, team, and all the tasks. But first of all, you should set your workplace. Because if physically you cannot organize it at home, anyway, it will be unreal to work and you will be demotivated to work. So, the first point? Workplace, to have an ability to work, where no one will disturb you.The second one is having a clear timetable, you make an agreement with yourself for how long you work, set a clear timeframe. You should stick to it as it enables the division of “work” and “home”. Because many people feel that boundaries between work and home became vague when you do not set fixed hours. You should have breaks and time for lunch fixed in your schedule, and they’d better be at the same time every day, as your body quickly adapts to new conditions, new regime and you quickly get into the workflow.The third one is having some rituals which signal for you start and finish your work. For example, if you repeat making a cup of coffee and sitting at the table for a week – the aroma of coffee will be associated with work, as after coffee the work begins. On the other hand, there is a ritual of finishing the workday. Personally, I change clothes when the work ends, I have work outfits, not really strict office dress code. (And you have to change the top and the bottom, it won’t work if you change your T-shirt only). So, I have clothes for work and for home and I do not sit at the workplace in my home clothes. It is like a trigger for me, that is why I do not have a feeling that some home routine and work are mixed together.

 

  • What was the most difficult while adapting to remote work?
  • There were no difficulties for me. The only situational issue is that I am without a team now. I am missing some team discussions, as sometimes deadlocks appear, and I have no one to talk to about it. These 5-minute discussions often help to find a solution and it is critical for me. When I had a remote team at the beginning of the quarantine, we discussed issues at our daily meetings and then there was no feeling that I missed something.

 

  • Did you have more free time when started working from home?
  • No, but I feel that I am more productive at home, because I am not interrupted with some unrelated issues. Anyway, you go out of your room to the coffee machine, communicate with other people and it takes some of your time. And spending time on the way to the office, especially now, when there are problems with the public transport in our city. And when working from home, this time is dedicated to work. I do not work for 8 hours, for sure, but my productivity is much higher. I do not go out every 10-15 minutes for water, coffee, etc., of course I have breakfast and lunch. I work for 2-3 hours and feel more productive due to fixed working hours. It also depends on the workload, of course (9:11).

 

  • How has the recruitment market changed during the quarantine?
  • It is difficult to give a definite answer. I have talked to my colleagues and I see that the market is very diverse. It has changed, but in our case, I cannot say that it has become an employer’s market, not a candidate’s one. They say that many people were fired, thus a big number of specialists appeared on the market, the competition became higher, and employers can make their own rules. But it is not true for our case because of some specificity of location (Chernivtsi and Uzhhorod). Yes, many people were soaked, but not the best ones, companies try to keep their best specialists. And we have got the following situation: there are too many people on the market, in our location, too. But they are all Juniors, young specialists, who do not suit any of our vacancies. So, it has not become easier to fill the vacancies, vice versa, more difficult. When I talk with Senior developers, they tell me: “Be strong, the market has become tougher”. It is so because key companies try to keep their top developers with the help of various big bonuses, high salary rates, as they understand that the crisis will end and the work has to be done. These companies cut costs, especially in big teams, for the less valuable team members. At the same time, developers’ workloads have increased, e.g. Seniors say that their salaries were raised, better conditions have been created, and the amount of work has grown by 30-40%. This is true for our locations. Every day I get responses to our listed vacancies, but the candidates are from all over Ukraine, as developers want to work remotely. The biggest downsizings were in Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, and Lviv, so there are many qualified and experienced specialists. But our projects aren’t quite ready for remote work, because within teams developers get used to be at the same location, and yet they don’t fully understand that the world has already changed. So, the market has changed, there are good specialists, but they are kept by companies, not many people want to change work. (13:00) If people have good conditions, maybe even not the best ones, but they are afraid. Because Middle and Senior developers have families, that they have to support, and they don’t want to change work as there is a fear of another crisis and of closure of the And we cannot guarantee that this will not happen, and no one even knows what will happen in a month.

 

  • How will IT industry in Ukraine change after the quarantine?
  • It will be in remote mode, and the companies which will realize that and reorganize their work will be the most successful. A few weeks ago, we had six open vacancies and we could fill them with great specialists, but from another locations. We are not ready for that yet. And I am sure it is the way of the future. Even company owners, whose business had to shift to remote, saw many advantages in it. This saves money on office rent and maintenance, on business trips. Moreover, according to the researches, about 70% of teams and companies have increased their productivity and improved their performance, that was a threat at the beginning of the quarantine. So, the question appears whether to return to office 100%. Because, first of all, many people don’t want to come back. Secondly business owners have seen changes in productivity and financial benefits. They have understood that it is real to conduct meetings with their customers, without spending 3-4 hours commuting and get the same result. So, the task for the management of all companies will be to rearrange processes, create necessary conditions for employees to work from any place in the world according to all standards. It will open loads of possibilities, as it enables you to find a good specialist of any level, position, programming language (as we know some cities have more specialists in definite areas). It also gives many bonuses for developers – they see that they can travel and not be tied to an office.Even in our city some IT companies consider an option (and present such model to their owners) of an official shift to a coworking mode of work. This implies creating a workplace by request. If a newcomer comes to the project and needs such workplace, it is bought, if no – a person works from home.

 

  • Has your attitude towards the quarantine (since its beginning) changed?
  • Well, I think no, it has just become easier and calmer, as we understand that the quarantine was caused by the pandemic, and this panic and fear of physical damage or even death made an impact. Despite of the negative pandemic situation in Ukraine, we got used and adapted to these conditions, the alert level has decreased, and the things have become more habitual. From the point of view of recruitment, offline meetings are also important. But I partly realize that I can secure this with the second stage of interviews, a technical one. I conduct all my interviews online and then invite a candidate to the office for a technical interview with a developer or project manager and have a possibility to see a candidate in person. Because I had a case when a candidate’s behavior at the office meeting was rude, while during Skype chat his communication was the opposite, without even a hint of rudeness. His answers to the team and PM were the opposite of what he had told me. I do not know why it happened, there may be many reasons. Anyway, offline meetings are very useful, as Skype does not give you even 80% of information, that you can get offline. But as we have a few stages in a recruitment process, I can continue working from home without an affect on recruitment.

Natalia, Head of HR Department

  • How did you take the news about compulsory work from home?
  • We were a little bit shocked, though we tried to predict this scenario. At one moment we realized it was quite real. First of all, there were no precedents what decision to choose in situations like that, no one could give advice how to react. We were setting everything up racing against the clock, we were puzzled. During the first days it was not clear how to plan a workday, what to do, but as the time went by everything got arranged.

 

  • Is it your first experience of remote work during such a long period?
  • Yes, as earlier there were cases of work from home for a day or half a day, and it was rarely. But it happened for the first time that the whole team and the whole company were working remotely.

 

  • How fast did you manage to adapt to new work processes?
  • It seems to me that about 2 weeks, when we were trying to understand how we should work, how to plan our work, and what it should involve.

 

  • Could you share your own lifehacks of a fast and painless shift to remote work?
  • I think it will be sensible to brainstorm for the whole team to detect the main threats and deal with them, as the work of an HR manager and the stability and productivity of all our employees are interrelated. And we all were entering the crisis, there was no understanding of the upcoming consequences, whether there will be a collapse or we will lose some clients, what will be with our teams and whether we will have to fire people. The situation was very unclear, and uncertainty appeared not only because of the quarantine, but because of the possible upcoming crisis.

 

  • What was the most difficult for you during this period?
  • The most difficult was to understand what the HR team should do on remote. When we understood that each HR manager should talk with every team and every team member, with team leads to be aware of the situation in the team, to talk with PMs about our clients. When we did that, we got a feeling of control over the situation, we achieved understanding of where we were and we could give honest answers to other people, who were also puzzled and felt a bit lost.

 

  • Did you have more free time when started working from home?
  • At first it seemed so. But all in all, as I talked with others, there is an opinion that time became kind of relative, there were no strict boundaries. Someone worked for the whole day, someone for a half of the day and it was difficult to distinguish which part was for work and which for leisure. There became less free time, probably, as everything merged together.

 

  • Were there any other disadvantages of remote work?
  • Yes, during the first two weeks, when there was not a clear vision of what to do, I even felt a pang of conscienс Also, the work hours changed. In the morning you did some domestic chores, and about 11 am you dived into work, full of enthusiasm and ideas, and you were working till 8 pm. But it also was confusing as you did not understand when the workday ended, it gradually flew into the next one. In addition, you were at home, suffering from the lack of socialization, it was kind of a vicious circle.
    This uncertainty with the work hours lasted for about two months, and at some point, I started to enjoy beginning and ending the workday late.

 

  • Were there any other advantages and disadvantages of remote work?
  • The first advantage was safety, and that was the most important one. Also, a flexible schedule, which can be positive and negative simultaneously, but all-in-all you can work when your productivity is at its highest level, and deal with other things, when you are not so effective.
    Among disadvantages is the kind of panic at the beginning, when there was not enough live communication, no clarity what to do with the office premises, there were many questions without any answers.

 

  • How did the quarantine affect routine tasks?
  • At some stage we started daily meetings and it helped to discipline ourselves, you had to do more planning. I began to cooperate more thoroughly with our team leads as it gave a better vision of the team and its work.

 

  • What is your fondest memory of the quarantine?
  • We had a great Skype chat with one of our teams, that was so fun, kind of easing the tension at the beginning of the quarantine. It is a unique situation, every day you have a brand new situation, which humankind hasn’t had before. I do not mean that there were not any pandemics before, but such measures had not been applied – closed airports, people wearing masks everywhere, like in a movie.

 

  • How will IT industry in Ukraine change after the quarantine?
  • Obvious trends have appeared: management of companies and clients, which is very important, will be more loyal to remote work. We have seen that mechanisms are available to arrange it effectively. I think that we will still have the office, but it will be smaller. Maybe we will shift to more flexible mode of requesting a working place for a day or when the necessity arises. Maybe some teams will allow remote work for a few days during a week or maybe even the total remote in some teams.
    We even have a case with one team, that was strict in requirements concerning locations, but recently they have let one of team members to work from Kyiv. That is a good sign.

 

  • Has your attitude towards the quarantine (since its beginning) changed?
  • Yes, sure. I would like to work sometimes from home, more often than earlier. I see that remote work may be more effective in some cases, when you have to complete some tasks without being distracted. There is no fear now that it can lead to low productivity.

You have just found out how quarantine affected workflow in recruitment and HR areas.

For those who believes numbers more than words will be the final part of our article. There you will read about surveys of remote work, including the internal one.

See you next week.