In the first episode of our aftermarket podcast launched at the beginning of April 2020, Matthias Moritz, our Managing Director Asia, reported on the impact of the corona outbreak in the local market and how his employees experienced the pandemic. He talked about the experiences employees had with home office and virtual collaboration. In the meantime, employees have returned to working in the office while observing the mandated safety measures.
To get a deeper understanding, we asked our Chinese colleague Emeline Xie, Marketing & Communication Manager, how she evaluates working remotely and if work from home is a concept worth pursuing in the future.
# Advantages and drawbacks of working remotely
Working remotely was born out of necessity. On the one hand it was well received due to the distance between home and office. Many employees spend several hours commuting to work every day. Working from home enabled everyone to gain the hours saved from the long journey; this was perceived as a real personal gain. Time management between work and life became more flexible.
Free time was increasingly put into working hours, while breaks were badly organized. Talking to people on the phone or communicating via Microsoft Teams was often considered a break. As long as nothing else had to be done, the work computer was switched on.
The missing interruptions from others made work more focused and concentrated. However, the outcome seemed to be less efficient. If somebody needed to talk to somebody from time to time, collaboration tools such as instant messenger were used. But it took more time to type, to check the text, to retype, to recheck the text, etc. than a face-to-face talk. Furthermore, discussions within the team decreased.
# Working remotely but always connected to the office IT infrastructure
For most employees it was extraordinary to have the working desktop in the living environment. Since TecAlliance is a digital company, there is no difference in the IT environment if you work in the office or remotely. The notebook ran via WIFI and a lot of the employees had screens and printers at home like they did in the office.
Face-to-face communication was comfortable for all of us to exchange ideas and knowledge and also to argue. Nevertheless, collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and WeChat were used for communication, no matter whether it was business or private. When working remotely, switched-on cameras were not a must, but they helped us to feel closer to our colleagues and strengthened the team spirit. Yet they could not replace personal discussions and exchanges.
To ensure a continuous exchange of knowledge among all departments, two meetings per week were set up, one on Monday morning and one on Friday afternoon. The week usually started with a business review. The project plan had to be run through, problems and solutions discussed and support assigned. Friday’s meeting was to update the business status to all employees.
# Team management and organisation with self-discipline
Each team had the task of reaching defined targets. The reviews took place on a regular base. It was up to the teams to check their current status daily, weekly or monthly. Each team member worked with self-discipline as did the entire team.
The local marketing department, for example, carried out monthly reviews to check what had been done during the month and what was to do in the following month(s), with deadlines as necessary. When working remotely, the activities were planned on a weekly base and the plan for each week was revised on Monday. As always, unforeseen cases arose that had to be dealt with.
# Work relationships remain stable
Despite the corona pandemic, the volume of work to be tackled did not decrease. The tasks did not change. They were more or less the same as before the crisis and work relationships were very good. Customer support is a priority for us; this was possible without any problems while working from home.
Working remotely was considered not to be bad but also not that good. We prefer that the team stay close together for better communication, better productivity and to maintain closer relationships.
# Lessons learned and looking into the future
The whole team in China was happy to return to work at the office. While working remotely, sometimes answers could not be given in time because it was difficult to get all the people needed for discussion instantly. When working together in the office, discussions can be held more quickly and more efficiently.
Converting the monthly plan to weekly plans was required while working remotely. Some teams felt it was good to improve the efficiency and also to track what had been done and what needed to be done. They decided to continue with it.
Working remotely or in quarantine did not make TecAlliance less busy. With regard to the future, TecAlliance has to prepare itself for what is coming. The business is digital and has to be optimised. Products have to be further developed to remain competitive. That is mandatory to keep on shaping the digitisation of the Chinese aftermarket.