Over the past month, I have enjoyed watching some of the world’s greatest sportspeople competing and representing their countries with pride. Of course, as a Singaporean, I was overjoyed to witness my country’s first ever representation at the top of the podium at a global level. What struck me most was catching all the stories about this significant win and how much effort went in to achieve such success. This was not just a story of an individual’s incredible willpower and dedication, but a deeper collaborative and support system which involved coaches, sporting associations, families and many more.
Hearing this, I couldn’t help but wonder how much collaboration matters in honing talent – no matter what it is. In a sporting context, the important role which government ministries, sports associations, and sponsors play in the development of athletes now and in the future is absolutely vital. How then can they ensure those crucial links of support and mentoring for athletes are maintained even when if they choose to train overseas? Further, how can the education of these young athletes also be ensured while they choose to follow their sporting dreams?
Video education for future champions
Managers and team members for the sports associations could often be in different time zones. By using video conferencing, we can support high levels of engagement for dispersed teams – to give them the same collaboration feeling as interacting face-to-face. Sponsors and managers can broker a contract without having to go through distances multiple times; expert coaches and mentors are more accessible and can participate in training sessions even if distance separates them; and perhaps most importantly video can help maintain relationships while athletes train overseas reducing the impact of their physical time spent apart from their families and friends. This may boost motivation and engagement and in turn their overall performance. Often, young sportspeople are torn between pursuing their athletic careers while obtaining educational qualifications. Video is the connecting pathway of these two streams, ensuring they get the best of both worlds.
Does this seem slightly far-fetched? Think again, because at Polycom we’ve been supporting the development of sportspeople through video collaboration for many years. VUC Storstrøm in Denmark have a created a unique and innovative platform for the Danish Football Association, something they call the ‘Global Football Classroom’. This program brings rising football players together in a virtual classroom whether they play in Denmark or abroad, providing them the ability to follow an academic curriculum via video conferencing from their desktops. Read their story here.
No doubt our recent pride and glory will inspire a new generation of athletes in Singapore and beyond to pursue their own sporting dreams. Success lies in many factors – and strong collaboration should always factor into a winning strategy.
▪ [Blog] – Be a good sport this summer
Collaboration is clearly all the rage in Thailand these days! We’ve had a flurry of activity in Bangkok recently – the launch of a new customer experience centre, our first Innovation Roadshow in the city, and a Microsoft O365 conference all in the same week! These events were heavily attended, spurring lots of interest and it’s been clear that making great collaboration happen is a key consideration for many businesses. Read on to find out what I’ve learned from our partners and customers in the country during this busy week.
Innovation Roadshow – Together By Design
Following the resounding successes of our previous Innovation Roadshow, we held our Thailand leg of the event on August 2 and received a tremendous turnout! This is a testament to the market interest and trend in developing Workplace of The Future in organisations in Thailand, as our delegates actively engaged in conversations at our demo booths and packed the ballroom.
For a traditionally culturally reserved country, our
delegates were very forthcoming in questions during the keynote sessions, particularly around third party
integration and interoperability and ease of use. So hey, it’s not just Polycom messaging, these are what they will consider and what anyone would consider if they think about collaboration tools. What good are tools if they’re hard to use, right?
The audience was hugely impressed with the live demonstrations of our industry-first solutions, RealPresence Trio and RealPresence Centro, and our award-winning Acoustic Fence™, noise-blocking technology. Our team in Singapore joined us via video collaboration bringing our technology to life with interesting dialogue and props and engaged directly with the roomful of IT professionals.
Microsoft Thailand also participated as K.Panjaporn Vittayalerdpun presented on “Delivering Universal Communications with Office 365 and Skype for Business” reinforcing how workplace dynamics has shifted with the millennials joining the workforce, driving a strong demand for an easy to use, flexible communications platform.
Amongst the audience was a representative from the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) who shared in an impromptu Q &A andhis experience as a user of Polycom video collaboration solutions and support services. It was extremely satisfying to listen to a happy customer. What a great testimonial! Check out the MOPH case study for more.
Launch of Customer Demo Centre – Thailand
I am also delighted to share that we’ve launched a new customer demonstration centre in Thailand, the first in Bangkok! At the press launch, journalists were provided a firsthand experience of RealPresence Centro to RealPresence Centro experience amongst other demonstrations at our brand spanking new demo centre. With increasing demand in the market for video collaboration tools to drive the Workplace of The Future, this demo centre serves to allow organisations to customise a collaboration solution that suits them best. As Thailand’s national agenda for Digital Thailand/Economy is always big news, Polycom’s innovations drew lots of interest and questions from the attending media.
Microsoft Office 365 User Conference
As a strategic alliance partner of Microsoft, Polycom joined the Microsoft Office 365 User Conference as a Platinum Sponsor on August 3. About 500 people turned up at Queen Sirikit Convention Hall. Polycom’s Moses Lim took the main stage like a rock star as keynote presenter, and in true spirit of collaboration was supported by live demonstration by Low Hee Bun in the Polycom Singapore Executive Demo Centre.
The audience was treated to a larger than life RealPresence Trio with Skype for Business demonstration and could browse the Polycom booth at the exhibitors’ area afterwards. A key takeaway from feedback received was that over 50% of respondents were looking to video collaboration to effect reduction in operation cost and improve internal communications within the next six to 12 months.
This about sums up our “hat trick” last week in Thailand!
Having worked at Polycom for the last 7 years, I always knew we enable great things with our technology that our customers use to do even greater things. The Quang Ninh Department of Health deployed the largest telemedicine network in Vietnam as they saw a critical need to extend healthcare services to the rural and remote communities.
Polycom video collaboration technology served them well as Quang Ninh is located on a complex mountainous area of Vietnam, often fraught with floods. The telehealth program addressed the challenges to have healthcare services accessible to citizens in the rural and smaller provinces, and provide training to medical staff, to ensure a high and consistent standard of healthcare quality provision across the provinces.
One remarkable application of this telehealth program came alive for me last week as we held a media and customer event in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam, where the picturesque Ha Long Bay is situated. Some 200 medical professionals and media across the provinces were also able to attend the event as a result of our collaboration technology, and experienced its impact first hand, participating in live interactions in High Definition video. Ron Emerson, our Global Director of Healthcare also joined us over video in the wee hours of his morning from his home in Maine, USA.
“The telehealth network has completely changed our levels of service to communities in the province and reduced the workload pressures on our clinical staff,” said Vu Xuan Dien, Director of Quang Ninh Department of Health. “As an example, for diagnosis of more difficult medical cases, patients had to be transferred across large distances from regional hospitals to either the Bach Mai or Viet Duc central hospitals. What telehealth has done is provided us with that vital link to rapidly administer patient care and diagnose early symptoms,” he said.
I witnessed, while being onsite to film the application, how the surgeons were able to talk and provide counsel to another group of doctors at the remote site via a Polycom RealPresence Utility Cart, while operating in the theatre. I can’t describe that moment of pride that I was working for a company that enabled THAT! It was a SUPERHERO moment for me.
I urge you to take a few minutes to read more about this story. It’s not every day that an emerging economy can accomplish something like that and it’s totally admirable.
Viet UC Seafood Corporation, a leading shrimp farming company in Vietnam paves the way for their industry as
they leverage collaboration technology to improve manufacturing processes. It is a big deal when we think of the sheer geographical expanse of the company's farms, the factories, the dispersed manufacturing and technical teams – just managing schedules to meet can be such a time-consuming exercise, not to mention sharing information among the teams!
Read on to see how video collaboration not just transformed the company's workflows, but also brought about significant savings.
Video collaboration saved time for the various teams involved in the process but also provided other functions in the company a new way of working such as for HR in their training programs. Viet UC Seafood also have a competitive edge as they seek to improve their farming technology with R&D alliances beyond Vietnam. What used to be a tight schedule to include travel time and actual meetings with partners became a breeze with video collaboration. The knowledge transfer for on-going research is an invaluable benefit aside from travel savings or the hassle of logistics management.
I met their Business Operations Director, Tri Vu, recently in Ho Chi Minh city to talk about the successes which video collaboration has brought to the company. “Previously if our sales teams required face to face meetings, they would either have to travel or use freely available consumer-grade apps. This would not be the most effective way of communicating – unstable connections would interrupt the call, the users could not share screens or content, information had to be emailed round to several people, and meetings were largely audio only. With enterprise-grade video, the sales teams not only meet frequently but are able to compare notes, share results, pricing and targets in real-time.”
Tri Vu also shared their vision for the business and how they too, are driving the Workplace of the Future. In time to come, they will look to enable more video collaboration capabilities via desktop, mobile and cloud solutions and increase potential for the organisation.
Read more about the successes Viet UC Seafood Corporation has achieved in this case study.
To say it’s been a busy but absolutely rewarding few days would be an understatement! In a unique event held over the last two days in Singapore, a packed audience at the Innovation Roadshow 2016 has been gaining expert insights into shaping the workplace of the future. From fostering team collaboration and designing workspaces of the future, to creating universal communications with Office 365 and Skype for Business, the presentations and the energy of the audience was truly inspiring. As the roadshow heads to Bangalore, here’s a wrap up of the event in Singapore before we pass the baton…
On the first day of the Innovation Roadshow in Singapore, we were delighted to showcase the future of work at the Steelcase office, where guests could see and experience the integration between workplace design and technology. The success of this was followed by a second day at the Microsoft auditorium in Singapore’s business district.
Presided by our very own Michael Frendo, EVP of Worldwide Engineering, industry leaders from Microsoft, Steelcase and Unvorsum explored what the Workplace of the Future can look like, and shared how to integrate collaborative technology into the DNA of an organisation. We were honoured to have guest speakers Uli Gwinner, President Asia Pacific, Steelcase; Heather Emslie, APAC Senior Solution Sales Lead, Productivity Cloud, Microsoft; and Miwah Van, Managing Director and founder of Unvorsum, a consultancy firm that focuses on uniting company strategy with customers, speak at the event.
In his opening statement, Michael reiterated that in the modern workplace, people want spaces not to meet, but to collaborate and work together. He also talked about how to make organisations “sweat their assets”, an interesting way of saying “make your resources work harder!”
Our guests were also given a first-hand demonstration of our latest innovations which included Polycom
RealPresence Centro and RealPresence Trio, and integration with Skype for Business.
For more, don’t forget to follow #Innovation2016 for all the latest updates!
For the third year running, Polycom Asia Pacific has won an award in the search for 'Best Companies for Mums 2015' by the NTUC Women's Development Secretariat and supported by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP). Together with two of my colleagues, our nominations for this award win stemmed from a common thread – the empowerment and liberation we experience as working mothers, enabled through the power of collaboration technology.
The Best Companies for Mums awards ceremony recognises exemplary companies, supervisors and colleagues who have made a positive difference to the daily lives of working mums and dads.
This year’s win is especially meaningful for me for a couple of great reasons:
1) Winning in the category of 'Most Empowering Company for Mums' with two other colleagues who are full-time working mothers - Mei Lin Low and Christina Tan, Head of Partner Marketing, APJ. Here, I have reproduced excerpts from our testimonies which demonstrate the role of technology in our lives:
I am a working mother of three daughters with ages ranging from 9 to 12. Trying to juggle a full-time job, minding three kids and managing a household are energy sapping and very challenging. Thanks to the flexi work practices at Polycom, I am able to perform my roles adequately and confidently. Creative planning and coordination are required and with Polycom’s technology in unified communications , I can attend video meetings and work wherever I am – be it at home, at a café while waiting for one of my kids to finish class, or at the hospital while caring for my dad when he was admitted for a heart problem. Polycom’s flexi work practices and culture have provided me the peace of mind to perform my life’s roles with ease.
This picture was taken at 10.11am on a working, Wednesday morning. Not a typical scene from my office, which is exactly the point I’m trying to make. I was working from the lobby of a kindergarten. My second child, Julian, was attending his second day, ever, of playschool and I had been requested by the school, to standby in case he was inconsolable.
Polycom’s flexible working policies and trust-led culture allowed me to decide where I wanted to work from and when I wanted to do so. The organisation trusted that I would be productive, diligent and professional regardless of my location.
And here’s mine:
Many enterprises in Singapore face challenges in talent retention. Often, the heart of the matter is an inability to groom successors within the organisation and provide sufficient runway for employee careers. When long-time employees leave for greener pastures, companies experience a huge loss in institutional knowledge, continuity and productivity. I’ve been in the company since 2009. Got married in 2011, had my first baby in 2012. Polycom supported me through many milestones in my life and like many other mothers I might have felt that juggling a career and baby is impossible and opt out of the workforce either for life or for a while especially when Polycom’s office shifted to Changi Business Park. Polycom’s flexible working policies allow me to work from a location of my choice and trusted my professional judgement and capabilities. I therefore feel empowered to maximise my time, equipped with my trusty video-enabled laptop in executing my work. Now, with my second baby on the way due in September, I have no qualms that I’ll be able to return to work again seamlessly.
2) This is another validation that work-life balance CAN exist in Singapore with the right state of mind from an employer’s point of view. Polycom’s culture in driving the Workplace of the Future as a state of mind rather than a physical location, has successfully integrated collaborative technology into the DNA of our operations. This allows us to create an “experience” that results from the convergence of technologies, people and processes into one seamless digital experience that helps balance our personal and professional lives to the very best of our abilities.
With this award, we are proud to join the leagues of other companies in Singapore which empower working women. I know not all working parents feel like they can stay on top of their career while juggling family commitments. I know that there are constant challenges especially for women in the workforce as well: many are faced with a hard choice to either progress in their career OR to have a family. The thought of having both seems a distant concept to some as I watched a recent “Talking Point” episode on TV aptly titled “Struggle to Juggle”. Many are skeptical and probably think work-life balance is a fairy tale and sad stories are told about how employers are even terminating women employees citing that their family commitments are inhibiting their contribution toward the company.
A comment that I would like to call out here is a management perspective on this by Mums@Work Singapore:
“it depends on management, the structure/ support in place. Having said that, out of more than 1000 flexi-positions that we have placed, those that fail are often because of the specific relationship between the direct supervisor and employee (So, even if management supported it, HR had the system, the job was redesigned, it still failed, because of that specific relationship)”
It is definitely also about trust between the employer and the employee, on top of how the job is designed and measured for success to take place. With many organisations that drive work-life balance awareness initiatives, (NTUC Women’s Development Secretariat , TAFEP, Mums@Work etc) I truly hope that this “theoretical concept” to some of us working parents, will soon become a workable reality to most.
Meanwhile, I’m off to celebrate our win with my colleagues and my family!
Polycom Singapore had a big event at the beginning of 2015 – a major office move, where we shifted from the central business district to the extreme east of the island to Changi Business Park. Relocating a company is not a mere change of address, it literally affects the daily work habits of the workforce and involves a lifestyle change for many. It is therefore not uncommon for companies to have some level of attrition when decisions like these are made.
In situations like this, I am glad that at Polycom, we have flexible work options transcending over several aspects - flexibility of workspace, flexibility of time, and flexibility of collaboration tools.
Here are my three big “cents” worth, which flexible work options brings to a company:
1. Fosters innovation
A recent collaboration survey showed 96% of businesses believe that video conferencing removes distance barriers and improves productivity between teams in different cities and countries. By enabling teamwork, removing physical and cultural gaps between colleagues, teams and customers, we harness information and knowledge and foster a culture of innovation. You can read more about how to nurture high performance teams here.
2. Increases productivity
As collaboration tools are today more accessible across a variety of environments and devices, they are also readily integrated into our daily activities. This means we are empowered to plan and execute our work day in a very productive way, and strike a great work/life balance like never before! We can connect with colleagues, talk to partners and customers wherever we are, at a time most convenient for all of us. As we are not limited by the physical confines of a traditional office space at a fixed time of the day, in reality, we can achieve a lot more. I cannot imagine receiving updates from my colleagues in our headquarters only once a quarter only during a big internal conference. We do this every day at Polycom – it is the true meaning of collaboration! This immediately translates to “business cents” when information is up-to-date, actions and go-to market plans can be on time or even brought forward.
3. Work/life balance = Happier employees
No matter how and where we work, we are ultimately measured on specific metrics. Through the empowerment flexiwork brings, employees feel accountable to the company to ensure they deliver. They put in time and effort to achieve their goals, and even any extra effort that’s needed in the process. The motivation comes from the satisfaction employees get as they are not micro-managed or time-managed and have an open channel of communication with their managers / companies. A company essentially retains talent in the process. For me, I also get the satisfaction of being able to jump from my last meeting to having dinner with my toddler in a matter of minutes from the study to the dining table. That’s priceless and I’m grateful.
Research from Lotte Bailyn, professor of management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and co-author of Beyond Work-Family Balance: Advancing Gender Equity and Workplace Performance, shows that when people are given the required flexibility, the following occurs:
For more on the benefits of flexiwork, also view my colleague Eric Wong’s interview on First Look Asia on Channel News Asia from a HR perspective http://www.channelnewsasia.com/tv/tvshows/firstlook/flexi-work/1650704.html
For organisations that desire to make the first move in enabling a flexi-work environment, there are several resources available. Here are some reference sites:
Industry Trends Infographic by Polycom : http://www.polycom.com.sg/solutions/solutions-by-job-function/human-resources.html#stab2
Fostering Innovation & driving performance : http://www.polycom.com.sg/content/dam/polycom/common/documents/brochures/six-considerations-for-high...
Kelly Global Workforce Survey - http://www.kellyservices.com.sg/SG/Worker-Preferences-and-Workplace-Agility/?hid=CA
Last weekend saw the seventh year running of the night time Formula 1 Grand Prix hosted in the city centre of Singapore. It’s the time of the year, when the city centre road map gets a major makeover for at least a full week as diversions are put in place around the street circuit. I’ve worked in the Singapore CBD for most of my career so I can say I’ve “been there-done that”, having to walk a long way, or getting stuck in traffic detours to arrive frazzled and grumpy at the office when the diversions are in place.
This year however, I took the proactive approach by planning my schedule to ensure that I could take all of my meetings over videoconferencing and from my home.
The difference from previous years however was my ability to use Polycom’s CloudAXIS. This enabled me to also provide web browser-based video conference access to people external to my secure corporate IT network – external agencies, suppliers and partners for example. It meant nobody had to travel, yet we benefited from participating in a full enterprise grade video call!
Here’s a great video explaining exactly what CloudAXIS enables you to do:
Therefore, I got to complete some of the most important planning meetings ahead of the year end round up and coincidentally, avoided the haze that loomed over Singapore this week.
Upon realising that I was working from home, I was asked by a couple of journalists here this week if PSI levels (air quality measurement) have to hit a certain point before we can adopt flexi-work during haze periods. I explained that at Polycom, we are not dependent on a fixed PSI level to kick in before we employ our flexi-work arrangement. Whether it is a high PSI or a low PSI level, Polycom employees are empowered through video collaboration technology to make work work for them any time of the year. The beauty of Polycom’s BCP (Business Continuity Planning) is that employees are able to act or react accordingly to the haze situation at their own discretion. Learn more about "The Singapore Haze": Advice for organisations looking at Business Continuity Planning by Nick Hawkins.
Flexi-work arrangement is not reserved for Polycom Singapore. Polycom employees across the globe have a choice to choose their work location, and to collaborate using any device, or any network.
As a working parent it’s hard enough to juggle family and work, not to mention sudden events like the haze (which also potentially affects our health) or planned events that aren’t within our control, such as the Formula 1. I am extremely grateful for a video-enabled flexi-work culture!
Read Weileng’s other blog post’s here.
Meeting whilst working from home, regardless of location!
Last week, my son became unexpectedly ill with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD), an infectious virus that requires he’s kept at home. It created a scenario that every parent will be familiar with: how to balance the demands of work with caring for your child. For me this coincided with a very busy week at work and created some particular challenges, not least because a new team member has just joined, and our important departmental quarterly business review was taking place. Panic and worry may have set in, but video solutions and flexi-work arrangements came to the rescue!
New hire onboarding? It doesn’t matter – I can work from anywhere!
As head of my lean team working across the Southeast Asia region, we are very busy and it’s paramount that I keep up the momentum our team has built from quarter to quarter.
Just last week, following a long recruitment cycle, my new Senior Marketing Manager hire finally joined our team. Great news! I’d lined up weeks of orientation on various topics for her to get on board and familiar with our business and processes. Alas it’s been barely a week and I’ve to suddenly “disappear” from the office. Thankfully, my planning was complete in advance and her induction schedule was pretty much set for last week and this. Where introductions need to be made and my participation is required, I can join meetings taking place in the office from home, using Polycom RealPresence Desktop. Furthermore, training can also take place in the new joiner’s own time, by reviewing past Polycom video archives and induction sessions saved on our video content management infrastructure.
Some of the real time induction sessions may require rescheduling, but most importantly, my communication with the new manager is not hampered at all, as she has been video-enabled from Day 1. This is important in helping a new employee settle, as one can imagine it’s quite unnerving to have his or her manager disappear soon after you’ve joined a new company. With video-enabling technologies – it is as effective as being there since it offers the benefits that come from experiencing body language and facial expressions. It sure beats having to guess!
Read more on nurturing high-performance teams here.
It’s Quarterly Business Review!
Our Asia Pacific Marketing team met last week to conduct a Quarterly Business Review. At Polycom, we are used to doing this on video since half the APAC marketing team is located in countries outside of Singapore. However, I do like to get into the Singapore office and gather with those based here to get into the “mood” of the meeting room.
So, like all my remotely located colleagues, I joined on video from home (see screenshot below) so that I was able to participate whilst still being there for my son. I made plans to schedule lunch accordingly that day and as usual, found a quiet environment so that I could focus on the meeting properly.
Using Polycom’s meeting recording feature, the business review was also recorded. This means that I can go back to review any part of the meeting when I am back working full time, when my son has recovered.
My baby needs me!
Last week and into this week I am able to combine flexi-working from home, with taking care leave time off, so that I can continue to balance the commitments of my job role with the commitment of looking after my son. Importantly, the impact to my team has been minimised and productivity maintained.
So to all who are thinking of flexi-work and wonder how it works: prioritise, plan and prove that you are fair to the employer and the family.
There are times when we can work from home when the child is mildly ill, and there are times that required dedicated care and attention. Flexi-work and teleworking provide the opportunity for an employee to manage their own time with their work hours and location. This also means taking full time off such as childcare leave when the situation requires.
My son’s illness is expected to take another week to completely go away. The great thing about having video is that while he is on the road to recovery in the next few working days, I can fully come back to work online, resume my new hire meetings, attend follow-ups from the quarterly business review and everyone else would be assured they are not put at risk of the contagious virus!
You can also read Nick Hawkins’ blog post on Business Continuity.
Recently over a two day ASEAN-US Defence Ministers' informal meeting in Honolulu, Singapore’s Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen offered Singapore’s Changi Command and Control (C2) Centre to host a regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) coordination centre.
The ministers attending had emphasised the need for militaries to work closer in an effort to strengthen the region’s HADR capabilities. Evidently, speedy and accurate response is paramount in a disaster situation.
Arising from this, FutureGov, Asia Pacific’s leading government modernisation title, took the opportunity to meet one of the world’s foremost experts on this subject. Managing Editor James Smith, and Senior Journalist Kelly Ng spoke to Alphonzo Albright, Global Director Government, Industry Solutions and Market Development, Polycom in an interview via video connecting from Polycom’s Singapore office to Alphonzo in his home in New York City.
Alphonzo is formerly New York City’s CIO of the Office of IT and has had the experience of managing several major crises, such as the September 11 attacks, the Northeast blackout of 2003 and Hurricane Sandy. His discussion with FutureGov followed the Singapore ministers’ offer to discuss the challenges, pitfalls and where governments have had success in encouraging preparedness and improving response times with a fusion centre set up under proper governance.
Aptly put by Alphonzo when talking to FutureGov: “Governments cannot change an event, but what they can do, is mitigate and prepare for it”. Alphonzo went on further to elaborate how video communication tools expand the universe of experts that governments can tap on, from across multiple public sector agencies, as well as from the private sector.
Below: FutureGov's James Smith and Kelly Ng defy distance by speaking to Alphonzo Albright via video.
We very recently celebrated the new Lunar New Year, known to many as Chinese New Year. Like celebrating Christmas or other festivals, the lead up can certainly be a scramble, with many jobs to do, and we have to fit work in too! Looking back on the previous two months, the ability to work flexibly from home now seems like it was a life saver! I’d never have been able to achieve what I wanted to achieve in my household without this.
But what do others say?
Catching up with several of my friends over the celebratory period, many were interested in how I managed to make working from home productive for me, both in the work context and the home context. In fact, many I spoke to were having to struggle between allocating time for work and then for home related matters.
What I drew from my conversations with them, was that they agreed that they didn’t structure their home working space either physically or mentally, such that they felt the need to be present in front of their computers constantly. This they said drained them, as eventually they started skipping meals, and delayed their attention to their children at the times of the day that they should have devoted to them. Without a doubt, over an extended period of time, this mentality would decrease productivity at both ends – work and home – which is obviously not the intended result of having a flexi-work arrangement from home to start with! Don’t get me wrong, they agree that working from home is an option that they appreciate and welcome, but they do acknowledge that some adjustments are needed by both themselves and their employers in order to optimise productivity and retain sanity.
We came to a consensus that setting up a dedicated “work” area and a separate home “play” area is critical. Work remains at the work station and not amongst a pile of laundry. In a common standard working day, we start at 8.30am, take lunch between 12 and 1, and finish at 5.30pm. (Ok, maybe we get on emails for an hour or so again after dinner with the family…) This is exactly how it should be at home as well! We still need to eat, and have a mental refresh or coffee break when needed.
As a team manager, I am not a believer of clocking time and equating this to work completed. I used to work for a company where they were so strict with being on time for just about everything (other than finishing the day and leaving work!) Time-based presence means that the company culture is a clock-watching one. Employees became paranoid when someone fixes a meeting near 5pm, because that would mean working longer hours for them.
There are those who we know who are totally focused on work, no matter what home issues there are; so much so that they’re blind to it. There are also some who constantly feel guilty about not paying enough attention to either work or home, and end up not managing either effectively. Aside from the work area setup at home, it is also aboutprioritisation.
For employers, it is important to communicate that flexi-workers are not an “exception” in a company, and that employees can choose to work from home not because they’re mothers or fathers, but simply to have an alternative workspace that works best for the employee at that moment. I think this could be openly and formally communicated throughout the organisation either by management or by HR, so that other employees who are office-based understand and respect such a working arrangement with colleagues who work from home. This should be communicated during the induction of new employees. If the intention is to also provide video collaboration tools, then user training would be necessary to ensure that employees will be able to use them properly.
Organisations such as the NTUC Women’s Development Secretariat (NTUC WDS) in Singapore are drawing up supporting guidelines as part of the Family-Friendly Labour Movement in regards to flexi-work arrangements. They are are providing case studies that demonstrate companies already successful in implementing flexi-work arrangements, which include working from home as one of the options. The Singapore Government’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) is also supporting this by showing how harnessing the right types of technology can help. There are of course different challenges that face different companies – check out what they are here with the Top 10 Challenges with Remote Collaboration and how companies can overcome them.
As an employee of Polycom, I would say we’re extremely family-friendly as we practice what we preach with regards to flexible working. 100 per cent of Polycom's employees are equipped with tools like video conferencing technology, which supports our flexible working policy. Many of my colleagues take advantage of this opportunity to allow them to work from home or work remotely when they need to.
A positive trust culture has been a key factor in Polycom Singapore’s work-life harmonisation success. We manage by key result areas. Employees set clear and measurable goals up front with their managers and review them regularly to ensure that milestones and expectations are met regardless of daily working location.
For me, it’s a fact: working from home can enhance work-life harmony.
A great Huffington Post blog I read recently said that all parents need to build a “village” – literally to be surrounded by people, grandparents, aunties, uncles, neighbours, friends, all who can provide much needed help when you need them to.
Not long ago, my “village” went on a vacation and to top it off, my husband was going on multiple business trips in the same month. Alarm bells rang! Whilst Polycom does provide the ability for employees to flexi-work, I decided I needed to take personal time off. Yes, I took two weeks of personal time off to devote full time care to my 20 month old toddler.
The point to this story is that flexi-work is NOT about shortened hours or time-off. It is not an arrangement that should be abused! It essentially means providing flexibility to an employee so they can handle their time in the way that is best for themselves and their company, and still remain as productive or become even more productive. As flexi-workers we need to maintain accountability to our company, our customers, partners and ourselves. In my recent situation, I took time off work, because I knew I would not be able to maintain the necessary focus on my work.
Most employers know that being focused plays a huge part in an employee being engaged and productive. From the employer’s perspective, confidence in a flexible work arrangement grows and a culture of trust forms over time, as they reap the benefits of a more productive workforce. In fact, many companies around the world see tremendous, measurable benefits from flexi-work programmes. In Fortune magazine's recent "100 Best Companies to Work For 2013" list, 84 of the 100 companies listed offer telecommuting benefits for employees.
As an employee, and as head of a team who are also enabled to flexi-work, here are my top three tips for flexi-working employees, especially parents:
1. Keep a well-documented schedule.
It may seem odd to have a children’s party, an elderly relative’s health checks and baby vaccinations all integrated within an Outlook work calendar, but it helps you to plan around those schedules and avoid conflicts. That way, you can also make alternative arrangements should there be a potential conflict, like getting additional help from neighbours, parents, colleagues and friends. This relieves all the stress of committing too many things to memory
2. Agree on a modus operandi with your support network.
There should be a basic routine as a basis of work for every employee and that also extends to organising a structure outside of work (particularly for parents). For example, establishing which days and times you have support for childcare. Anything out of the ordinary can then be negotiated and that’s where “flexi” comes in, as we can coordinate changes much faster without having to fill out 10 pages of justification forms from HR.
3. Ensure you have a space conducive to work at home or wherever you plan to work.
We all have different work styles and ideas of a perfect workspace, but I like to have a decent space for my laptop, access to power, a good wifi connection, space to place some materials and a cup of coffee! With any video conferences I have, I also ensure that my surrounding is relatively quiet, with as few distractions in the background as possible, as well as in a well-lit area (so I look good on video!) This sets me up for a good productive work day.
For employees, there are more tips to help you perfect flexi-working using video, on pages 29-30 of the Polycom Guide to Collaborating Across Borders.
And for employers, you can find out more about introducing a teleworking practice as part of an effective flexi-work programme in this Polycom guide.
We recently celebrated another “send-off” in the office for a mum-to-be – in fact, the second one since October! In my first post here, I’d like to share how the use of video helped me to make the transition from being a new mum to becoming a successful working mum.
As we waved my colleague off it felt like only yesterday when I left to have my son. In the weeks and days leading up to “D-day”, I felt like all mothers-to-be – the frantic need to get work cleared, prep for the delivery day, and most of all anticipate the arrival of a new addition to my life that might just turn it upside down. But new age women are lucky these days. Firstly, we live with mobile technology. Everybody can stay connected. It really helps to overcome that initial fear of being alone (alone in the world of new mums) as we can easily reach somebody familiar to talk to. As one can imagine, just about everything was new for me to absorb – the baby, the processes and the suggestions from just about everyone!
A big plus for a new mother working at Polycom is the familiarity of using video, as it is embedded as an integral part of the company’s working culture – something that is starting to become more and more popular in many companies. In the months following the birth, the connection back to the non-baby world (also known as the office) was highly enhanced when I had video! I could simply dial any of my colleagues at work just to say “Hi”, “How are things at work?” or “What’s the latest?” Seeing them live on-screen helped me to adjust back to the mind-set of the workplace.
Now, with a young toddler on my hands and successfully back at work, video does wonders to the “work soul” of my life and keeps me sane. Many mothers identify with me on that. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard other mums tell me how they wished they enjoyed similar video tools and the flexi-work culture I have here at Polycom. Video allows me to work from home if and when I need to, which with a young child, is a huge help. But there is no risk of missing an important meeting in the office, because I will join on video along with colleagues who will do the same in one or more other locations.
So, yes, I now feel like a supermum that can conquer the world of work and home life. But really, that underlying trust that the company places on me is pivotal in allowing me to focus on what I do without unproductive worries of being to work on time, or having to take extra leave just for a baby jab, for example.
As Polycom was one of the winners of the hunt for the “Best Companies for Working Mums” here in Singapore, I’ve been interviewed as a representative of the company and have also been asked to contribute to the “New Ways of Work” guidebook by the IDA, a Singapore Government department. You can find more details on that guidebook here: About New Ways of Work.
It’s evident to me that video-collaboration as an embedded part of an organisation’s work process is not only growing in priority but it has the power to reshape the work-life balance for mums and dads alike.