Remote working has become the new normal. There are just so many perks to this practice; from flexible working environments, lunch with your family, and the liberation from sitting hours in traffic every morning and evening.
But even with all the benefits of remote working, online collaboration remains an issue for many of us. Connecting virtually is much more challenging than face-to-face collaboration with colleagues in a physical office setting.
Thankfully for Klook, online collaboration across cities and even countries is not an alien concept to us. As a global company, we have teams based worldwide, and we have been collaborating remotely since even before the pandemic.
Klookers are therefore in an excellent position to answer the grand question about remote working: how can we be effective at online collaboration? We sat down with three Klookers from different teams to understand how they each found the right way to remain collaborative from a distance.
Director, People Infrastructure and Operations
Overcommunication is the key
As the Director of People Infrastructure and Operations at Klook, Amrita leads a team spread across Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong. Here’s her secret: over-communication and transparency is the way to go.
"To stay connected, we make it a point to maximize all our channels of communication. We communicate real-time via our Lark (our internal messaging platform) group and meet as a team every Monday to delve further into discussions on our progress, plans and problems together as a group. I also make it a point to meet with each member of my team individually every week - so there is always an opportunity to stay connected," explains Amrita.
"I try to be extra transparent and timely with updates to my team. Even if I do not have all the information, I give them quick updates on various topics that are moving forward. I also try to do this in the group chat rather than to individual employees - similar to how we would be seated in a common area and would be able to hear updates discussed around us."
"We also follow the simple rule of keeping our video cameras on in all our meetings - it’s the least we can do to maintain a personal connection."
Amrita's daughter usurping her mother's throne for a home-based learning video call.
As a manager, Amrita invests a lot of time in aligning clear goals for each of her team members, to ensure they know exactly what the most pertinent priorities are. She then gauges the output by how they progress on these goals.
With the advancement of productivity and communication tools, remote working is easier than ever and offers a lot of benefits to everyone involved. While she agrees that remote working is here to stay, Amrita also recognizes that there's a downside of this practice, so it's important to find the right balance.
"We’ve done a really good job of leveraging our productivity tools (such as Google Docs and Jam boards) to collaboratively brainstorm, ideate and work through technical aspects of our discussion," says Amrita.
Amrita's team is spread across Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong. A regular video meeting is important for the team to stay connected
"I think both employees and managers have realized that we can be just as productive when working remotely. That said, we also have to be mindful that not everyone may find working from home conducive and may prefer to be back in the office. As such - we have to find the right balance of face-to-face engagement with our colleagues, and be flexible with the needs of the team and the role."
Senior Digital Analyst, Business Analytics (Demand)
Turning on your camera at meetings can make a difference
Even before the pandemic, Rachel Lee almost never worked together face-to-face in the office with her Business Analytics team. While most of her teammates are in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Shenzhen, China, she's the only analyst in Singapore right now.
Thankfully, her manager and colleagues visited her when she joined Klook in January 2020, just months before the pandemic happened. "Yes, they came to Singapore to welcome me. Kenny (Rachel's manager) even stayed for, I think, close to a month! So I was very well adjusted - it's not like I went to the office on my first day and nobody was there to guide me! It was a nice welcome," says Rachel.
While Rachel doesn’t find it difficult to collaborate online with her team, she believes face-to-face meetings are still superior to online meetings because you can see other people's body language and face when talking. Her secret: Turning on the camera during online team meetings does make a difference.
Analytics team members visited Rachel in Singapore when she first joined.
"When you meet someone new online, there's a lot of things that you need to grasp in a different way. Because sometimes when you talk online and don't see the other person's face, you might misunderstand certain things. So I wouldn't say it's difficult, but it's challenging to really understand where the person is coming from," she says.
"In our team, our leader Yat Lam makes a point to have weekly sync ups with everybody. So during that sync up, he says we have to turn on the camera and show our faces. I think that's a good way to make sure you remember each other's faces, even with old members because we don't see each other in the real office. So at least you see each other once a week, and it makes you think 'Okay, I'm working with real teammates and not just robots on the computer...'."
"I'll give you a good example - I think it happens to a lot of people. Sometimes we find a person that may be very direct. But that doesn't mean that he or she doesn't agree with your ideas or that they’re rude or what. It's just the way they talk. When you talk with them and see their face, you actually won't feel so taken aback, unlike when you chat with them without seeing their face and body language."
Being able to read someone’s facial expressions and body language makes a big difference.
Rachel also emphasizes the importance of using productivity tools to update progress and even share learnings. This way, team members will know what you're up to, even if everyone has different tasks and functions.
"We have a few tools. Other than the weekly sync up that I mentioned, we also have a team board for use to share our weekly tasks. We also can share useful materials there, like if we have any useful sharings on analytics or any technical stuff."
"Sometimes we also have sharing sessions within our team, so we can share more about our projects. Since there's so many of us, we don't really know the other person's project in-depth because we don't talk on a regular basis. I think that is good because we can have knowledge sharing and be very aware of what is really happening in the team. It would be more like you're working with a team than working alone."
Business Development Associate, Indonesia
Traditional written communication is very underrated
As the first Klooker in Bali, Odi Pratama has experienced remote working since he joined Klook in September 2019. Initially, he was the only member of Indonesia's Business Development team based in Bali, with the rest of his team in Jakarta. Two other Bali Klookers joined him later, but then came the pandemic.
"I only worked face to face with other Klookers in the Bali office for a few months. Then we had to work from home and we've been working remotely ever since," he says. "Of course I like working at the office better because it's easier to communicate with my colleagues and brainstorm ideas. Now we need to open up our Lark chat group, write questions or ideas there, and then discuss them online. It's just not very straightforward."
"But at the same time, it's good because that means the whole team (including those who are based in Jakarta) know your ideas, and more people can share their thoughts and opinions."
Odi prefers written collaboration via email or chat to video call communication because he feels it offers more structure and he can provide more informative details. With written communication, he can also always keep a record and search for the conversation weeks or months later. For him, this kind of collaboration is much more convenient, effective, and efficient.
Writing emails also won't exhaust you mentally like video meeting marathons, though Odi understands the importance of video calls with his team once in a while.
Odi finally met up with his teammates when a BD member from Jakarta visited Bali.
"We always have a weekly meeting, where the whole team can share their project updates, their weekly plan, learnings and also discuss the challenges that we might face," says Odi. "While each member has responsibility over different verticals, we're still collaborating intensely to help each other. We can even back each other up when an inquiry arrives when the person in charge has a day off."
Even though he believes that the physical office won't become extinct, Odi says that remote working will still be a trend even after the pandemic ends.
"Seeing how our team worked in the past two years, I think it's amazing that a group of people who are almost never together physically can still collaborate effectively while being apart from each other," he says. "It’s proof that online collaboration works. Remote working, though with some downsides, works. It's just a matter of finding the most effective way to collaborate. For us, it's a mix between written communication for more efficient collaboration and a regular catch-up to make sure we feel the togetherness of a team."
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Posted by Klook Careers