JUMO has been a strong advocate of remote working practices since 2017, when drought conditions in South Africa’s Western Cape led the company to test preparedness for various business continuity scenarios. Discovering that working from home often increased company effectiveness, a decision was taken to make Tuesdays and Wednesdays optional remote working days. Susie Squire, JUMO’s Chief Operating Officer, shares how having the freedom to work from home or as a team collaboratively in person has became business as usual for JUMO.
“Despite our familiarity with remote working, when the 2020 lockdown measures forced us all into our home offices, we realised that working from home two days per week was meaningfully different from fully remote working. To understand how the change was affecting JUMOnauts and how we could improve our processes and ceremonies, we officially asked ourselves, How do we want to work in the future?
Many who’ve gone fully remote since then will recognise some of the remote working advantages that were highlighted in the feedback from our survey:
1. Increased productivity and more focused meetings
2. More freedom and choice in use of time, lifestyle and quality of life
3. Greater sense of empowerment and job satisfaction
Some of the disadvantages will be familiar too. While 49% of respondents reported an increase in collaboration with colleagues, many felt that the interaction and connection that make JUMO’s culture so dynamic was suffering. Having an open office offers the opportunity for chance interaction that’s unavailable in a remote only environment. Likewise, when it comes to distraction, it’s not universally true that remote working means increased focus. With many of our team needing to support families, or simply not having enough space to allow for multiple family members to work, play, eat and talk in close proximity, the concentrated time at home can be wonderful, but chaotic. As the mother of two tiny children, I can certainly relate to this!
This led us to begin thinking about how to seize the opportunity in the change process. What could we do to take advantage of our new environment and way of working? How could we be better?
Remote work and remote play
Organisations are designed to be intentional about the way work is done and our conversations at JUMO have centred around adapting our work practices to increase efficiency while allowing for more flexibility in working times, for example.
If you can increase productivity and satisfaction by strengthening asynchronous work practices, why not do it?
By being deliberate about creating and encouraging space for each other to disconnect for focused thinking, we have become more effective in our planning and strategic work.
But what about play? We’ve started looking at how a blended approach between physical and digital environments can help us connect and work in a healthier way and be as intentional about play as we are about work. We’ve redesigned our Cape Town office with a new layout to create silent areas, areas for open discussion and positioning teams that would not normally interact in their day-to-day work adjacent to each other. We are also realistic: a lot of the social “glue” that causes JUMOnauts to form lifelong friendships comes about over a glass (or two) of wine. So we have established a committee to create leisure and social activities that can be done independently, online in breakout rooms, or dovetailed with onsite meetings. Our wellness initiative (‘Breathe’) promotes self-care themes like meditation or how to create personal boundaries.
During unprecedented times like these, we’re learning that an adaptive and responsive approach is the right one, and that a combination of both WFH and designated strategy and social time in the office seems to be what most people are looking for right now. Change is the only constant in life, and the world of work is no exception to this so as a leader you need to stay curious, ask questions, and be open to the reality that the old way of doing things may no longer be the best way.”