The world somersaulted around us in mid-March, and just like that we found ourselves in an unprecedented situation. There was no playbook, no one-size-fits-all strategy, and every leadership decision had gained an exceptional weight.
A couple of months into this new world order, we thought it’s time for that ‘lessons learned’ talk while the whole experience is still fresh. So, at the end of May we sat down with ALLWIN CEO, István Nagy — via Microsoft Teams, obviously — to take a closer look into the past few months and ask him about the challenges he faced as a leader & how he tackled them.
How familiar were you with remote working before the quarantine? Have you regularly worked from home or away from the office before?
Yes, I’ve worked from home before occasionally, depending on my schedule, so this wasn’t something new for me. As a company, we seek to be flexible when it comes to remote working.
Let's talk about the steps you took before having the company go fully remote. As a leader, what sources of information do you rely on to make decisions and how do you communicate them to the team?
We’ve been closely following the news coming from Europe, as well as the developments in Hungary after the virus first appeared here. As the first cases emerged, our management team started to prepare and talk about the necessary steps and their timing. As always, communication is an ongoing process: we informed our colleagues in emails, and we held all-staff meetings to discuss everything - which we still do every month.
How would you describe the transition?
Luckily, everything is digital within the IT sector, so there was no challenge in technical terms.
The company basically switched to remote working from Friday to Monday. Apart from some minor access difficulties there were no major issues. After several months, it seems that our productivity has not been negatively impacted by remote working. There was no need for redundancies, and we did not have to reduce salaries or working hours.
People say that going remote can only work well if companies have already integrated this form of work into their company culture. What's your take on this?
Flexibility is a core value at ALLWIN, and it goes both ways. Fortunately, most of our colleagues are able to work independently and we trust them fully. Many of them have already been working from home, and this has never been an issue for us.
What are the biggest challenges of having to manage the organisation from home?
Even though our transition to remote working was quick and seamless, and the situation has not impacted our performance, we still faced a few difficulties. For example, taking part in virtual meetings is way more exhausting than meeting in person. You don’t even notice that half a day has gone by without you ever leaving your screen. And we really miss face to face interactions, when we could just bump into each other in the corridor and chat for a few minutes. We have probably missed out on a lot of conversations that would have happened while having coffee. Informal meetings like that usually have a positive impact on work as well, resulting in new ideas and perspectives.
Our reactions to this situation vary: some of us take it very seriously, while others shrug it off. How can you manage this as a company leader?
We are proud to have a diverse group of people working for us, each of them with a unique personality and background. Naturally, for some this was more difficult than it was for others. As leaders, we must support our employees in such situations. Our team leaders are available to help anyone, and our team members form a close-knit group.
We have not ignored our community programmes either, as they might be even more important in such an isolated situation as this. There were differences, of course, but fortunately these have not caused any conflict. Just as remote working had not been banned before, it is not forbidden to come to the office now, even though it is not recommended. When the management made its decision, we had to consider how we could take responsibility for our staff and society as a whole in this delicate situation while also protecting the interests of the company.
Do you already have plans to return? How long are you going to continue with remote working?
There is no specific date yet. We will certainly continue with remote working until the end of June. However, we've been reassessing the situation on a weekly basis, and it seems like we're going to slowly reopen the office throughout the summer.
Do you think that these few months of mandatory remote working have changed (or will change) the way you work in the long run? How do you see ALLWIN’s operation in the autumn or a year from now?
Based on the experiences gained in the last couple of months, we don’t think there is a need to change the way we organise work. However, the need for working from home will probably increase. All in all, this has been a good trial period, and it turned out that we were able to organize and use remote working in a seamless way.
The changing circumstances have not only affected you as a company leader but also as a private individual. How do you manage to maintain a work-life balance? How do you cope with isolation from friends and family?
With two young children in the family it is not easy to maintain a work-life balance. There have been some unexpected situations. Introducing a daily schedule was a huge help in making sure that everyone has time for everyone. During the lockdown, we could not meet our friends in person, but we tried to keep in touch in other ways. For us, practicing sports was the main form of relaxation, and this is something we can do together with the kids.