2020 has been a tough year. The impact of COVID-19 has turned many industries upside down in unexpected ways.
However, one effect that has rippled across many types of businesses has been a transition to remote work. For some, developing an entirely remote work force has always been appealing, but also an intimidating decision to be made due to all of the complex logistical challenges involved in such a drastic change.
Particularly for more traditionally-structured organizations like credit unions and other financial institutions, the jump to a full adoption of remote work has always seemed too insurmountable to be practically implemented.
That all changed with COVID-19.
All of sudden, it became an entirely necessary transition in order to protect everyone’s safety.
While the transition wasn’t easy and despite all of the difficulties, we, at University Credit Union, were pleasantly surprised to find some unexpected benefits to transitioning to remote work this year.
Improved Company Culture
One of the enjoyable benefits of the transition to remote work has been evidence of positive upward movement in our company culture.
When a team goes through complicated transitions or extreme challenges together, such as what has been thrust upon the country with COVID-19, there is an improved sense of comradery and compassion among employees.
Almost paradoxically, despite the actual physical separation of staff, more time for team connection – facilitated through weekly meetings and video conferencing – has been consciously allocated. Increased regularity of meetings has created more time to connect with team members on a human level, instead of to solely focus on the task at hand.
A natural part of the transition to remote work was to establish new frameworks and protocols for team communication. In the absence of appearing at the office on a daily basis, it was necessary to make policy changes that ensured everyone was still able to report and find team support quickly and efficiently.
Smoother and more consistent communication across the team quickly proved itself as a very positive benefit that was a boon to our team’s effectiveness. We established new frameworks for daily check-ins and check-outs, which created the unexpected benefit of enabling every team member to start and end the day on the same page.
Further, technology allowed faster, easier and more efficient communication among staff throughout the day. Establishing new communication channels online helped ensure that nothing slipped through the cracks.
Studies have showed that employees who are given some flexibility in their work actually become more productive team members.
A boost to productivity was an unexpected benefit for the team and appears to be an inherent part of remote work culture. If someone on the team needs to get up from their desk for any personal reason at home, it doesn’t really have a negative impact on their productivity for the day.
Flexibility during the work day helps teams stay happier (despite everything else happening in their lives) and better communication helps ensure everything is completed on a daily basis. In a way, remote work forces teams to find a focus around common goals, which facilitates efficient coordination of tasks.
One of the greatest benefits of the transition to remote work was that it forced the team to find new ways of thinking about how to complete tasks, which in turn led to new ways of executing those tasks, both for individual staff members and the team as a whole.
In some ways, old habits have a way of persisting until there is a drastic reason to change. The rapid transformation of the work day from more traditional offices to the work-from-home format was a key element of breaking the habits in our workflows.
This, coupled with a team that had suddenly found a better work/life balance, led to significantly improved organizational processes and more streamlined workflows, which ultimately helped increase the overall efficiency of the team.
Was the Transition to Remote Work Worth it?
While at first the transition to remote work seemed like a daunting challenge, it was actually much faster and easier to implement than we anticipated. Although the transition certainly wasn’t seamless and there is always room for further improvement, the new working style appears to have strengthened the team through a greater alignment of initiatives and better support systems across the entire organization.
What seemed impossible in 2019 seems like the only sensible option for 2020, and the unexpected benefits of the transition have laid a very strong foundation upon which we can build our long-term goals.
David Tuyo President/CEO University Credit Union, Los Angeles