Staying Engaged During Lockdown: Lessons from Pyxle’s Work From Home Transition

Until the dawn of 2020, our understanding of global disasters and pandemics was limited to blockbuster films and science fiction novels. They seemed unrealistic concepts, far from our neighbourhoods and doorsteps. This is no longer the case. The advent of the Covid-19 crisis awakened the world to an entirely new reality— one where films come true. This meant an unprepared world struggled to find new ways and means to survive the pandemic.

Today marks four months since the Pyxle team started working from home. As we face a dynamic and uncertain future, I want to share a few experiences from our own transition that may help other teams.

Companies of all sizes and even entire industries have had to quickly adjust to the pandemic to remain productive and stay afloat. Irrespective of the industry, what almost all companies needed to look at was their existing resilience to make the best out of this difficult and dynamic situation. At a time when many workers were confined to their homes during lockdowns, a key challenge was ensuring workforce productivity in a new working context. In essence how could an organization ensure that their team continues to work productively from home?

Pyxle was no exception to this. The difference was that, as an IT firm, Pyxle already had the necessary policies and practices in place to enable employees to work from home (WFH), though it was not practised on a regular basis. Our WFH plan was in place to address the needs of employees and to support the early morning or late night working shifts required on certain projects. So, when this unexpected pandemic hit and our staff were required to work from home, it was a bit overwhelming to grasp and put into operation all at once. Having a policy in place doesn’t automatically ensure that all employees could accommodate an overnight change as to how day-to-day tasks are carried out.

In late February and early March, as the epidemic went global and became a pandemic, we began to experience a serious impact on our own business and that of our local and international customers. As a result, we implemented our Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and activated an Incident Response Team (IRT) to take charge in the event of a worst-case-scenario. These steps gave us the firm footing that was needed to seamlessly continue operations and customer engagements while working from home, especially when the strict lockdown started in Colombo and the rest of the country.

Like most companies, the first two weeks of this new working medium were the most challenging for both employees and management, as it was a new experience for everyone to be working remotely. There is a huge difference between a couple of people working from home versus the entire company doing so. However, we proactively led the team and ensured regular communication company-wide, allowing us to overcome the immediate challenges and barriers in no time, while being able to provide uninterrupted service to our customers all the time.

This wouldn’t have been possible if not for the dedication of our Human Resources (HR) team who played an important role in the working transition. Having gone through this complex transition ourselves, we would like to offer our insights and recommendations for other teams intending to implement a similar operational change.

From an HR standpoint, the following initiatives kept our employees’ energy levels high and their momentum going:

Rule #1: Engage, engage, and engage some more!

Though Pyxle has always fostered a work culture with high employee engagement, we have made sure it is even stronger while most of our staff continues to work from home.

  • Contact your employees regularly to check on their safety and wellbeing.  
  • Make sure teams have daily calls between them to bring everyone together and stay on the same page while working on a project.
  • Host regular engagement events virtually. We leveraged Microsoft Teams to convert our in-person meetings to virtual meetings, including our monthly Town Hall, occasional Tech Talks, Toastmaster sessions and other engagement activities such as talk shows and games (charades, virtual scavenger hunts and quizzes). Our annual Avurudu (New Year) celebrations in April became a virtual event– one of the first such events held by a local IT company – and had a huge positive impact on the staff.

Rule #2: Inform, update, and inform.

  • We clearly identified and communicated via official platforms for communication, such as Microsoft Teams, phone, and email.
  • We send regular emails to our employees, updating everyone at the monthly all-hands Town Hall regarding the company’s way forward.

That’s what has worked for us.

We wish you well as you evolve the working model for your organization and reiterate the importance of staying engaged with all your stakeholders, using a variety of free and low-cost technology to help smoothen the transition.

Some analysts and pundits claim that the pandemic has presented the business world with a more efficient way of working— and one that may need to be in place for a long time yet. This means more and more companies around the world need to implement a home working system for their employees in order to stay afloat and continue to operate productively in this new post-pandemic world. 

It is said that “If necessity is the Mother of Invention, then adversity must surely be the Father of Re-invention”. These unprecedented times have certainly proved so to us.