Prior to COVID-19 quickly shutting down most of the world, many businesses hadn’t even considered operating remotely.

Those that couldn’t adapt quickly were soon gasping for air. Many never recovered at all. One of the biggest contributors to this was co-workers’ inability to communicate and share knowledge among themselves.

At Elium, we know how crucial effective knowledge sharing is. We make it inherently simple to share trusted, sensitive, and critical information – and that can make the difference between staying afloat and sinking during times of crisis.

This is Elium’s story.

Strong communication right from the start

When the pandemic hit, Elium was already well equipped with all the right tools to get tasks done. Not to mention, we had a well-defined, strong working culture firmly in place. 

As a company that builds knowledge management solutions, we’re used to communicating asynchronously. We shoot quick questions across Slack, while more-in depth discussions happen on our own Elium knowledge sharing platform. 

But even we were surprised at what we saw over the course of 2020. 

A big shift 

Looking back on the year that was, we’ve noticed a change in how our communication tools are used. Since March 2020, there’s been an impressive upswing in the number of posts on both Elium and Slack.

The number of posts on Elium in 2020 shot up from about 20 per month in February to a staggering 125 in June.

Compared to the period pre-COVID, we now send three times as many messages via Slack.

Comparing both charts, you can assume that pre-COVID, many discussions and decisions were made offline. But when the pandemic hit, people had no other choice but to start communicating almost exclusively via messaging platforms. 

A challenge to our culture

Our culture at Elium is all about kindness, friendliness, sharing, and transparency. One of our biggest fears was losing that culture as people began working from home.

The implication of the remote working environment means that co-workers only ever have transactional communication – discussing only what’s relevant to the task at hand.

While this absolutely leads to a boost in efficiency, it can also have dire consequences.

The reality of the coronavirus pandemic quickly became apparent: This crisis wasn’t going away any time soon. In the absence of ‘meaningless’ watercooler conversations, remote workers were at risk of extreme loneliness. 

Why? As it turns out, those quick, random conversations at work are actually anything but meaningless: They’re the glue that connects people.

Preserving our connection

To compensate for this, we’ve taken a few initiatives. For example, our daily meetings start 10 minutes earlier. During that time, we can discuss anything and everything – except work.

Since introducing this small yet significant change, everyone is present with one another for those 10 minutes, virtually every day. It might not seem like much, but it makes a world of difference.

We also have a monthly ‘Elium’s Got Talent’ session. People share their hobbies and talents, many of which we had no idea about. It opens up a new channel of communication and helps build lasting relationships.

A change to our way of working 

A lack of contentment among workers usually stifles motivation. This is incredibly risky and ultimately harmful to the wellbeing of the company as a whole.

To combat this and increase engagement, we had a great system in place (before COVID, of course). We tested prototypes and features live with our coworkers. It went something like this:

  1. Sketch some wireframes.
  2. Get up from your desk, walk around in the office space, and spot someone taking a break in the kitchen.
  3. Ask them for five minutes of their time to evaluate the wireframes.

The spontaneity of this system was something we all enjoyed and benefitted from. 

Things are different now: We have to set up a meeting in people’s agenda. That means finding a slot, which immediately can be seen as an interruption or a distraction from ‘real work’.

Despite that, scheduling these sessions does allow coworkers to be brought into the product development stage earlier, making them feel more involved and empowered.

Keeping our forward momentum using Scrum

Just before lockdown hit, we started integrating Scrum, putting the whole company on the same sprint.

Each department would commit to a set of tasks every two weeks. The beginnings were shaky and a little messy, but in just a short while, we’d made great improvements.

We identified hidden dependencies between departments that could be resolved. It also showed how much work could get completed in that time period, making it easier for realistic mid-term planning.

And then Belgium’s lockdown hit. The government announced it at the end of one week for the following Monday.

While others scrambled to stay organised, we just kept working. Thanks to our switch to Scrum, it was business as usual. One of the few changes we had to make was that we began to hold our meetings on Zoom instead of face to face.

It’s not just about work

A few weeks into lockdown, it was evident that Elium wasn’t losing on productivity or its fundamental culture moving forward. Productivity actually skyrocketed because employees weren’t taking necessary breaks – productivity is important, but not at the expense of employee burnout.

With our values of sharing and caring in mind, our HR and communication officer Florence organised a quick survey and collected best practices and habits amongst Eliumers. She then created a Story on our own Elium platform to inspire everyone to better organise their days and above all, to keep everyone mentally and physically healthy in the long run.

The beauty of working remotely

Fundamentally, this experience has made us stronger and increased our confidence. It has also unlocked a future-forward vision.

Could this be the way of the future? Some tech companies have announced they’re not going back to their traditional office spaces ever again.

This begs the question: Could we do the same?

This pandemic has taught us that we at Elium can not only adapt well to a remote working situation, but we thrive in it. So, how do we make it work for us? One option is to go remote-first.

We envision a reconfiguration of our current office space. Team members would work from home, with the option of meeting with others in person, face-to-face, in creative rooms set up for them to share, connect, and collaborate whenever they need to.

Example of a creative room where people can brainstorm ideas

The transformative power of great knowledge sharing

If we’ve learned anything during this disruptive period,it’s that communication and engaged employees are even more important than before and allows companies to work as well as when they were not working remotely. 

With Elium, every member of your team is offered the opportunity to optimise work performance through essential information and shared knowledge. Don’t want to compromise on employee satisfaction or performance? With Elium, you don’t have to. 

Want to see how Elium can future-proof your communications? Start your free 14-day trial today. 

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