The year 2020 is turning out to be quite a ride! It’s hard to predict what the future holds, however, it seems like we’re out of the woods with the COVID-19 quarantine. Naturally, each of the Axios offices was guided by the situation and authorities’ recommendations in their respective countries when it comes to transitioning from working from home back to the office. Over the past few weeks, most of our employees at the headquarters in Cyprus have switched back to the office life. In this interview, we had a chat with the Group Head of HR Aliki Karmiotou about the experience of having the entire team working remotely, and what the future holds.
What has been Axios’ experience with the entire team working remotely during the pandemic?
Let’s be honest. I am reading all these articles presenting a wonderful life being at home all day, working and I’m wondering whether we did something wrong! Typically, this is not the normal way of working remotely, meaning that all the members of the family were at home, especially children. The traditional mode of working remotely is totally different from what we were faced with during the pandemic.
People are experiencing Zoom fatigue, as the in-person meetings and happy hours of yesterday have been replaced by a barrage of calendar invitations to join video calls. Parents are dealing with unprecedented stress and exhaustion .
What about the bright side?
Despite the fact that we didn’t have the time to plan for this scenario of remote work, everything went smoothly and we are very proud of that. We managed to set up a “work from home” environment for all employees in about 24 hours. Our IT Team has been incredible throughout this time, always ready to tackle challenges.
At the same time, we came up with innovative ways to ease employees’ discomfort and pain as they were trying to get used to the new way of working. We transported screens, chairs and technical equipment to everyone who needed a proper work station at home. This way, we wanted to make sure that everyone is comfortable and able to continue their work and routines from their respective homes.
How did you keep the team spirit going strong?
It’s easy to feel isolated at home, as you don’t casually run into colleagues in the kitchen or around the office or have the same team-like environment. To combat that, we used remote calls and meetings to keep the comradery going and to stay aligned with our business goals. It’s fun to see where and how people live, to interact with their children, or to get to know pets via video calls.
In the process, we created something like a journal and we sent motivational emails to help them be more proactive and feel better on a daily basis. The important thing for us was to keep our company informed, present the most updated facts, ask them what they need, and address their concerns head-on.
It was also important for us to keep their routines as much as possible or adopt new, adjusted ones. You would think that people enjoy working in the comfort of their own home, but in reality it’s an incredibly lonely experience for some people. Some people miss the personal interaction and the separation between work and life. For this reason, it’s important to show empathy, keep checking in with people, and try to look out for mood changes.
Our motto was that we can get through this together.
How did you personally experience this challenging period?
As the Head of HR, it is my responsibility to gather all relevant legal information and look at things from the employee perspective, but it is also my responsibility to look at things from the financial side. This involves a lot of administrative work, a lot of research, and, at the same time, the regular day-to-day tasks that need to be done.
I am also a people’s person and take great care that my work-life balance is always as positive as possible. In this respect, I check-in with the team regularly, lend an ear and help them tackle their own personal challenges, and generally ensure the spirits stay high.
How is the transition back to the office going?
We are always following government regulations, so we had to renovate the whole place to keep the proper distance and to abide by the rest of the regulations. I must admit, I saw happy faces and a huge relief in people’s faces that they are back to the offices despite the sterile freedom, despite the fact that they have to wear masks and keep distance from people that they are really connected to. But honestly our people are amazing and if anything, this experience has bonded the team even more.
Big tech companies (Twitter and Google, to name a few) announced that they will continue remote work in the foreseeable future. Where does Axios Holding stand on this?
Working from home or remotely, It doesn’t suit every person and doesn’t necessarily suit every job, but when it’s right for both, working from home works really well. So at the moment we are under discussion with top management, but it could definitely be an option that we would have never entertained in the past. Whatever the future holds, we will make sure to retain our productivity and inspiration throughout all our projects, as well as the team spirit. To sum up, we’ll always find the way to show the world that #weareaxios.