Home or Office? Then and Now

Posted on 24/05/2021, Giorgia Cavicchia

How the Year in a Pandemic Has Changed the Way We Work

A year of Covid-19 has upended countless aspects of our lives, not least work. Millions of people all over the world had to switch to working from home, rather abruptly in some cases, and who knows if or when we”ll ever go back to the ‘old’ normal.

Kiwi.com is no exception. The majority of employees made the shift to home office mode at the onset of the pandemic, and most of us are still working remotely to this day. But how has the long-term home office affected the way we work?

We discussed the changes in Kiwi.com working life with three employees from three different departments: Agnė Razanskaitė, Guarantee Specialist in Customer Support department; Vladimir Kuvshinov (Vik), Head of Mobile Products and Ancillaries Director; and Valeria Kocifajova, from the Facilities Team. Here are some of the insights and experiences they shared with us.

Kiwi.com teamwork Always Pays Off!

When Coronavirus first hit, teams from all departments had to adapt to the sudden change of pace. Communication, in particular, has changed a lot. As Agne explains, ‘the amount of communication is the same, but now it only happens online. We use Slack a lot to be in contact with each other if a case we’re dealing with is especially complicated’.

Those who were already working remotely were no less impacted by the new predicament. Vik is based in Reykjavik, Iceland, ‘We already used Zoom because of me, but now we’re all using Zoom on a regular basis. Also, we spend a little more time documenting things. You can’t just discuss stuff, you need a written record of it. The meeting minutes have become an essential requirement’.

How about colleagues who, due to the nature of their jobs, have to be in the office at different times? ‘My job as a receptionist is to be physically in the office, so it’s not possible for me to work from home’, answers Valeria. ‘During the first wave of the pandemic, when we all had to stay at home, it was really difficult at first. We couldn’t do any reception operations from home. When the measures eased and we could go to the office again, they recommended that there should always be only one of us at the reception. So now we’re all over the building!’ For her and her team, this also meant rethinking the distribution of the workload: ‘We set up more regular meetings to know who is working on what, and how we can help each other’.

In such difficult times, cooperation and mutual help have been crucial not only at team level, but also across departments. On multiple occasions agents have been asked to take on other tasks to help teams that were especially overloaded, such as our Customer Support. For Valeria ‘it was a unique opportunity to see what other teams are doing, and learn something new’. In Agne’s words, ‘It’s great to be able to transfer my skills to a different line of business. Colleagues from all departments have been so willing to help and share tips and advice. In times of quarantine, I think this feeling of openness was even stronger. It’s been really nice!’

All The People

Despite all the best efforts, since early 2020 face-to-face communication as we knew it has changed a lot. Human interaction is what we all miss the most. ‘I love working with people. I am a social type of person and I need to have people around me’, confirms Valeria. ‘Going back to the office after the first lockdown was great, but also a little sad because, home office was still recommended for everyone else, so the office was quite empty’. The social value of work in our lives is powerful, going to work is more than commuting to the office. ‘There’s a personal level to it. Some people really like to go to the office because they need to change the environment, they need in-person communication’, says Vik. ‘In Brno I had a room for myself where I could meet up with people. That’s why I visited the Brno office’.

Online interaction has partly kept alive team spirit and camaraderie. ‘During the lockdown, our Team Manager always made sure to have a daily huddle. We discussed work-related matters, obviously, but we also had time to chat and laugh about anything in general’, says Agne. ‘Those regular meetings helped a lot keep the human connection alive’. She makes a very good point when she adds, ‘As human beings, we’re great at adapting to our circumstances. At first, you put up a fight, but then you somehow adapt to it. The first month of the home office was very hard for me. I was so used to my routine of going to work. Now I’ve adjusted to the new state of things, and I try to combine office work and home office’.

We all agree that no online meetup can replace face-to-face communication. Agne misses ‘going for beers after work with my colleagues. Valeria is ‘looking forward to the next Kiwi party!’, and Vik misses ‘team buildings’, both for the colleagues and because strengthening connections within the team positively impacts the business. He notes ‘A lot of our work depends on communication, business decisions and, as a result, taking risks. So trust is essential, we need to trust each other and communicate efficiently. In order for that to happen, we need to spend some time together’.

To bring people together and foster our connections, Kiwi.com has been organising online events such as pub quizzes, karaoke nights and online team buildings. ‘It’s really important to keep Slack groups and Zoom meetings going as much as possible’, says Agne. ‘You don’t know what’s going on in people’s minds, especially now, when all you see is faces on a screen. If you’re an introvert, you might be okay working from home, but in the long run, everyone needs a human connection. So you need to try, even with things like online team buildings. Just try, because you’ll probably be happy that you attended it’.

This is Part One of a two-part conversation with fellow Kiwi.com employees on what has changed since the onset of the home office working mode. Stay tuned for Part Two!

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