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Lessons from lockdown: one year of remote working

Brahim Samhoud

On a Friday afternoon one year ago, we received the news that Spain was entering a tough lockdown and that every single employee would have to switch to remote working.

Over the course of that weekend, a small team worked tirelessly to deliver equipment to people’s homes all over Madrid, so that by the following Monday we had over 100 new BNZSA offices up and running! A huge thank you to that team for their dedication and support. They even delivered furniture for employees who didn't have a suitable place to work from.

It’s been an interesting journey for us, and I wanted to share some of the things that we encountered and what we’ve learned over the past 12 months. 

Remote working – the good news

I have to admit, I was a huge sceptic about remote working.

We’re one of the biggest local-language B2B call centres in EMEA – without the physical call centre, I couldn’t imagine what BNZSA would be. I was also worried that we would lose the culture and spirit of creative collaboration that have made BNZSA what it is today.

But I was wrong.

Our productivity has gone through the roof – we are delivering more and better for our clients. The evidence is clear: in Q1 of 2021, we’re on track to see our biggest ever quarter on quarter growth.

Being remote forced us to think again about our day-to-day communications and meetings, keeping up one-to-one relationships and building team responsibilities. Microsoft Teams is helping real-time responsiveness over chat, and long email chains have been replaced with 5-minute calls.

The lack of commute, fewer distractions and often more comfortable working environments has freed up headspace for people to be more creative and focused. People come to me most weeks with new ideas or interesting strategies in volumes I never saw before.

Remote working – the bad news

However, for all the benefits being in remote have created, we need to be mindful of the terrible circumstances that brought us here. It’s been a very tough 12 months for our people – many have had the virus themselves; others have lost loved ones. We have people in BNZSA from 30 different nationalities, many of whom have not been able to travel to see family and friends for a whole year.

I’m very conscious of the support network that we provide, and how important the social and cultural dynamic that we have created is to our employees. Some people simply prefer to work from the office and perform better in that environment.

Remote working is not for everyone, and it’s important to recognise that.

A blended approach

Here in Spain, it is permitted for employees to continue to work from an office if it is safe to do so. We’ve taken measures to ensure that those who choose to come in, can do so feeling confident that they are not putting themselves or others at risk.

We’ve rearranged the furniture so it’s suitably distanced and provided screens, made improvements to our ventilation system, and implemented temperature checks, full-time cleaning support and sanitation stations. We have a new booking system to manage capacity.

Right now, we have around 25% of our staff working from the office on a daily basis. We’ve had around 80 people join BNZSA in the past 12 months (read about our steep remote-onboarding learning curve here!), we’re rapidly approaching the position where half our employees won't even know how things were before. Whilst I really hope that we can get back to hosting our famous summer parties again soon, I'm proud of all we've achieved in the past year.

We’re already in our new normal. Thank you again to every single BNZSA employee who has made this possible.

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