#WFH - Working from Home
When I started my business, a lot of people told me that having my team work from home might be an option to consider, given that it would give me more variety of competent team members, and an opportunity to pay cheaper salaries. But I always believed that my team needs to be around me, in a physical space, and it is only the physical space where I can create culture and build a strong, lasting relationship with my team members.
Being constantly fixated on the physical presence of my company and its workers, I had given away a lot of chances with employees who couldn’t be present full-time or who were located in areas outside Lahore. I was simply of the opinion that I couldn’t work from home. We are EdTech company, a lot of creativity is needed. I thought, my attention would be diverted and the same would apply to my team.
Then COVID-19 happened and changed all my perspectives bringing about a paradigm shift. Before, my family would complain that I wouldn’t spend any time at home due to my busy schedule. My work-life balance was out of proportion, I would sleep only 3-4 hours every day, barely met with people outside the professional sphere and the worst part is that this was a lifestyle I believed to be the optimal for an entrepreneur.
Once the coronavirus hit Pakistan with full force, what happened was that I was forced to sit at home, deal with my team through my ‘Zoom Office’ and my platform. Communications shifted from physical meetings to management that takes place with my team at home through the EDTechWorx platform and daily WhatsApp memos. What I realised within a month, was that this is the way to move forward, with 5 major outcomes that made this a success.
- I realised that working from home made it easier to identify which team members worked and which didn’t because everything was now documented and time bound. You had a document and memo of every single thing, tracking productivity at every step of the way. Essentially there was a rule of 50/50, where you had some team members with a productivity of 150% and others who were less productive, working at 50%. Pre-COVID, one could track the presence of team members in the office space but as soon as working from home (WFH) started, it was all about if you had performed the tasks given to you or not, making it more task orientated.
- My own work-life balance, though very similar to what it was before, has changed in the sense that my family expresses a lot more empathy about my work and working hours than before. This stems from the fact that they can now see the work I do and the time I put into making it possible. Not only that, it is now even easier to connect and spend time with my family, my daughter and make them a part of my activities as well, something that wasn’t possible while I was away at the office everyday.
- Working from home has made me a lot more liberated than before. If, during my work hours, I need to take a nap or grab something to eat it’s a lot easier than it was at an office, keeping in mind that all the while I can still communicate with my team members through Zoom and WhatsApp. Within my own comfort zone, I am thriving.
- One of the best outcomes of working from home was that it gave opportunities to people who were not in Lahore to work with us. For example, for our iSchool project, the individual leading the initiative is someone that we’ve never physically met and was hired through our Zoom office. Shajia Shaoib, our Sr. Growth Product Manager - iSchool developed the whole vertical while operating from Bahawalpur. This gave us the confidence that actually you don’t even need to be at the same place physically with people, if you can find good team members from all over the country, even the world. Perhaps it is what we need, the opportunity for those who are in smaller cities, to develop a vibrant education eco-system in Pakistan.
- The myth about a physical space and environment being necessary for team building was also broken. All through working from home, my team and I managed to build a good culture where people are friendly, working in groups together, meeting deadlines. Our experience over the last four months of working from home have shown us that perhaps this is the real way of working.
Since our company started working from home, we have hired a total of 15 new team members and have become so comfortable with people regardless of physical barriers that it’s made me realise that physicality isn’t even as important as I once thought it was.
Another interesting thing that I noted was that once you are on a screen, you are a lot more focused and motivated to work. Online spaces make people a lot more comfortable, making it easier for them to become more productive as opposed to work environments where many may feel out of place.
Last month, I once had to visit a co-working space for a meeting and became very uncomfortable there because of the sudden stark shift in environments. It aptly shows that the future of work and productivity can now happen in the non-physical space, and might even be preferred over an office.
As I am writing this, I am proud to say that EDTechWorx has made the strategic decision to give the option to its team members to continue working from home in the coming months even after COVID-19 with occasional meetings here and there for an intimate connection.
I am cent percent sure, the working from home strategy will help us in reaching out to the hidden talent from across Pakistan, which will be a catalyst to bring a radical change in the stagnant education sector of the country.
Farrah Arif, PhD (Cambridge); Commonwealth Scholar
Founder & CEO, EDTechWorx
Entrepreneur in Residence, Suleman Dawood School of Business (SDSB)
Lahore University of Management Studies (LUMS), Pakistan