Making 'The World's Largest Work-From-Home Experiment' Work

Dear Team,

The past 3 weeks have been very interesting. You may have expected me to say they’ve been concerning due to the uncertainty around COVID-19 and all the consequences this may have on Native Union. But I think interesting is the better word here.

This Coronavirus has triggered what media are calling “the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment” and being based in Hong Kong, we were not exempt from that.

While I had hopes that the disruption would be minimal, I knew there would be some difficulty in people continuing their roles efficiently. Industrial designers requiring powerful desktop computers, the creative team needing the office studio for shoots, or even just those needing to send parcels, to name a few.

But just like a strong organism adjusts and adapts in uncertainty to survive, I’m proud to say that Native Union has embraced this challenge as an opportunity and adapted beyond expectations.

Those who needed their desktops moved them into their homes, those who had photoshoots collaborated remotely on storyboards and were able to come in for just a few hours, and there were always at least 1 or 2 people in the office to help coordinate shipments for other colleagues. What has been a real pleasure to observe is that most of this was self-organized naturally by you guys, without strict corporate guidelines.

It’s observations like this one that have led me to believe that in circumstances like this, the most important parameter is trust.

I have given you my trust and you all have reacted by adapting to the situation in a very mature manner, giving Native Union the extremely valuable strength that it can survive unexpected events – something that very few businesses can claim. I can proudly tell you that our operations have been working flawlessly, and that there are no major business disruptions to report.

While there are tasks and meetings that can’t yet be done remotely, this unexpected experiment of offering more flexibility in your working lifestyles and a stronger sense of responsibility, worked.

That is both reassuring (for the business) and fulfilling (for me).

The flexible working policy (FLEXTIME Policy) that we’re working to set up in partnership with FLYDESK (a tremendous partner in this initiative) was already something I was very sensitive to, before the Coronavirus situation.

It’s still a highly controversial subject, and I know many company leaders don’t believe in it at all. They assume their employees will take advantage of the situation, or will not be responsible enough to maintain their job duties efficiently…they probably simply don’t trust them. But if you can’t trust your employees, why have you even invited them to join your company?

The world is changing, fast, and due to fiercer global competition, companies are asking employees to be more proactive and more efficient. But the structures in which they are conducting their work have not evolved at all.

During the past 3 weeks of working from home, did some of you go for a jog during the day, take a break to catch up on chores, or even spend an hour with your kids? Probably. Do I have a problem with that? Absolutely not. I trust that you’ve been shifting your working hours to optimize your efficiency for the day.

This experiment wasn’t about giving you more freedom; it was about giving you more responsibility. And it materialized by giving you both trust and more freedom in your working lifestyle.

Based on the success we’ve seen from the past weeks, I’m certain that we need to move our flexible working policy to the next stage, with the goal of measuring performance based on individual objectives rather than working hours.

This will certainly be more difficult to set and implement than a blanket ‘working-hour’ policy, but is how I’d like to structure Native Union to be ready for the future.

Modern companies have no choice than for each employee to keep adding substantial value to the organization. For that, employees need to feel liberated, trusted, and empowered to innovate in their daily work, bringing continuous improvement and reinventing their roles.

To me, these are the companies that will win the next 20 years – this is the future of work in the modern age.

Igor Duc
Co-Founder & CEO

Back to JOURNAL