Remote work and COVID-19: How Poland managed
Most European companies have found themselves having to implement remote working due to the coronavirus. Marzena Wlosak, our Country Manager for Poland, tells us how Poland has managed.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing, companies all over Europe are using remote working as a way of reducing the risk of infection. For many countries across the continent, this is just furthering steps that have already been taken, but in others, working a nine-to-five job out of an office was still the standard when the pandemic hit.
Poland is one of those countries. Although we have around 16 million people in employment, by the end of 2019 only 4.6 per cent of those regularly worked from home. In my role leading the Poland branch of Allen Recruitment Consulting, I have seen many companies in the country having to make quite a sudden change from office to remote working.
Part of that is due to the unique challenges of business in Poland. Our health and safety laws, for example, require employers to make sure remote workers’ equipment considers “the principles of ergonomics”, which can be an extra challenge. Also, a lot of the companies in our country are from industries that require office-based working, for a variety of reasons.
The sudden need for remote working has been a challenge for many companies, and a lot of common processes are having to be completely rethought. How do you onboard someone who works remotely? What about providing them with equipment, or signing contracts, or training and development? These are all important aspects of running a business that now have to change.
At Allen Recruitment Consulting, we use a lot of different tools to manage remote working. However, there are plenty of other articles recommending these, and ultimately the ones you choose will depend on what’s right for you and your company. However, I can share some insight into how we deal with some of the complicated issues that remote working can lead to.
Our approach to remote work
While we have an office in Krakow, our company was founded in Ireland. We also have offices in London and Amsterdam, and as an international business, remote working is very much part of our culture. We manage to maintain this, and still achieve success, thanks to a few key principles:
This might seem simple, but we’ve found it’s essential to building a company culture and a sense of unity when our staff are split across Europe. Remote working can lead to employees feeling very isolated, which makes everything else about managing them more difficult. We hold regular virtual catch-ups, for example, sometimes involving entertainment such as comedians and virtual concerts.
At home, there are so many distractions, and productivity can be low for other reasons such as poor time management. With many people in Poland being paid by the hour, how can companies be sure they’re getting 100 percent out of their employees? We find the key is trust. Micromanagement just adds more stress, and stress only makes people less productive. And we’ve developed that trust through our company culture, putting our people and our sense of community first.
In our view, the precise structure of our employees’ days isn’t important, as long as their work is completed on time and with the quality that’s expected of them. It’s up to them to find the methods of working from home that work best for them. If they work best in the evening, or before breakfast, that’s okay. Rather than micromanaging, we focus on results.
Focusing on results means we need a good overview of how our business is working, and technology helps us achieve that. For example, we use InsightSquared to give us an overview of all the candidates we’re placing, and track them through their journey. It lets us see the results of our hard work in real time, so we can quickly react to any issues if they arrive.
Then there’s automation, something our business is built on. We have automated contacting candidates, which lets our recruiters focus on our clients and their needs and in turn allows us to easily work remotely. We try to apply this to other areas of the business as well, automating things like appointment scheduling using Calendly, which is a great help when staff are split across time zones.
We’re more than happy to share our remote working expertise with the companies we work with. We recruit for businesses across Europe and we don’t want hirers to miss out on the best candidates just because they are located in different regions, so we’ve helped clients with virtual onboarding and starting out with remote work.
Poland: The bigger picture
Coronavirus and the lockdown have definitely been disrupting. However, Poland has certainly tried to make changes quickly. Around 95 percent of people were able to move to remote working within the first week of the lockdown, which in theory puts Polish businesses in a great position to take advantage of outsourced work from other countries that haven’t been able to adapt to the pandemic as quickly. However, many companies have struggled with the practicalities of this.
Some firms have been prepared for this. Language service provider Diuna, for example, found the transition relatively easy because the systems it used were already cloud-based, which facilitated remote work. However, many have not had the systems in place for aspects of business such as remote onboarding or managing a decentralised workforce.
In many ways, a lack of preparation has been the biggest challenge for Poland. However, with the lockdown making remote work essential, many businesses will have put measures in place – such as cloud-based systems or remote training – that will last them in the long term and make home working more of a norm.
The future of remote working
So what will happen once the coronavirus pandemic is over? We don’t know when that will be, but at some point offices will be opening again and remote work won’t be essential any more. When that happens, will Poland go back to how it was before COVID-19, with less than five percent of people working from home?
I think we will definitely have much more of a remote working culture after the pandemic is over. There are so many benefits to it, and companies will not want to give them up easily. Primarily, remote working makes businesses flexible and stable, able to expand or reduce their staff numbers quickly and easily.
I believe many businesses in Poland did not utilise regular remote working due to worries about how it would work. Now they have been forced to address those issues, the practice will become much more common long after the pandemic ends.