Can a Company Be Transparent If It Doesn’t Offer Remote Working?

Not any longer says Maria Fedorova, COO, Exness Group, as she discusses the company's rapid transformation.

The Exness Group is one of the tech and finance companies which have embraced the changes thrown up by COVID-19 and transformed its entire working model.

As recently reported by Forbes; Google, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley and the likes of Salesforce and PayPal adapted by extending their already established work from home model.

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In the case of Exness, which was almost entirely office based until this year, we implemented a huge range of measures and made significant investment in creating a work from home model that would not only support our people and guarantee uninterrupted performance during the crisis, but which would be robust enough over the long term for it to become quite simply, our way of working.

Having worked hard to find the right solutions, more or less overnight, our existing employees as well as new joiners can now choose to be office based, stay at home or pick a hybrid of both.

We believe this will be one of the most sought-after employee benefits which applicants will look for in future and will speak volumes about a company’s commitment to transparency.

An organisation which forces its employees to work behind office walls from 9-6, will have a harder time convincing discerning job seekers that it has an open and honest culture. Things have changed fast and we have taken this sea change seriously.

Quality hiring and remote onboarding

To offer some insight into what Exness’ rapid transformation has entailed, our offices are located in Cyprus and Asia with more than 600 people distributed between these two locations.

Each country has its own characteristics, infunctions and cultures – we have 48 nationalities working with us. We succeeded in transferring 100% of our people to their personal remote locations for three months and even continued to hire, with around 50 newcomers appointed over the lockdown period.

I don’t mind admitting that we saw recruiting and onboarding people remotely at a time when others postponed hiring as an opportunity to appoint top quality talent, but of course this was only possible because we already had in place a flexible working model.

It’s a testament to the quality of our processes and people that our internal performance didn’t suffer, nor did our service to clients.

The work from home model has become somewhat a necessity the past few months, but it will remain to be seen how many businesses revert to the more traditional setting once the pandemic is over.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter has been quoted as saying his employees can work from home ‘forever’, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg echoed the same.

It’s interesting that Apple, known for its secrecy, isn’t quite as evangelical about it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many workers have discovered that being at home has brought productivity and work life balance together in a way that suits both parties. I have definitely seen the evidence of this personally.

Being ethical begins at home

Exness has always operated in a highly ethical manner and that begins with the way we treat our employees, because generally speaking if our relocated people are going to be happy then their families need to be too. During calls over lockdown, life at home became much more visible and yes, audible.

Some of our employees complained that it was impossible to concentrate on tasks while being in an apartment. The lockdown brought families a lot of stress so to try and support them in this we provided food delivery services to people’s homes, and games and activities for kids, as well as IT equipment and furniture to ensure everyone could work comfortably. It sounds simple saying that now, but it was quite challenging logistically.

The transfer of employees to remote work was also intertwined with restrictions in the regions where we have a presence, as well as the dynamics of exiting the self-isolation situation.

It was only at the end of May when restrictions in both Cyprus and Asia began to be lifted gradually, so it was important that we acted ethically through continual discussions at government and state level.

It was also during these conversations we were able to begin donating medical equipment to hospitals and laboratories to fight the spread of the pandemic.

I don’t need to tell you that transferring 600 plus people to work from home isn’t just an announcement saying  “Don’t come to work tomorrow”.

In reality, it requires at least 2-3 weeks of preparation, vast amounts of information, tough leadership at CEO level and confidence that this is the best option.

And it’s no wonder that a Business Continuity Plan is a must for every company. When there is no time to think, having processes and procedures saves days, if not weeks. And who ever thought an inventory of equipment and furniture could be so valuable!

Rules, Procedures, and Policies

Up until recently, we gave people licence to be professional and use their own judgement to decide when to answer calls, respond to messages or for things like taking a morning off. But our new way of working does mean new ground rules need to be in place.

The ‘act in good conscience’ rule is no longer enough when you have 600 people spread across countries, homes and / or offices.

We created several stream projects where we began to work out and prescribe policies for blocks: remote IT support, disciplinary policy, hiring and onboarding employees remotely, labor protection when working from home and communication processes. As a result, in almost two months we were able to prepare an efficient infrastructure.

Communication

Communication! We all know how important it is but even for us it was a challenge to make sure we had no gaps and we were engaging with people on the right channels in the best way.

A town hall from our CEO and regular feedback sessions were just some of the ways we ensured people were informed but also that the leadership knew of the problems employees were facing. And we’re not done yet, we continue to work on finding the best processes for distant communication.

Converting offices into coworking spaces and immediately introducing a hot desks policy has been a rewarding and creative exercise.

Our working environment, just like those other fintech companies, has pivoted in a short space of time, so forming new habits as a more flexible organization is an ongoing process.

We’re already excited about the direction we have taken in terms of scaling our business and creating an environment that is more transparent and fit for 2021 and beyond.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is sponsored and does not represent the opinions of Finance Magnates. 

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