I thought I knew what ‘hustling’ meant - until the pandemic hit my team with a sledgehammer in March last year! I was still new to managing them - still finding my feet and slowly building trust and relationships - but this was accelerated exponentially when thirty-three people - who had never all worked from home at the same time - and certainly weren’t all adequately set up to - suddenly had no choice. My word did we have no idea what was in store for us over the coming months! And you know what, we came through the other side having increased our productivity by roughly 5% overall - I couldn’t be prouder!
So where were we? Oh yes. Our team. We work remotely in the Philippines with our Australian colleagues, leveraging technology and data to make retailers more profitable. We’d been going six years without a hitch when the rug was pulled out from under us in March 2020. WFH was mandated and intercity travel bans brought in by our City Government - with little to no notice. Sharesource stepped up by providing everyone with pre-paid Wi-Fi kits. If and when they were available - supply couldn’t keep up with the initial gargantuan demand. Never had there been such an enormous and concurrent traffic load on all internet service providers. The short version is they couldn’t cope - at all well - initially anyway. Signal quality also varied significantly by area - and by the time of day. The urban area in and around our city wasn’t too bad - there was a choice of service providers at least. Not so for anyone living out of town - which at least ten of our team did. Sharesource’s mobile Wi-Fi kits thankfully allowed them to plug into anywhere with a good connection - so many of them found themselves moving from relatives to friends to neighbours in search of a decent enough internet speed and quality to allow them to get their work done - as well as they always had - and on time. Add to this the enormous demand on internet services during normal business hours - and getting anything done quickly or easily became an ordeal. This meant some finding themselves in front of their monitors at midnight - when the quality was better - and they could do what they needed to do with relative ease. By 8am, when everyone else logged on, they’d done everything they needed to during their ‘working day’. Did I mention how proud I am of our team’s ability to ‘make a plan’?!
As though there weren’t enough already, hardware (we all needed two monitors each) and IT equipment and support presented yet more challenges. Woe betide anyone who needed equipment replacing - or our IT guys’ assistance. The pandemic-related travel bans prevented anyone from moving in or out of the city - even for business purposes. What to do? Make a plan of course! Some borrowed equipment they needed from friends or family. Some used their own equipment. Some found people to provide IT assistance in the most remote of rural areas. Anything is possible when you believe it is.
These challenges morphed into a yo-yo as COVID restrictions were lifted - then reimplemented - things changed from day to day - never was there a more stark lesson in learning to live in the present! It was stressful, I won’t lie. As I said, I was still new to managing the team, orienting myself with them, implementing changes. They were relying on me - every day I was needing to think fast and find solutions to issue after issue. My Project Manager troubleshooting and risk assessment experience proved invaluable. The support (both emotionally - and financially for the team’s needs) I received from my Sharesource and Australian colleagues was nothing short of stupendous. Many people, including our CEO, checked up on me regularly. Everyone was genuinely concerned about our welfare - we felt cared for and listened to.
As for my team of Invoicing Specialists, I cannot sing their praises highly enough. They took everything in their stride, embracing the novel experience and not allowing it to affect their morale. They had fun moving their huddles online and sharing hobbies that they’d acquired during lockdown. Despite unprecedented curve ball after curve ball being thrown their way, they stepped up, pulled together, relied on each other, did everything they could to ensure the quality and speed of their work was not negatively impacted. As I mentioned, their productivity has actually risen since they’ve been working from home - kudos for their professionalism, the trust they’ve built and the network of Team Leaders and Assistant Manager I am so blessed to have.
Not only did we successfully manage to replace every team member that left during the course of the madness that was the pandemic last year, but we’ve also added a night shift, expanded our team to Vietnam and increased the number of stores we process invoices for every day! Oh - and did I mention that in October 2020 we processed our two millionth invoice since we began in 2014 - a morale-boosting milestone that was marked with significant cash prizes?! Growth during COVID - isn’t that just too cool for words?!
We’re through the hardest part. Internet service providers have upped their game. COVID restrictions have eased somewhat. Everyone’s settled into the ‘new normal’. However, we’ll never be the same again. I think one of the many blessings of the pandemic is that it has allowed us all to grow and deepen our connections and commitment to each other. I am so grateful and appreciative of my team’s fortitude. Sharesource and our client’s culture is nothing short of awesome - we know they’ve always got our back - no matter what.
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