The following article is an interview conducted with Patsy Li, Executive Director of Korea and Global Community Director.
As we settle into the new year and global optimism rises, the hopes of a steadier economic environment and of a return to normality due to the vaccines have become more common. Today, many businesses are reassessing their corporate real estate needs and the best practices to manage their human resources for a new work culture that is embracing the benefits of flexible work arrangements. We spoke to The Executive Centre Korea’s Executive Director and Global Community Director, Patsy Li, about her experience and learnings in navigating her team successfully through the ongoing pandemic to equip businesses and human resources better for a post-pandemic workplace and culture.
What are some of the challenges you faced in navigating your team and TEC’s Global Community during the pandemic?
As the leading premium flexible workspace provider in the Asia Pacific, we are in the business of providing our Members with functional workspaces optimized for productivity. With that in mind, we certainly faced operational, logistical, and human resource challenges that required thoughtful contemplation and rapid reactivity to resolve.
For example, one of the challenges we faced was keeping our Centres open for members working from home; moreover, should we keep our Centres open? Fortunately, at TEC, we have a Members-First philosophy ingrained at the heart of everything we do. That means that we always think from the perspective of business leaders, professional entrepreneurs, and Member companies. It’s how we developed our premium flexible workspace services, amenities, and products. And through close communication with our Members, we discovered that having our workspaces open for them to return to was vital. Even if our Members didn’t use the space, they at least had the choice, administrative support, and the peace of mind that they could access a professional workspace that’s an alternative to their make-shift home office.
This insight led us to the second major challenge: how to operate safely and securely whilst complying with local directives; moreover, how do we keep our team safe? For this, we realized early on that we needed to communicate with our teams and extend an open line of communication to ensure our teams felt supported no matter where they were working from. We reviewed our HR policies to account for and balance workforce well-being and mental health and made sure our team prioritized their health and those around them by practising due diligence and personal accountability.
In many ways, I would say communication and mentoring rather than management was the single most impactful element for my team. I do believe that it was through frequent casual, informal conversation with my team and encouragement to prioritize their personal health that we fostered a culture of self-accountability. This then extended to greater engagement with Members and attention to sanitation and health practices. The result of this was that our Engagement Associates were more prepared and ready to provide support and empathy for our Members in-center, on telephone calls, and even through email communication. It’s through leadership, mentoring, and open lines of communication that I’ve managed to navigate my team these times of uncertainty. After all, policies and management can only go so far as to facilitate cultural changes to established working practices.
Can you share examples of operational changes that were implemented?
To remain open, we were always paying attention to the latest local directives and staying flexible to adjust our capacity and in-center arrangements accordingly. First, we had our team briefed and prepared to work flexible working hours to avoid peak commuting periods. Then we ensure they were equipped with the technological support they needed to do the digital and virtual aspects of their work that they could do from home. These included the remote-support services that we offer our Virtual Office Members, which we extended to our Coworking and Serviced Office Members such as mail handling, IT support, webinar arrangements, courier delivery, call handling, and other logistical and administrative tasks.
Another operational change evolved by social distancing restrictions was the launch of our Global Webinar Series and subsequent Webinar Library that offered an alternative to in-center offline events. Through the webinar platform, we were able to transition our regular event programming online and provide our Members experiencing quarantine and prolonged work-from-home with opportunities to connect and network with each other personally. Our webinar topics offered Members a platform to receive industry insights on current hot topics like the future of work directly from business leaders to develop their professional skills through online workshops. In addition, we launched our MyTEC mobile app to provide even more on the go access and accessibility to their workspace resources such as Member Benefits, Meeting Room bookings, Coworking space bookings, and more.
What human resource or operational practices do you foresee being continued in a post-pandemic environment?
We conducted a survey with our Members in the last quarter of 2020 regarding their business sentiments for the future, and one of the questions we asked directly addressed this topic. We found that favorable practices to continue being implemented tended to benefit the wider community sharing a communal space such as higher frequency of cleaning, socially distanced floorplans, and mandatory temperature checking. Unfavorable practices were ones that imposed upon personal space or limited personal interactions such as mandatory indoor facemasks, shielded workstations, and health declaration forms that were time-consuming and collecting personal information. You can discover the full free report here.
Beyond these practical operational practices, I think one of the critical human resource and leadership trends moving forward will be implementing and encouraging a more agile workforce that communicates openly. In the near future, human resources and leaders will be developing policies that allow more permanent flexible working to give employees more choice to work from home, at the office, or an alternative third space like The Executive Centre. While the future of work is about being flexible to react to whatever situation may come, I think on a cultural level, the future of work will empower employees to succeed wherever they are and allow them to work from anywhere.
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