Dec 18, 2020

Jaggaer: the workplace environment before and after COVID-19

JAGGAER
Workplace
covid-19
Georgia Wilson
6 min
https://www.jaggaer.com/
Business Chief EMEA speaks to Jaggaer on the workplace environment before COVID-19 and how it has transformed since the outbreak...

Before the outbreak of COVID-19

What was the working environment like prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020?

It was what you would consider a pretty normal working environment before the outbreak. People came into the office and worked regular hours. Because we are a software company, supporting customers 24/7, some staff worked nights and weekends. Plus, there was a lot of travel for sales visits, onsite training and development etc. JAGGAER is a global company so there was also travel between HQ and our offices around the world, and between our offices in Europe and the Middle East. We employ a lot of people at our North Carolina HQ from different parts of the USA and around the world. Ironically, one of the people hardest hit by the change was our new Chief Human Resources Officer, Michele Hamill, who had just joined and relocated. She said, “When I took the job I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool, I’ll be meeting new people and living in a really vibrant area.’ But then, having relocated, and with everyone else at JAGGAER working at home, I felt totally alone. I got to the point where I couldn’t stand weekends!”

What were the core focuses for HR functions when it came to their workplace strategy?

We ran an employee survey on Covid-19, in which only 11 full-time employees out of close to 900 respondents said they wanted to return to the office on the same basis as before the pandemic. And only four of the 200 or so who work at our headquarters in Morrisville, NC. This started a dialog at JAGGAER around the recognition that our whole mindset about how we work and ”going to work” must inevitably change as a consequence of the pandemic. A good portion of respondents said they “never” wanted to work in the office, but the majority said they would be happy to return to the office occasionally. The main reason was not because they think they get more work done at the office, but because they miss their colleagues and feel isolated. The social interaction that we all feel is important for our health and well-being.

What were the top three emerging trends for the workplace environment prior to COVID-19?

  1. In the years prior to Covid-19, JAGGAER was undergoing a period of transformation and readjustment following a period of international merger & acquisition activity. This necessitated some reorganization, but the policy was to continue with existing workplace environments in the local offices.
  2. Remote working was already a trend before Covid-19, but the process has been accelerated.
  3. There was also increased emphasis on employee well-being, work-life balance and broader issues such as social purpose and sustainability. 

After the outbreak of COVID-19

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, how has the working environment changed as we enter into 2021 compared to 2020?

Almost entirely remote working. That is more of an option for JAGGAER than most organizations as we are a software company with SaaS as a model. A lot of our customers that had digitized elements of their procurement value chain were already working in a secure, paper-free, digital environment. For example, digital signature functionality meant they no longer had to come into the office to sign physical documents. Other customers have been able to push management for the swift adoption of such solutions.

We ran an employee survey on Covid-19, in which only 11 full-time employees out of close to 900 respondents said they wanted to return to the office on the same basis as before the pandemic. And only four of the 200 or so who work at our headquarters in Morrisville, NC. This started a dialog at JAGGAER around the recognition that our whole mindset about how we work and ”going to work” must inevitably change as a consequence of the pandemic. A good portion of respondents said they “never” wanted to work in the office, but the majority said they would be happy to return to the office occasionally. The main reason was not because they think they get more work done at the office, but because they miss their colleagues and feel isolated. The social interaction that we all feel is important for our health and well-being.

How have workplace strategies evolved since the outbreak of COVID-19? How have their focuses shifted?

Remote working affects different people in different ways. You cannot simply manage people in the same way as when they are in the office (whether in whole or in part). Working at home brings its own challenges. If you are working with demanding kids or pets at home, that adds a further layer of stress and distraction at an already difficult time. We needed to offer employees support and let them know it’s okay if your son or daughter is yanking on your leg during a conference call because it’s time for lunch. We needed to give a virtual hug to the young parent who cannot concentrate on work because their six-year-old daughter is in tears at not being able to visit friends or see her teacher’s smile. Alternatively, if you are single and live alone, loneliness can drive you up the wall. Or perhaps you are a younger worker living with your parents or an extended family, in which case it can become very claustrophobic.

Overall, the impact is easily measurable – access to our employee assistance program, which enables folks to reach out for third-party counselling, skyrocketed since lockdown. But our survey helped us to identify a very wide range of stressors and therefore no easy one-size-fits-all solution.

In terms of recruitment, JAGGAER actually increased its FTE headcount in the course of 2020, unrelated to Covid-19.

What are the top three trends that you see gaining traction in 2021?

  1. People talk about getting back to normal or returning to a “new normal” but there probably will not be any such thing as “normal”. We will see an agile mix of onsite and remote working, and probably more and more contingent workers such as contractors.
  2. The black lives matter movement and other impulses in 2020 will see further progress on workplace diversity. At JAGGAER, we have launched a human equity project to make our workplaces more inclusive for all types of people. This began with an initiative to remove all insensitive language from JAGGAER software code and documentation and will be followed through in 2021.
  3. A major positive among all the gloom through Covid-19 is that it has drawn us closer together as workplace communities. Online meetings mean we see our colleagues from around the world, not just the people with whom we share office space. At JAGGAER we have encouraged this trend by holding formal “One Country Each Month” calls so we can learn about each other’s working environments and cultures. We have already covered the United Arab Emirates, Austria and Serbia.

For more information on business topics in Europe, Middle East and Africa please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.

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