Lockdowns have lifted in most countries, like the Circuit Breaker in Singapore and MCO in Malaysia, but businesses, office spaces and coworking spaces can already see, what was will never be again.
Half of 2020 has already past, and despite every milestone or happy occasion that was in the celebration pipeline, the only event which will last in peoples’ minds is the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cities after a rough disconcerting three months of lockdown, there are finally an easing of the stricter restrictions as the situation remains under control. Though, for many cities, lockdowns have been extended and companies are pushing their WFH orders till 2021.
As Singapore embarks on the three phases of reopening the economy, we (virtually) sat down with some of our Found8 members to answer the question:
What will the New Normal of remote working setups look like?
Here’s what a few of our members and partners in Singapore and Malaysia are thinking about right now in anticipation of returning to work after the Circuit Breaker and MCO lifts, adjusting to a COVID-19 safe work routine.
"The crisis has given online learning a whole new appreciation. We are trying to enable companies to move their education business online faster with higher quality courses." - Sarveen, Managing Director, Malaysia
On plans for the future - "For us right now, we’re giving employees the berth to work from home till July. The reality is that they don’t have to be in an office, so they can remain working from home. It will be much easier for the team to plan and make their necessary arrangements knowing there is a set duration."
On your company's digital transformation efforts - "We’ve already been helping businesses bring their operations or training online. Even after the COVID-19 situation, things like online classes will definitely grow. People are realising the benefits, and if a crisis ever happens again, they will revert to using online platforms for learning, communications, work etc, thus it will never go away.
Also, as more people tune in to online content, those who provide are looking up to other educators. They should be learning from experienced educators who have created engaging content or even professionals like YouTubers, TV hosts, those who are used to talking on screens. There is a learning curve here – getting people onboard the online scene."
"We empower people to do work they love through education in technology, business, data, and design." - Sima, Marketing Producer, Singapore
On plans for the future - "Currently we have shifted all our full-time, part time courses, workshops and events to be online, and have added multiple new courses online which we offer for free - Free Fridays. Once the government gives the green light, we will reopen campus for our full-time courses. Our teams will maintain split schedules to lessen the number of people on campus."
On useful virtual team activities - "I love Workout Wednesdays over Zoom with my team."
Opportunities arisen from working from home that you'll continue with - "Since moving all of our courses and operations online, this has been a huge benefit to our network. Virtual events allow us to tap into speakers from overseas plus share events calendar with our Australian counterpart. It’s really been an awesome opportunity to share resources. We’re also focusing on doing events around what the community needs most at the moment."
"We help businesses accelerate their sales and marketing transformation across diverse industries like construction, pharmaceutical, packaged food, technology among others." - Vivien Koh, Founder
On team sentiments returning to work - "We have a small team of two and we managed to pivot quickly to conduct our sales & marketing consulting virtually as well as engaging the community with online webinars. For now, it might be good to retain a virtual membership, until the team is more confident to revert back to face-to-face interactions. Once everything slowly goes back to normal, they will be going back to the office.
Overall, I do feel that WFH makes people more prone to burnout because of the lack of an actual office space to step in-and-out from. There is less differentiation from personal life and we get overwhelmed by work as everything becomes a virtual meeting, and even a gathering with friends is done over Zoom."
On your company's digital transformation efforts - "There will be much potential for facilitators to be trained better and provide content that is geared towards what is needed. From my experience and observations, instead of depending on the facilitator, there are increasingly more online trainings going on and people will become used to this approach soon."
On useful virtual team activities - "I like our monthly lunch team meetings and wine & dine sessions over Zoom. It really helps take your mind off work and destress!"
Found8 team and members on the "What is the New Normal" webinar
"We are seeing how entrepreneurs who dare to change are driving the new normal with digitisation, helping build resilience across businesses and industries." - Lauren Teo, Associate
On team sentiment returning to work - " We’re really looking forward to returning to Found8! Especially since most of the team had already been WFH even before CB started. For our portfolio companies, returning to the workplace would mean being able to interact with customers on a more personal level, and being able to return to the workplace will indicate businesses are opening up again, giving way to more opportunities for growth.
Although it’s been tough, Cocoon has organised online get-togethers like Found8’s Throwdown Tuesday game sessions, for the entire Cocoon Family to relax and catch up. We understand some portfolio founders live alone at home, so we want to motivate each other and keep connected. I think most are looking forward to going back to a more normal work routine."
"Empowering Next Gen F&Bs with our future proof and revenue generating solution. Growing your F&B retail business? Aliments is what you need!" - Thaddeus Lee, Co-founder (Malaysia)
On you company's digital transformation efforts - "The MCO helped us grow our user base by 300% and no. of merchants by 200%, and our remote sales acquisition way (acquiring merchants online) was an opportunity to onboard merchants without spending on marketing."
On useful virtual team activities - "We have virtual drinking sessions and video calls, but we’re working on steering off talking about work all the time. My team and I are remaining positive and delivering food to each other as a gesture of support."
Opportunities arisen from working from home that you'll continue with - "Going online helps save a lot of time travelling. It increased efficiency in operation processes, and what we’re doing during the COVID-19 pandemic is more future proof, like how our service is needed now so we don’t have to spend much on marketing."
"We specialise in building custom AI solutions and help organisations move forward on their digitalisation roadmap in order to service an even more digitised world/consumer." - Jen van Gastel, Business Development Manager
On adapting to virtual working methods - "I did hear interesting stories in my network about some people who were previously uncomfortable with online meetings amongst other online activities, but now that they’re forced into it, they start to embrace it. They learn that for some meetings it isn’t per se necessary to have a face-to-face meeting, and when flights are avoided this way, it has a great positive ecological impact on our environment as well."
"Innovation matters more than ever and we can innovate our way out of this crisis to come back faster and stronger." - Clara Chen, Innovation Lead, and Lin Han, Programme Assistant,
On adapting to virtual working methods - "At XNode, we’ve been learning from our China counterparts about adapting sales processes and pivoting business models during COVID-19. So far virtual meetings have been working out..."
By industry, the effect of CB or MCO seems starkly different, but in many ways very similar. Having to deal with rapid changes, keeping the team motivated in uncertain times, and coming up with novel marketing for the business to move forward is across the board what companies are facing.
On our end, although Circuit Breaker measures have lifted for Phase 1, we know that business can’t go back to normal. As a coworking provider, Found8 has processed the setback and responded duly – adhering to proper measures and rolling out new virtual and flexible products in response to the changing needs of the innovation community.
Food for thought: When the outside world slowly returns to (what we can hope is) normal, do we think virtual platforms will become a ghost-town? Or do we think it will be a balance of both?