Quest Co., Ltd launched a company-wide policy of remote work amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic in 2020. To solve the communication problems that arose from working from home for the first time, the company attended seminars and conducted research. However, the organization was unable to arrive at an optimal solution and found itself at loss. That’s when the company decided to introduce oVice organization-wide after the platform was introduced to the Marketing Promotion Office. We wanted to learn more about the way Quest uses oVice and their experience of using the platform.This post is the translation of the original article published by oVice Japan.
Inoue: To stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, we started working remotely. Before then, we have never tried telecommuting – so I remember having a shaky start.
Though we had no knowledge of the subject, we researched best practices and success cases of remote work adoption. Using video conferencing tools helped create and maintain a remote working environment but communication didn’t go that well.
Once, we put together a survey on remote work struggles. Difficulty to communicate remotely was often mentioned (the most common concern was lack of physical exercise). Unlike the lack of exercise, it’s hard to fix communication challenges even through individual efforts. We realized that the company had to work out a strategy.
We started learning about remote communication by participating in seminars and reading books. However, the things we learned from there were important even if you don’t work from home: “Keep in close contact”, “Have regular morning and afternoon meetings”, and so on.
We realized that there was no correct approach that would tell us “This is the way to work remotely”. We truly had no idea what to do, it was a confusing situation.
Inoue: A lot of people didn’t feel comfortable speaking up if they wanted to discuss something or ask a question because they didn’t know the circumstances of their colleagues and managers.
Video conferencing tools could only be used for meetings with a clear agenda, all other communication became a lot harder to carry out. To eliminate this situation, we started hosting one-on-one calls and remote drinking parties but kept coming back to the thought of “It was different in person”. We still couldn’t stimulate communication.
We realized that we need to review the tools we are using and find something that can recreate in-person communication. The marketing team thought oVice was effective in this aspect.
Quest’s oVice, named QuestFutureLab, aims to be a place for research into technology and
business-related activities. It is open to all employees as a lounge where they can enter for
meetings and conversations. Original image credit: oVice Japan
Endo: 70% of employees at the company are stationed at customer sites. At the moment, a lot of our customers are also working, so our employees are experiencing remote work there.
The Product Planning Development Office, the predecessor of the Marketing Promotion Department, has the mission of getting new businesses from the ground. That’s how that communication challenges were a problem.
With the video tools we were using, unless you decide to meet to talk, communication will not be born. On the other hand, working in person allows people to gather together and talk about an idea they had in mind or have new ideas born out of discussions.
We expected that, even in online communication, there should be a tool that enables spontaneous communication. That’s when the idea of using a virtual space as a lounge was born.
We chose oVice because it allowed everyone to share a common space. Moreover, it was instantly clear who was talking to whom, and people could join the conversation or call other people to participate. We chose the platform because we felt that it enabled an experience similar to real-life communication.
Above all, the deciding factor was the low communication threshold.
Inoue: In light of the transition to remote work, we started seeing the trend of “Let’s redefine the way we work” across the company. Before then, people came to work with no doubts, did their jobs, and came home when the time came. But, after the COVID outbreak, even with remote work became our main environment and we realized that work can be done remotely.
At that time, the D&I Promotion Dept. kept thinking about which conditions we needed to create to define a workplace. Then we created a hypothesis that a workplace is created by three components: communication, collaboration, and innovation. Beyond that, we can create a state where everyone is empowered to take ownership of their work.
Going back to this hypothesis and looking back at our practice of working remotely, it was clear that video conferencing tools did not fully accomplish our goals. We tried to make up for that by combining video conferencing with phone calls and email but it proved difficult.
After judging that oVice covers the points that we thought were lacking, we decided to use it organization-wide.
Inoue: the spontaneity of communication. It was a situation when we could no longer chat spontaneously, which was very far from the way we worked in person. We thought that, by using oVice, we can create an environment close to a physical office.
An office floor of a Quest virtual space. Labeled desks for employees make it easier to understand who is working in-person and remotely. Image credit: oVice Japan
Endo: We realized that just knowing about oVice will not make people come in. We explained how the platform works directly to each team, had them come to oVice, and showed people around the space. It was a steady and repeated process.
Those who experienced using oVice once realized the benefit of talking to people like you would in a real office and invited other people. The number of users started increasing gradually.
I wouldn’t say that half the company is using oVice but there are around 400 people who have logged into oVice at least once. At the moment, we have an 8-story space.
Quest’s virtual building in oVice. Image credit: oVice Japan
Inoue: I have a feeling that Inviting executives to the lounge introduces them to the benefits of oVice, and the expansion of the platform accelerates. People from other teams started saying they want to use oVice as well, so it spread around.
Endo: At the moment, we work on increasing the number of reasons to use oVice internally by making attendance and accounting management systems accessible on the platform.
Each floor of the building is a virtual office for a different team. The image shows the Chubu branch office.
Space members can see the physical office anytime by approaching the camera. Image credit: oVice Japan
Endo: To make using oVice more routine, we added the link to oVice to the company’s internal network and sent several emails to everyone at the company.
Also, we are planning internal events that would not only let people know about oVice but help them understand that, if they use oVice, they can do a lot of fun things.
For example, we use oVice as an online venue for new employee onboarding and anniversary ceremonies. We recorded the anniversary ceremony hosted in oVice and posted a report in the company’s internal network so that it can reach more people.
Preliminary briefing on the hybrid anniversary celebration of the company’s foundation, using a two-way connection between the conference room at the head office, and the virtual venue in oVice. Image credit: oVice Japan
We had positive feedback from people who participated in the online event and the desire to participate in the future from those not present at the ceremony. I felt like we were able to clearly communicate the good points of using a virtual office.
Kick-off of a virtual onboarding session in oVice. Image credit: oVice Japan
Also, we had people saying “I don’t hate logging, I just forget to”. That’s why we suggested a setup that would open oVice automatically. Strategies like changing the layout of the lounge every day are also reliable in avoiding boredom.
Inoue: Right now we are endorsing remote work. After that, even if the virus is under control, we have no plans to stop remote work. We plan on adopting a hybrid schedule that would combine remote and office work.
Inoue: We were able to create limitless communication in remote work and our branch offices got closer both physically and mentally.
People started chatting with their colleagues from other teams more. I hear that people often go to spaces on different floors to ask questions. I see a good trend of people needing less time to solve problems.
Inoue: I’d like to use oVice and the office we are redesigning side-by-side, creating a place where “communication”, “collaboration”, and “innovation” are born. As for the acceleration of oVice adoption, we are creating oVice committee people for the platform evangelists, like Endo.
The aim is to share best practices in the use of oVice and resolve problems and uncertainties. We will work towards better company-wide use of oVice.
Endo: Right now our virtual building has 8 floors. At some point, I’d like to put a committee member on each floor. I’d like to link oVice to the creation of new businesses. For example, we could do business-themed events.