Below is a translated version of the interview published on the oVice Youtube channel.Tools and practices described in the article apply only to Asahi Kasei Pharma located inJapan and may be different from those at other branch offices.
Ishiwa from Asahi Kasei Pharma
Asahi Kasei Pharma is a leading research-driven healthcare innovator in Japan. During the pandemic, a lot of in-person employees in the organization had to start working remotely. That’s why team leaders needed an innovative solution for making online communication as seamless and effective as possible. We talked to the members of the IT Development and Operations Reform Group – a division in charge of introducing innovative tools for Asahi Kasei Pharma about the challenges of working remotely, their reasoning behind choosing oVice, and the benefits of the virtual office platform.
Ishiwa: I am Ishiwa from Asahi Kasei Pharma. I work at the IT Development and Operations Reform group. Our department supports business improvement and reform using IT tools.
Tomita: I am Tomita from Asahi Kasei Pharma. I belong to the operations Reform Group, IT Operations Reform Department group. My focus is on using digital and IT technology to solve the problems and challenges the company faces.
Ishiwa: I joined the group in April 2020. Just when I came in, the state of emergency was declared and, on my second day of work, the company switched to telecommuting.
The idea behind my department is to optimize the work of other departments but I found myself in a situation where there were a lot of people I couldn’t talk to. Of course, I did know some people so I contacted them. Of course, it wasn’t easy to reach out to people remotely, I felt uncomfortable bothering executives.
I did feel that, if I were at the office, I would be able to talk to more people and understand the situation better.
How did you choose oVice?
Ishiwa: I first saw oVice when I was looking for a place for company recreation. First, we thought of using typical video conferencing tools but they only allowed talking to specific people, and I didn’t like to communicate this way.
That’s why I decided to look for other tools and found oVice where you can, like in real life, talk to the people you want to talk to. If you want to talk to different people, it’s enough to move around. I thought that such a tool is perfect for a recreation event and decided to use oVice.
When I first took a tour around the oVice demo space, talked to the team, and was truly impressed. The ability to talk when you are in a different person’s space felt “real”. I felt like there are a lot of possibilities.
I thought it would be hard to integrate such a “playful” tool into a large-scale company like Asahi Kasei Pharma. So I invited my supervisors to join the space with me and I heard them say: “This is interesting. We could use it for something”. That’s how we decided to give oVice a try.
Ishiwa: After finishing the recreation, our department started to talk about using oVice as a virtual office. When we started talking about using oVice and my managers, as well as colleagues, joined the space. Being able to talk to my supervisors in oVice saved me a lot of time. Definitely, it takes less time than when we are using other communication tools. Managers also found it easier to communicate and, as a tool, oVice was easy to use.
Right now, we are moving towards a company-wide oVice integration.
Tomita: I had been on maternity leave for a little over a year, and, by the time I returned to work, things at the office had changed. I was wondering how we would communicate when no one is coming to the office. But, once we joined oVice, I was able to catch up and chat with everyone again. It was a great relief.
Ishiwa: We use video conferencing tools to host meetings but, after the meeting is over, we do a review of the meeting and check the degree of satisfaction of members here, in oVice. Normally, after you wrap up the meeting while coming back to your desk, you would say: “This meeting went so and so”, “I didn’t understand this part well enough” and so on.
Now, with video calls, the ability to follow up seamlessly wasn’t there anymore. When the meeting is over, it ends, and you’re on your own. That’s why using oVice for chatting is extremely useful to us.
Tomita : In fact, I have never met Ishiwa face-to-face, but, through oVice, we were able to communicate and complete our tasks. Although we haven’t met, we managed to bond well and understand each other on a personal level.
The thing I love about oVice is the ability to set different backgrounds. Right now, to match the season, we are using the seaside beach layout -if you get closer to the beach, you can even hear the sound of the waves.
I know such tweaks can improve concentration and improve our office operations.
Ishiwa: We have a rule according to which, if you are in the oVice space, it means you are available for a conversation. This way, we got rid of one operational inefficiency – figuring out when someone is free for a chat. Also, you can actually see other avatars talking to each other on the screen.
When teammates see this, you can’t help but think: “They are talking about something, they are getting excited over something”. Such things help teammates feel the atmosphere of the office and feel like they are part of the workplace.
During the pandemic, it is highly important since the general sense of belonging and engagement levels are dropping. If you come to the company’s virtual office, work there and connect with everyone, it gives a sense of togetherness. In our case, we also started feeling more unity in our day-to-day work.
Tomita: I’d like to use oVice to create a lounge space where people from different departments can communicate with the administration department. I think it would be great to use the “Profile” feature and have everyone make a short bio of their areas of expertise.
This way, members will know what to talk to each other about. I hope I can bring this plan to life and everyone in the company will make the most out of it.
Ishiwa: my vision for oVice is to have a separate office for each department so that people from different units can visit each other’s spaces. Then, I would love to integrate the tool not only within my company but into other companies in the Asahi Kasei Group.