The home office race: when the giants felt like startups and accomplished more


Digibee, 06/08/2020

“We are making strategic decisions more quickly and acting within a few hours,” says Paulo Henrique Farroco, CIO of the Carrefour group.

At the end of March, Paulo Henrique Farroco — or Farroco, as he is known in the market — was faced with an extreme situation. He would have to “fix the plane mid-flight.” When the coronavirus pandemic imposed social isolation, Carrefour’s CIO had to react quickly and put implement a crisis management strategy. However, no amount of planning could prepare leadership for what was ahead. “When companies do these crisis tests, the ‘pandemic’ stage is the last step. This time, we had such an immediate crisis we did not have time to go through the other stages,” Farroco recalls.

When Carrefour partnered with Digibee, their IT team set up over 1,000 employees to work remotely, purchased 1,200 notebooks, and tested all information security protocols and resources required to maintain the operations all in just a few days.

“It was an acceleration from 0 to 100 mph in three seconds. Large, established companies had to become true startups,” says Farroco.

As things begin to settle, the new normal still requires the CIO to plan for uncertain times ahead. There was immense corporate pressure to deliver, and Carrefour did. Theses challenges revealed resiliency within the team and confidence in managing adversity, or even a pandemic, with Digibee’s integration approach. “We made things possible in days and even hours that would normally take months to complete,” says Farroco.

What was the motivation? Perhaps, the sense of collective success and problem-solving. Perhaps, the pure desire to survive or the fear of failure. These scenarios have shown executive leadership that employees are flexible in adapting to change, and actually have become even more productive when working from home.

More productivity, less bureaucracy

The transition to remote work has not been smooth or without turbulence, as said by Vitor Sousa, co-founder and COO of Digibee. “The office at the coworking location — Cubo — simply closed overnight, even before the city mayor declared quarantine.”

Despite all the differences between Carrefour, a retail giant, and a company like Digibee, that was born entirely digital, Vitor noticed the same strategies and mobilization of the teams were required to manage the shift to remote work. “After the initial challenges of the stay at home order, we created productivity methods for the home office – and they worked!” Farroco says.

This sense of urgency created by the pandemic forced leaders and employees to act in a tactical and strategic way. The team stepped up by focusing more and efficiently prioritizing tasks, activities, and projects. After the early days of chaos, objectivity prevailed.

“People evaluated what had to be done at that moment and what could be postponed to the second half of the year. When you focus on what is essential, and when the distance from one meeting to another is just a click away, everyone ends up being more productive, because they are digitally engaged to do so.”

Essentially, the retail giant became a startup overnight. Carrefour was able to act in an agile manner with a more objective decision process, that was enabled by the adoption of products and system improvements focused on the human aspect of employee and customer relationships. “Some things have changed, and I think this is irreversible. How many executives have traveled to other countries to hold a one / two-hour meeting? Will this happen again? ” Farroco assumes that it will not, as the online dynamic is effective and will likely be established as the preferred option.

Vitor’s leadership experience at other large companies, such as CA Technologies, before coming to Digibee gives him a unique perspective on this situation. He believes that it is in these moments that bolder, more innovative employees appear.

“This crisis shows that it is possible to have agility like a startup, as long as everyone takes more risks and admits that the old processes are often too bureaucratic. It is possible to have quality, security, and governance while being fast and directly solving problems. The lesson learned is that these two worlds can exist together,” says Vitor.

How to raise team morale?

One cannot ignore the extent of uncertainty associated with the duration of social isolation, and the impact that will have on employee well-being. Leaders need to be aware of the mental health stressors that employees may experience in an isolated environment, and the impact on the team’s overall well-being from both a morale and productivity perspective.

For the CIO of Carrefour, the biggest concern during this transition was keeping a pulse on the emotional health of his team. “We are bombarded by bad news and overly focused on the Coronavirus problem. So, I always encourage our employees to focus on the solution to make them feel more comfortable, as much as possible, in this new normal. ”

Carrefour and Digibee, among many other companies, have adopted remote social interactions, including virtual happy hours and virtual celebrations, which serve as a general morale boost. “It is a way of staying connected. People miss contact with others, but this has helped a lot, it has been important for everyday life. We have seen people become more motivated to deliver,” says Vitor.


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