“These 18 months have been the learning experience of a lifetime,” maintained David Vella, Chief People Officer at Hili Ventures, during a web series focusing on working from home and remote working organised by the Malta Business Bureau.
The first lesson learned, he says, was that if we try, we can work in a different way. “In Malta, remote working was a myth – or taboo – not to be spoken of, and very few people were doing so before the pandemic. Now, that myth is gone. It has been proven that people can work from home,” he asserts.
Highlighting Hili Ventures’ take, Mr Vella explains that the company’s first reaction to the pandemic was protecting their employees, customers and the business.
“Due to the diversity of our businesses, we couldn’t take a blanket approach. We immediately put a task force together whereby we drew up a plan and where possible, we invited everybody to work from home. However, we also did not close the office to those that felt they needed to come in,” he affirms, adding that the company also held regular online sessions targeting how to effectively manage work remotely.
“The other area we focused on was the wellbeing of our people – things like diet, exercise and switching off from work. We also diverted funds into helping people improve their working from home set-up,” he continues.
For the Chief People Officer, remote working is about finding the right balance, which is no easy feat. “You not only need to take into consideration the type of business that you have, and the function that each person has within the company, but also the individual per se – each individual has their own needs. It is virtually impossible to tailor-make a policy that will fit everyone,” he reveals.
Advocating for a flexibility approach to remote working policies moving forward, Mr Vella maintains that it has now been proven that “working from home does not impact productivity – our businesses continued to function and function well. There are so many aspects which are in favour of remote working.”
Moving forward, Hili Ventures have adopted a policy whereby from five days a week, employees have the opportunity to work three from home, and two from the office. Having said that, he says, “I don’t think we should see working from home as the only way forward. We need to ensure not to jeopardize team spirit, our culture and values – on the downside, with working from home, perhaps there is a that tendency for people to disengage. We need to ensure that there is proper interaction. The human element of interaction cannot be replaced by a virtual world. Face-to-face communication is still important.”
“There needs to be a win-win situation for people and businesses that we need to find over the next few years as this situation continues to evolve,” he continues, and moving forward, Mr Vella believes that there needs to be a solid legal framework ensuring the right to disconnect is clearly defined. “There are also many other things that countries will need to address within their legislation in order to reflect the new reality,” he concludes.
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