Working in remote teams was 2020’s buzz activity, for obvious reasons, with so many people working from home. But despite the digital tools that we have available, the fact of not being able to see each other face-to-face is not always easy for everyone. On the other hand, they say that a crisis brings out the best in people and forges bonds between them. I think, that’s definitely true for our team!
When the pandemic started last year, our two booking representatives Caroline and Doris were the ones who felt the impact immediately. As they both work individually from home, they felt quite alone during the first lockdown, having to suddenly face a storm of questions, e-mails and problems. So, they started calling each other on a daily basis to discuss whatever they had on their mind. These calls helped them deal with the helplessness, the anger and the frustration of not being able to answer all of our guests’ questions or do anything against the consequences of the pandemic that our guests had and still have to endure. They kept these calls up for many months, thereby managing to overcome this difficult time of insecurity and the feeling of being cut off from everything. Of course, there were many calls and Skype chats with Maya as well, but due to the time difference and the weak internet on the island, these were not as frequent. I think the solidarity between Caroline and Doris during their daily phone calls was what really kept them going.
Solidarity comes in many forms and across all kinds of borders. Recently, one of our employees lost his father very unexpectedly. He was devastated. So, the whole team started praying for and with him, across religious borders, Muslims, Christians and Hindus together. The team supported him as best they could, and he was very grateful. During normal times, with the resort in full operation, our team might not have had the time to stand by him as much as now.
Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, our team members were very supportive of each other. If one was down or afraid of what the future may bring, the others tried their best to motivate her or him, whether they were together on the island or one of them back home with his or her family. Moral support doesn’t require physical presence. It’s obviously easier to comfort someone in person, maybe even give a hug. But it’s also possible to cheer someone up across borders.
A friend of mine, who’s been working from home since last March, told me that her team started a virtual Friday coffee break last spring. I imagine the idea was to stay connected and keep up an informal exchange, apart from the regular virtual business meetings they have anyway. However, she said that they usually just talk about their plans for the weekend and the weather. Nobody seems to really care how they are doing on a personal level. Shouldn’t this be her manager’s duty? To make sure, his or her colleagues are coping well with the situation? To find out whether they have hidden fears or other problems that he/she might be able to help with? I agree, it’s not easy to get a feeling for someone across a screen, but it’s a challenge we have to deal with and make sure, our employees feel our support and motivation across all kinds of barriers and borders.
With Maya and me currently being in Switzerland, it takes a big effort for us to really stay connected with the team on the island and all over the world. It is not enough to simply call or skype once a week and leave them to themselves for the rest of the time. Luckily, we still have a great management team on Pulau Pef that manages to keep our staff motivated and in good spirit. Their natural lightheartedness probably helps as well. It may be easier to motivate my Indonesian colleagues than a Swiss team for whom the current lockdown situation is a lot more different than their normal life. And yet, some of my Indonesian colleagues are also starting to feel impatient. They miss our guests and the tasks they were hired for, especially the ones with close contact to our guests. But they never seem to doubt that we will one day open and receive guests again. We always tried to give our employees the feeling that giving up is not an option – be it face-to-face or via virtual chat. The aim was to convey that it may take some time, but that someday we will go back to the hustle and bustle of resort life and do what we like best – take care of our guests and show them the beauty of Raja Ampat!
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…