The COVD-19, which has become a global pandemic, has had a great impact on our society from various angles and agenda. We realized that what we used to take for granted, from lifestyle to values to working style, is not at all. This time, after the state of emergency was lifted, we asked some of the members of KPMG Ignition Tokyo (KIT) to gather for the first time in a long time and talk about "the way KIT works".
(This interview was conducted while maintaining a social distance, giving due consideration to measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.)
Spencer: Today I came to the office for the first time in a long time. The last time was around October, so it's been more than six months! I've been interacting with Kaylina since December 2019 before she joined us, but today is the first time I've actually met her face to face. I don't feel like this is the first time, though (laughs).This is my first time with Antonio as well, but I've had chances to talk on-line for lunch and various meetings. In fact, it's been a while since I've met other people, but I don't feel like that ... very strange feeling here.
Kaylina: Nice to finally meet you, Spencer (laughs). I had been communicating with Spencer and HR members close enough before joining KIT, so I didn't really feel that bad about not meeting members physically. I had the impression that "KIT is a good company" from the beginning, but to be honest, I was a bit worried until I actually joined because my onboarding date was delayed for more than half a year because of the pandemic. Some of my classmates at the university were suddenly canceled their offers by the companies due to the pandemic, no one knew what was going to happen next and they were so afraid of the uncertainty. KIT explained what the current situation is, what has changed, and what options are available from time to time, so I didn't have to worry about imagining extra things. After joining KIT, I realized that "Oh, there are so many good people and it's great place to work!"
Naoko: Nice to meet you with Kaylina. I had a lot of meetings with you as your counselor, but I'm really happy to see you in person finally!
Daniel: Spencer and I have been friends since our previous job, but I'm glad to see you for the first time in a while! And, how long have we actually met since last time, Antonio? We came to the office around last October, didn't we?
Antonio: That's right. It's been over half a year ago, but I don't feel like that at all. It's a really strange feeling.
Spencer: No one imagined that COVID-19 would be world-wide pandemic in the beginning of 2019. KIT started restricting office commuting in March 2020. How has our ways of working changed compared to that time? On the other hand, there may be something that doesn't change. First of all, I would like to talk to you about that point.
~ What has changed and what hasn't changed since the COVID-19 epidemic? ~
Spencer O, Director
Daniel: In 2019, KIT had just become independent of KPMG Consulting. Starting with just a few desks, this pandemic hit directly as the number of employees increased. At that time, we placed great importance on "high transparency" among members. I feel that this attitude is still valued every single day. Also, when a company starts up, growth and change are almost synonymous. At that time (and even now), KIT is constantly changing. Well, I think, in a way, we have been already very flexible about various kind of changes, so we could have swallowed the social changes that occurred in the pandemic.
Spencer: It's true that organizational transparency is becoming more important for companies of all sizes because it's not possible to see and talk each other face to face when it comes to remote work. With that in mind, KIT's vision and mission haven't changed at all since it was founded, and although there were obstacles like immigration restrictions, the diversity of the company remains the same level. On the other hand, there has been a positive change in the significance of KIT's existence. As for DX in Japan, the attention to DX dramatically increased while people were not really ready for it before the pandemic. As a company that supports DX, the reason of KIT's existence became more important than before.
Antonio: In my case, KIT was the first company I worked for after graduating from the university. I have never worked before the pandemic. So, it may sound so strange, but this way of working is the standard for me ... how was the previous way of working? At KIT, it's easy for all employees to communicate openly and remotely. I thought I might have a certain degree of hesitation to talk to people remotely, but it's not like I had imagined at all.
Spencer: I see. Certainly, if you don't have experience, you can't compare. After all, no commuting time is a huge change for me. I used to spend 3 hours every day for my round trip. It was such a great gift to be able to use this for a time with my family instead of commuting. Also, it seems that more and more people are moving to rural areas to work in come companies. With that in mind, I think there were many changes that could be called “good changes” for our working environment. On the other hand, the problems caused by physically "not meeting" is becoming more serious as well. Perhaps the “Cohesion” within the team needs to be paid more attention than before?
Kaylina R, Intern
Naoko I, Manager
Daniel: Although I haven't come to the office that often anymore, I feel that we have been able to communicate with each member via Microsoft Teams (online communication tool) very well, in a more face-to-face manner these days. I can no longer imagine remote work without MS Teams. Conversely, the development of such tools has made remote work more comfortable. It's Remote work 2.0, right? However, it is also true that detailed nonverbal communication that could be communicated face-to-face is difficult to detect online. I think we needed clearer, less misleading communication, both verbal and written.
Naoko: After that, I feel that my work efficiency has improved. Instead of the style of working all day on weekdays and taking a rest on holidays as before, the lifestyle has changed a lot by consciously separating on and off during the day.
Spencer: Certainly, in the past, there was often a negative chain that if the previous meeting was delayed a little, the later meeting would be delayed due to the domino effect (laugh). You must have often seen myself running from the conference room to the conference room all day long. Haven’t you? There is no such thing now. That's great.
Daniel & Naoko: Yeah, yeah! We often saw it!
Daniel Q, Senior Engineer
~ WorKIT Forward ~
Antonio M, Intern
Spencer: So, going back to beginning, we need to support our society by doing what we can in order for this COVID-19 to converge quickly. Ideally, it's best not to have a pandemic like this, but I have to say that the pandemic had a tremendous influence that would change the values of society. This effect will continue in the future. It is unlikely that the way you work will be the same as before. Under such circumstances, what can we do for the better?
Daniel: After all, I definitely want to continue to always learn from new things. Compared to a year ago, I have been thinking more and improving, such as "how can I get better communication" and "how can I work like in real life" in a limited environment.
Naoko: Yes, I think that's important too. We, KIT members, have been always trying to make the impossible possible, right? For example, I've always thought it would be nice to have an online whiteboard, but the current one we have is not working well. If we can take this opportunity to create more powerful tools for remote work, I think it will directly lead to a better way of working. Also, when we wanted to develop a new thing, everyone used to gather in the meeting room and we had so many small chats and discussions. I just cannot forget the feeling of exhilaration and enthusiasm at that time ... We are not in that state yet, but I'd like to improve such an environment remotely in the future.
Antonio: In the future, I would like to deepen exchanges with other interns. I had chances to talk with them at lunch and career experience sharing sessions, but I'd like to communicate more casually and frequently.
Spencer: While there are frequent lunches and meetings within the team, it is in fact difficult to communicate across teams. I definitely want to aim for all employees to be able to communicate horizontally, not just for interns.
*Professional affiliation and official position in the article are at the time of publication.
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