Since 2017, Sapporo Breweries has been actively adopting new ways of working as a part of the Working Style Reform 2020.
Although the COVID pandemic has caused the plan to take a different form than originally planned, the objectives of “improving work productivity,” “life enrichment,” and “focusing on mental and physical health” stayed the same.
The pandemic encouraged teams to look for new ways of working, and each department has started exploring alternatives to the traditional work style.
The Transformation Reinforcement Department is particularly active in this area. It is proactively using tools to introduce new ways of working to the company.
oVice was first used by that department and eventually got adopted by 15 departments, with over 200 people logging in on a daily basis.
The Japanese oVice team interviewed the pioneers of introducing oVice to Sapporo Beer. Below is the translated version of the interview.
The content reflects the situation at the time of writing and may differ from the current situation.
|Company name:||Sapporo Breweries, Ltd.|
|Interviewees||Mr. Morimoto and Ms. Hayashi, Transformation Reinforcement Department|
|Number of users||Approximately 200 people|
|Company profile||A major Japanese beer manufacturer, specializing in the manufacture and sale of beer, happoshu, new genre, wine, and shochu, as well as the sale of Western-style alcohol. In addition to its head office in Tokyo and its Hokkaido headquarters, the company has sales offices, factories, and research centers throughout Japan.|
|Reasons to use oVice||Conferencing tools did not allow for interactions after the conversation and made it harder to build relationships between teammates. oVice gave Sapporo a sense of security since the platform doesn’t allow users to send data. Sapporo plans to continue implementing the hybrid work strategy that allows combining the best of both worlds: office and remote work. In the future, oVice will be promoted across different departments.|
Understanding the organizational relationship chart and character profiles is difficult when working remotely
Please tell us about the way the company worked before the introduction of oVice.
Hayashi: We introduced remote work in 2018, but it was rarely used.
At the same time, we were making progress in creating an environment for remote interactions; the Transformation Reinforcement Department, which promotes Business Process Reengineering (BPR) and Digital Transformation (DX), was created in 2018, and web conferencing was introduced around that time.
We had been using web conferencing tools with our branches nationwide and overseas business partners, so when we shifted to remote work at the start of the pandemic, the transition was relatively smooth.
What challenges did you face after adopting remote work?
Morimoto: Thanks to video conferencing tools, we could have meetings, but there were no opportunities to communicate other than through conferences.
Hayashi: When I was working in the office, it was easier to share feedback about the meeting by chatting with my colleagues on the way to my desk. Online, I couldn’t do that anymore.
Morimoto: Also, in real life, it was possible to get an idea of who is in contact with whom, but online, it is no longer possible to know who is on the same team as you. I think it was difficult for new employees or those who transferred from another department to understand the structure of a different department.
I myself was a new graduate at the start of the pandemic, so I had to work remotely right after joining the company. Since my training was also online, I felt insecure about whether I would be able to work as well as the seniors.
In oVice, I can see the members talking with each other. I feel it is easy to communicate with them because I can hear their voices when I approach them and can join conversations on the spot.
I often see new employees and mentors reviewing status updates in oVice so I think oVice helps people who joined the company recently communicate with the rest of the team.
oVice does not store or share data which gives teams peace of mind
How did you introduce oVice to the company?
Morimoto: Originally, the HR team was testing the platform. Our department thought it might be a solution to telework challenges, so we tried it out and held a virtual get-together at oVice.
Compared to other virtual offices, oVice was well received by the department and we started using it for work.
What was it about oVice that made it better than other virtual offices?
Morimoto: First of all, the ease of use – even the members who were using it for the first time quickly became familiar with it and got comfortable at the office. I also liked the way the audio volume changes depending on the distance, which recreates the feeling of being in a real office.
Personally, I think the fact that data cannot be transferred on oVice is also an important point. When online tools store data, security vulnerabilities can appear.
The pricing was also attractive. I still regularly compare oVice with other virtual office services, and oVice is by far the most reasonable.
Did you transition to oVice smoothly?
Morimoto: Overall, yes, though I had to address some pushback from different departments who thought we don’t need virtual offices since we already have online conferencing platforms. I explained to them that web conferencing tools do not allow for casual communication, leading to communication opportunity loss.
Three fundamental rules for effective verbal communication in a virtual office
Please tell us how your working style has changed since you started using oVice.
Morimoto: Communication has increased dramatically. Even when I am not logged in to oVice, I sometimes tell teammates, “Let’s talk on oVice because I want to chat with you for a while.”
Hayashi: It’s not like talking on the phone. In oVice, I can easily talk about things that I wouldn’t talk about over the phone. With oVice, I can talk to the team as if I am at the office – there’s no stress.
Do you have any rules for using oVice?
Morimoto: We are still in the testing stage, so we basically leave it up to each department. In our team, we have three rules: “Upload your avatar,” “Log in when you are working,” and “Leave your seat when you are in a meeting”.
Please tell us about any innovations you have made to increase the login rate.
Morimoto: I have run several tests to encourage teammates to log in willingly. For example, we are creating a space for chatting and listening to music together.
Teams are still testing the platform right now, so we will continue to experiment with different strategies to create an environment where teammates want to log in voluntarily.
The future of hybrid work “Coming to Work Twice a Week” is better with oVice
Please tell us about your current work style.
Morimoto: I have a hybrid work style that combines remote work and coming to the office.
In our department, the rule is to come to the office at least twice a week. Everyone comes to work on days that are convenient for them.
What are some of the advantages of going to the office?
Hayashi: I have been working at a free desk for a while now. Not having an assigned desk is a great advantage because it creates opportunities for spontaneous communication with people in other departments.
Our company started renovating our offices in 2019 to optimize the way we work. That’s why we decided to introduce purposeful space design. Through these changes, we can meet people from other departments. Sometimes, new projects are born as a result of our conversations there. I would like to recreate a similar environment in oVice.
Another thing I would like to do is to be able to have a drink with the team after work. Since we are a beer manufacturer, many of our members like to drink, and drinking together brings us closer together. Sometimes I adjust my workday to have a drink with them (laughs).
How do you feel about your current work style?
Hayashi: I have more time to spend with my family. Before the hybrid work arrangement, I used to be able to see my husband only on weekends. Now I can choose where I work, so we have more time together.
On the other hand, I was concerned about communication and collaboration with other departments when I only worked remotely, but I feel that hybrid work has solved these issues.
Morimoto: I joined the company after the pandemic hit and have been working from home for a long time, so I am very happy to be able to come to work. When I actually met the rest of the team, I am surprised by various things – for example, I didn’t realize some teammates were taller than I expected.
On the other hand, my office and home are far apart so commuting takes some time. I am glad that when I work from home, I can devote my commuting time to other things. I think the best way to work is to have the best of both worlds: coming to the office and working remotely, just like now.
What kind of work style do you want to have in the future?
Morimoto: I would like to make the following changes to the way I work.
I would like to create a system that allows us to quantitatively evaluate communication, by checking login rates.
Currently, oVice has been introduced in several departments, but a way to communicate between them has not been established. We would like to consider ways to foster communication across teams.
Hayashi: As Morimoto said, communication between departments is a major issue. Right now, we are working on a department-by-department basis, but in the future, we are considering new initiatives, such as running projects with members from various departments.
Eventually, I would like to create an environment where we can work not by department, but by project, gathering on different floors.
oVice is a platform that helps remote and hybrid teams stay connected and work together. It is a virtual office space that gives over 2,200 organizations tools for natural conversations, seamless team-building, and the ability to reach out to anyone on the team.
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