Remote work often results in a communication standstill and a growing number of distressed employees. The head office of transcosmos inc., an e-commerce company and Internet advertising agency, faced a similar challenge. Hoping for a solution, they started using oVice in February 2021.
In the interview, the Japanese editorial team asked the employees of the Services Management Department, Digital Interactive Business Division about the results of introducing the platform and their experience of operating the system for a year.
This post is a translated version of the original article published in Japanese. Everything described below is based on the activities of the Japanese branch and may not reflect the situation in other offices.
|Company name:||transcosmos inc. (official website: https://www.trans-cosmos.co.jp/)|
|Interviewees||Kota Miyazono, Masahiko Kohata, Masako Egami, Services Management Department, Digital Interactive Business Division|
|Number of users||Over 2,000|
|Activity summary||Founded in 1966. Specializes in digital marketing, e-commerce, customer contact center, and other customer-focused and BPO solutions. Offers complex services that support digital transformation at client companies. The company has expanded to over 28 countries with over 170 locations.|
- The reason for introducing oVice: to maintain connections between employees.
- At the beginning of the introduction, about 150 people logged in. Repeated surveys and improvements were made.
- Required oVice attendance for remote work: 1,800 employees are logging in daily
- Expansion of the oVice building from 10 to 15 floors
- Realized the usefulness of the platform as a place for knowledge exchange, discussion, and communication after relocations
“We want to set up an online communication environment”. Features that made the company decide to introduce oVice
First of all, please tell us about your work.
Miyazono: My name is Miyazono, and I am in charge of the Services Management Department, Digital Interactive Business Division. I am in charge of human resource development, recruitment, and improving the work environment in the department. Also, I promote initiatives to increase employee engagement and productivity.
Kohata: My name is Kohata, I represent Services Management Department, Digital Interactive Business Division. The department is responsible for providing comprehensive support in solving HR-related issues: hiring, goals, evaluation, and relationship building, with a focus on employee development.
Egami: I am Egami from the Services Management Department, Digital Interactive Business Division. I am mainly in charge of onboarding and communication policies within the headquarters.
Please tell us about the issues you were facing before introducing oVice.
Kohata: Due to the coronavirus epidemic in 2020, we suddenly had to enter a remote work environment. While we had not yet established how we should communicate with each other, we needed to connect employees online.
With that, differences in the amount and frequency of communication started to appear. Many of us found that conversations outside of work had decreased considerably. In particular, new graduates and mid-career employees who had newly joined the company were facing challenges in fitting into the team.
Therefore, reopened the office after November 2020 as a place to promote communication. However, even after that, the government declared a state of emergency many times, and the situation did not change easily. We felt that, rather than adopting new measures in a physical office, we have to do something in the online environment.
How did you come to introduce oVice?
Miyazono Once a month, we conduct a headquarters-wide engagement survey to gather employee feedback. In the survey, there were comments that communication among remote workers was becoming less frequent and employees wanted to be involved with others. We started looking for a tool that would allow communicating with people even when working remotely – the one we found was oVice.
oVice has a demo space. Here, you can actually get a feel for the tool. Also, oVice staff members are located in the space – we asked a lot of questions here and decided to start a trial.
There were many things I liked about oVice, such as the fact that the range of the voice changes accordingly when a person moves, and the UX is very intuitive.
I also like the pricing per space rather than per number of accounts. We decided to implement the system because the costs are easy to see and manage.
Establishing the platform through trial and error: “OK to talk to/not OK to talk to” indicators, areas for each department, and “enabling loose communication” to make the employees feel comfortable
What were some of the innovations you made when introducing the system?
Egami: At first, we decided on an area for each department and had no other specific rules. As a result, some people said they did not know who to talk to even if they were in the same space.
In response to this, we create a rule where a status, similar to the traffic light, indicates your availability, for example, “You can talk to me,” “Questions are OK,” or “I am too busy to talk to you”.
Also, some people said they did not know which area to be in, so we specified the location of each department.
Furthermore, we have an area where music is playing to facilitate “loose communication”. By doing this, we try to create an easy-to-be-in environment.
We have also created a system that links data on who is currently using oVice to chat tools and notifies the team when someone enters the space.
What did you do to establish oVice?
Kohata: We tried various things, but to be honest, the number of members who logged in did not increase much. Still, even at that point, we received a lot of positive feedback from the teammates who were using the system.
At first, we were only recommending the use of the platform, so only about 150 out of 2,000 employees were using it. At this stage, we shared the fact that “the purpose of the tool is different from existing communication tools,” and set rules such as when to log in and how to indicate whether it is OK to talk to a teammate or not.
During this period, oVice was highly appreciated by new graduates. A dedicated floor created opportunities for communication.
Holding events increased the number of users, and the “top-down” approach was successful
What other initiatives did you introduce to establish oVice within the headquarters?
Kohata: We held in-house information sessions and social events, and set up a fixed location for each department in the virtual space. We also held shuffle parties and a grand year-end party, which had a favorable reception.
These efforts increased the average number of monthly users to 300, but not more. This seemed to be the limit of what we could do on a voluntary or recommended basis. With this approach, if there was even the slightest hesitation, members who were busy with their work would choose not to log in.
In solving this problem, we asked oVice staff for advice on making sure that all employees came to work at oVice when telecommuting, which was what the head office wanted to implement. In January 2022, we introduced a “top-down” policy for employees to log into oVice when working remotely. As a result, we now have about 1,800 employees logging in every day.
That’s a dramatic increase! Did you face any problems this time?
Once everyone was in oVice, it became so crowded. At the time of the policy, we thought, “Out of about 2,000 people, it would be good to get about 1,500 people to join”. But actually, when all teammates whom we asked to log in entered oVice, teammates in the space were crowded like peas in a pod.
So, even though over 1,800 teammates had gone through the trouble of logging in, the avatars were too close to each other and people could hear the voices around them too well. It created a situation where it was difficult to have a conversation, and we apologized to the members for the inconvenience.
Starting April 2022, we have increased the number of floors from 10 to 15 based on oVice’s recommended space size. We are working on the optimal operation through trial and error, such as separating areas for people who are and are not available for conversations and providing them with ways to express their intentions.
Scenarios in which it was good to have oVice: communication with new employees, discussions, communication after transfers
Tell us about situations when you were happy to have introduced oVice.
Kohata: Since the start of the rollout coincided with the new graduate training period, we created a whole floor for training. Our intention was to allow new graduates to deepen exchanges with their peers and senior employees.
When we held the first remote training in 2020, there was a challenge in the lack of positive conversation – perhaps because of this, it was difficult for trainees who had no contact with each other to get on good terms.
However, when we started using oVice in 2021, the reach of communication seems to have expanded to chatting between breaks or trainees connecting with one another.
Like in a physical space, connections were expanded and warmed up. Fresh graduates welcomed a dedicated floor for employee training positively and saw it as a place to relax.
Miyazono: When we communicated using standard web conferencing tools, the teammates who talked were usually the same, and some employees struggled to be in the center of the discussion.
In that sense, I think oVice has a different atmosphere. Because “someone is always there,” conversations occur spontaneously and naturally.
Egami: oVice is a good fit for employees who have relocated and have to communicate with new members. I myself was transferred from an office to a remote-centered team, and oVice was very helpful. There was always someone around so I could immediately chat with a teammate when I wanted to ask a question.
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