Home office is digital Nirvana, the experience of Arquímedes Cubelos in Desigual

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Dear reader, I’m Arquímedes Cubelos. I want explain you my experience with the home office.

In 2006 I was offered to start a new product line, the accessories line, in the well-known fashion brand Desigual, with its headquarters in Barcelona. I used to lived in Cerdanyola de Vallés, my children were 8 and 9 years old and my wife worked as an intermediate manager in a production plant of a pharmaceutical company. Neither my wife nor I were convinced of the life and education of our children in the city. Several years before we had fallen in love with a small town in the pre Pyrenees of Huesca, to which we went every weekend. For a vital impulse we decided to sell everything and move to the town.

1

My company reaction

So, one day I arrived at the office and announced that I was going to live in a town in Huesca on Monday, and I understood that our employment relationship had to end (year 2007). I was convinced that I would have to work in Huesca in any job. However, my surprise was that the president and CEO of the company offered me to do home office work: 3 days from home and 2 in the office, with a certain flexibility, if necessary, some weeks it would be the other way around, 3 days from the office and 2 from home. My obsession at that time was not to spend more than one night away from my children, and that’s how I made it known.

Well, the presidency and the general management disposition were maximum to reach an agreement and this was done. There were weeks of going to the office only Monday and Tuesday and other weeks of Monday, Tuesday and Friday. The night I was in Barcelona I slept at my parents’ house.

At that time I had to make international trips, either to do market research or to coordinate the development of a product, which did not cause any kind of problem for me.

The team was made up of three people; a designer, a graphic designer and myself as director and general coordinator of the product line, in addition to carrying purchases directly.

I was lucky to be in the right organization at the right time. An organization and direction with a post modern vision and a moment of euphoria in the growth of the company. In a period of 18 months, before moving to Huesca, we had managed to be 5% of the company’s turnover. 

On the other hand, the acceptance by my colleagues, the other product managers, and the team for which I was responsible, was magnificent and didn’t awake any kind of envy. They knew that my vital approaches and family management were my priority and that my commitment to the company and the project was 100%.

The new stage

So this new stage began. On Mondays and Tuesdays we held face-to-face follow-up meetings, design, sales, sales, marketing and production planning based on sales. During these two days I also took the opportunity to visit our stores and the competition ones and to speak with other colleagues about new ideas and possible strategic product refocusing.

Home office days were devoted to sales analysis and negotiations with Asia on purchasing and production monitoring. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday it was time to execute the actions agreeded on Monday and Tuesday. On the other hand, I spoke to the team by telephone when we had any doubt or incident that may occur. However, the most important thing I could do was spend time, as a manager, to reflect and research new experiments and approaches to product lines / customers; I was able to do this for several reasons:

  • I found a total trust environment from the company towards me.
  • In my house, I separated the hours dedicated to the family from the work’s hours. According to my family, I organized my time and set up an office, with maximum privacy and independence.
  • My boss respected totally the agreement and the schedules. Only in cases of maximum urgency did he call me at exceptional times.
  • My commitment and availability was total, and I focused exclusively on the effectiveness of my work and the business growth.

All this effort and a new way of working became the following achievements:

  • A new way of conceptualizing the collections that later we passed on to the other product lines. We designed by types of emotions and not by type of client. A team of 12 people, managing 3 product lines and 9 more people with a new line of shoes.
  • We came to represent approximately 30% of the company’s total business and be the most profitable line.

I would like to describe the kind of leadership and supervision relationship that I established with my superiors. There were clear general guidelines and clear and quantified minimum objectives to achieve. The rest was up to us, and there were only a few meetings to exchange opinions with the presidency and general management.

When I started this experience and explained my life style to friends or acquaintances, everyone understood the effectiveness and productivity of the project, but at the same time there was a dose of incredulity. Today, after the Coronavirus health crisis, we have all had to face this new reality and way of working and communicating. 

My reflections

As personal reflection I would say that this is a great opportunity for the company , optimizing office costs and gaining productivity and creativity. For professionals, gaining autonomy and flexibility, saving absurd commuting hours and having a better family life. For the planet, reducing emissions and leading a more sustainable life.

I think we are facing a new challenge, to enter the NIRVANA DIGITAL , and make this new way of working, home office, MORE EFFECTIVE than the TRADITIONAL and face-to-face way of working.

To get to this BUSINESS NIRVANA, and after my experience, I will dare to give you some tips or reflections:

 Leadership

Today it is essential to lead from the purpose of the project because this is the force that makes anyone working without you even ask, and enhance the commitment.

Today more than ever the management of people must be based on elements such as: respect, empathy and attention to the team and the individual and their state of mind and possible emotional blocks or brakes.

Manage by projects and with clear objectives in production and delivery in an integrated way with the two previous points 

Physical space and tools

Offices can become smaller, with the added concept that no one has a permanent position. When you get to the office you come to your area or department and you go to work in the location that is free. Promote areas for meetings and brainstorming.

At home we must help and advise the employee to find solutions, so that they feel comfortable when working, something that will not always be easy; since there is a new way of living, and there must even be a family awareness.

It is necessary to promote communication programs, meetings and monitoring of projects that give visibility to the entire organization of progress in real time. It is an ideal time to enhance creativity and search for continuous improvement, through digital training platforms

In the social field of human relations

This point is essential to enter digital nirvana. Take advantage of all kinds of meetings or human contact, whether digital or physical, to improve the feeling of team and common project, always seeking alignment with the purpose of the company and the project.

It is a great opportunity to re – learn how to make really productive meetings: 80% of meetings can be less than 15 minutes, and the longest must end with a feeling of team growth.

Respect for this new way of working and effort, for the change it means, must be exquisite, both on family and the management part.

At the level of the individual

This is a great opportunity to increase the feeling of happiness. However there are also risks of emotional disconnection with the project. I consider important, as a key to success, the search for balance between the following points:

  • Social balance. Go to the office to establish human contact which enhances the communicative synapse.
  • Balance in time management. Above all, the time at home, it is essential to develop new competencies and, simplye, think about privacy and promote the creation of new ideas and the growth of the organization.
  • Organizational and systemic balance (sense of justice). It is very important to see the traceability of the commitment and results of the individuals in the organization and how projects are prioritized or progress is rewarded.

With nothing more to add, I hope that my experience and reflections will help you to move to this new and exciting way of working, that is home office, and helping society.

Arquímedes Cubelos.

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