If your business is at all involved with e-commerce, you know it requires thinking about your operation 24 X 7 X 365. E-commerce businesses are usually “always open.” But we are one of only a few industries that can make that claim. Hospitals. Energy. Transportation. Municipalities. Public Safety…the list goes on and on. But many of us working in e-commerce evolved form the “office worlds” of marketing, advertising, retail management, banking, technology services – businesses that have traditionally operated on the archaic 9-5 paradigm.
In order to be successful in e-commerce (and increasingly in many, many other industry segments) it’s imperative to think about staffing and operating around the clock 365 days a year. But how do you do that without creating a sense of workaholic-ness and exhaustion among your team members? First you need to start with an understanding among the entire team members that the work day is not a 9-5 / one time zone phenomenon and create operating pillars and time off rules that provide the team in an “always open” environment with a sense of freedom versus a sense of slavery.
Here are some pillars of our operation at Accorin which we utilize and that we believe help:
Regularly Scheduled “All Hands” Meetings
Regularly-scheduled “All Hands” meetings for the entire company including remote workers (which is most of us) provide a central communication pillar and get the team grounded in goals. At Accorin we kick off our week with this meeting / call and we will move it to accommodate holidays (including international ones) or team commitments and deadlines. But we try to make it same “bat-time, same bat-channel” every week / first thing.
Understand The concept of each work day is different for team members that work globally.
It’s not 9-5. Hours can be staggered so that staff members working in different time zones can collaborate. So don’t be surprised if it works better for a project manager to be working 6am – 8am then 12 noon – 6pm so that they have live time overlap with a team member 12 hours away. What does this mean? If you have a star project manager who works from a remote office and surfs two hours in the morning while you are in your office at 9am should you care? Absolutely not.
Beyond the “work day”, the “work week” is also different.
Many global work cultures work 6 days a week. Saturday is a work day in many Indian companies. Sunday is actually Monday. Therefore the traditional “week” and week end” lines of demarcation are now blurred for many of us working in e-commerce but headquartered in the US. I’m not advocating a 6 day work week – I’m advocating flexibility because it works best for us. Especially during long periods of collaboration with team members in different time zones it’s important to realize the week may need to be different for team members. At Accorin it’s not uncommon for some team members to work 5 hours a day 7 days a week, 6 hours a day 6 days a week or 3 days at 10 hours and 1 day at 6-8 hours.
Understanding availability is key.
While the traditional 8 hour work day / 5 day-a-week work paradigm might be changing, it’s important for team members to have a common understanding of availability. At Accorin we leverage common calendars, workflow tools, and a strong sense of trust among team members to ensure everyone knows when team members are available for each other and for clients. So although the traditional work day
International Hand Offs and 24 X 7 Work Paradigm.
Just because the day ends in North America doesn’t mean the work stops. We often shift sprints, parts of projects, and issue resolution from US project managers to India / Asia-based engineers when day time shifts to night time. This ensures continuity in our problem solving and project progress. Clients are pleased because they know the work day doesn’t just end with a problem unresolved. Project sprints with aggressive timelines have a greater chance of success when the work can scale with these handoffs.
BOTTOM LINE: Ultimately, in a world of global resourcing, what guides the e-commerce team to success is structure, team work, and trust. Issues related to when and where people are working are less important. Remote work, flexible hours, and flexible work location can all be used to an e-commerce team’s advantage and produce high rates of resource and client satisfaction as well.