Rob Brown, BBVA’s Chief Marketing Officer and head of Design and Responsible Business, shares his experience on working remotely during the redesign of BBVA's brand last year. He explains how telework can help enable a global mindset, and how the most important element is to always stay connected as a team.
BBVA is no exception to this - this week BBVA’s Group executive chairman Carlos Torres Vila shared how around 90 percent of the bank’s central services workforce are now working from their homes with technology enabling them.
Yet while technology is proving a powerful tool to keep people working, it is an equally powerful tool in keeping people connected socially too.
And as BBVA’s Global Chief Marketing Officer, Rob Brown, explains, with the crisis causing increasing levels of isolation it's vital we don’t forget the need to stay socially connected.
Last year Brown led the brand redesign at BBVA, a lot of which was done by teams working remotely, and saw then the potential of online tools to connect groups and individuals.
He said: “For me, one of the great takeaways of the redesign we did last year was just how powerful digital connectivity can be at linking people together over both work, but more broadly, around shared experiences, ideas and a sense of community too.”
Remote, digitally-powered working has been a strong tool in the BBVA toolkit for a long time - ensuring colleagues in different countries can work seamlessly together to build and deliver projects across geographic boundaries.
In fact this shift has been critical to the bank’s ambition to operate with a truly global mindset - with its One Team vision designed to ensure BBVA can deliver the best products and services to all its clients.
But as Brown says, it was also a key element behind the processes used to relaunch the brand last year - with the new brand not only unifying teams across the world, but also designed to be more effective in a digital landscape.
"Understand the digital tools you have available to you and then plan around them"
Now, with millions around the world working from home to stay safe and to help protect others, Brown says: “Life has changed so dramatically - something that seemed so simple a couple of weeks ago - like being able to go for a walk or meet for dinner - is now so out of reach for so many.
“But while isolation means not having physical contact with each other, we can and should all continue to communicate, check in, share stories, things of interest - even just saying a hello - on digital channels. Digital allows us to minimise the impact this horrific virus has on us as a community - which is probably the first thing I ask the teams to remember at the moment.”
The next thing, according to Brown, is to define the work process itself - not just jump in and hope all goes well.
He said: “Being clear about how you intend to work as a remote team is critical. It is not the same as sitting in an office, clearly, but if you sort out the processes and outcomes you want from each digital interaction, you definitely achieve more.”
For example, one thing Brown’s team builds into their online working lives are the kind of everyday interactions you get in a workplace.
He said: “In design, for example, our head of design Marga Barrera now holds daily check in sessions using Webex Teams. It's such a powerful way to help keep morale high and ensure people are engaged. It can be as simple as just asking how the team is doing.
"Teamwork and team-bonding can happen in these channels too"
“Another powerful way is to connect online, but not in real time, via Webex Teams - a single place for messaging, tools and files helping everyone save time and collaborate together".
“Teamwork and team-bonding can happen in these channels too, allowing for great conversations about best practice in design, or something interesting the team has seen. All this together creates new team rituals like sharing a virtual coffee or sending fun animated gifs or the song of the day, anything that supports building and nurturing the community of designers".
“All of this gives people a daily touchpoint where they can ask for help, or offer it, or just ensure your colleagues know what you are doing - much the same way as if you passed someone’s desk and said a quick hello when in the office.”
Brown also advocates setting out protocols. For example, ensuring everyone on the call can speak the language being used, or that timings are right for people in different locations.
He added: “Defining how you will work is just as important as what you work on. Being clear on what you expect from each digital session, and how you will continue to work on projects offline, is so important. It ensures everyone is clear on what will be delivered when, and by whom - which helps minimise the disruption being distant from someone, and not just being able to wander over to them or meet for a coffee - can cause.”
The next big thing to decide on is the technology you will use - and why you will use it. Again, while working on the brand redesign, Brown and his team used everything from webex meetings to Slack and Pinterest to Whatsapp. But all served a purpose.
He said: “Understand the digital tools you have available to you - including of course email - and then plan around them. We use Google docs, sheets and slides - for example - to enable teams to work on the same documents in real time - and that ability for communal, real time, shareable working is very productive.
“But we also have different tools for conversations, and different again for just sharing ideas. The point being to find a digital service that people are comfortable with, that enables work to happen easily, and then to make sure everyone has access so that all ideas are accessible to everyone and no one is excluded.”
He concludes: “For us, digital remote working is totally empowering - it’s a positive thing. It allows for immediacy, and it allows for fast iteration - making things better, or rejecting things that don't work.
“Within BBVA is a natural extension of the Agile way in which we operate within teams and as cross functional teams. And importantly, it allowed us to effectively build out a global mindset - which is at the heart of what we are trying to do as a single, One Team, brand.”