Before March, we were given a 1-day work from home (WFH) privilege as the news of growing COVID-19 cases came in. On March 2, our 1-day WFH increased to 3 days. Then the number of confirmed cases multiplied. Company management then announced a full week WFH by March 9. Three days later, the government announced the Metro-Manila community quarantine would start on March 15.

In my head, I asked myself, “what will happen now?” Events were happening so fast and the only clarity was uncertainty.

The restrictions imposed by the quarantine did not make a huge difference in how Amihan would operate through the pandemic. With offices spread across the country, Amihan’s operations are mostly set up to mobilize digitally — our meetings can be done online, documents are shared and signed digitally, and solution developments are delivered virtually. Employees can choose to work at home as long as they can deliver on projects. Our offices are open spaces where we can sit anywhere and work with our laptop. Solutions architects, software engineers, analysts, designers, and project managers – everyone is enabled to do their work remotely.

As for me, I manage client and partner relationships at Amihan where face-time meetings and handshakes are important. While I can complete many of my deliverables remotely, the main challenge for me in this quarantine is building and nurturing relationships with customers. I found it a tough situation to be in.

About 3 months after the quarantine, the situation is still full of uncertainty. The main difference we can see is how we’ve coped and have adjusted our working norms relatively quickly. It wasn’t exactly a smooth transition but we have noticed 3 Adaptive Culture Factors that have contributed to Amihan’s ability to adapt to the current paradigm.

Transparency. In the first week of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), we started our bi-weekly company stand-up meetings, a time for the leadership team to give announcements and project updates, at the start and end of each week. Initially, the announcements were mainly related to the quarantine situation and served as a venue to raise concerns on the matter. This gave a heightened level of assurance for everyone, knowing that the company is prioritizing its employees’ welfare and would continue to improve its status based on various changing factors, such as government announcements, health bulletins, and employee feedback. Eventually, the stand-up meetings included team accomplishments to celebrate on, targets to push for, and project highlights. Unlike our previous experience of working as separate teams, these meetings allowed us to show greater appreciation for the work all our colleagues put in.

Employee Engagement. While nothing beats socializing in a shared physical space, the Human Resource and Marketing teams took the opportunity to keep social connections alive and even level up employee engagement through weekly Amihan Virtual Parties (AVPs). They have hosted fun quizzes, insightful fitness talks, engaging coffee chats – all of which have become one of the items in my calendar that I look forward to. This promotes a fun atmosphere to interact with colleagues virtually. It’s also amusing to learn about colleagues you didn’t know but now notice because of the skills and knowledge they have. Moreover, it’s an enjoyable experience to see when even the bosses join the games and are as competitive as everyone else!

Valued Feedback. It was encouraging to know that Amihan’s leadership listened to employee feedback and suggestions as part of the solution building process. The concerns raised during Q&A sessions were noted and we did surveys where challenges were identified, such as intermittent connectivity and domestic distractions. The results of the surveys were also shared and presented, creating a conducive environment for us to voice our concerns and share ideas to create a better virtual workplace.

At Amihan, we believe conducting digital transformation is not just about the technology, but more so about developing the right culture. Being empowered by technology, along with using these Adaptive Culture Factors, enabled Amihan to quickly respond to the pandemic There’s still plenty of room for improvement and that’s the beauty of it – the learning never stops.

There’s an image going around social media with the question “Who led the digital transformation of your company?” Was it 1) CEO 2) CTO or 3) COVID-19? It’s funny because it is true. The pandemic accelerated the realization that we need to digitally transform to swiftly adapt to evolving situations. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” I believe the same applies to any organization.

Haifa Carina is a Business Development Manager at Amihan Global Strategies. She also leads various initiatives for the Philippine tech community, volunteers for DEVCON Philippines and curates for Startup Digest Philippines. Connect with her on LinkedIn.