So far, it’s been 36 days since LINE told everyone to work from home in response to the sudden rise of COVID-19 in Korea, and what’s been most surprising about this “new normal” is how it has not really affected our business operations. When the pandemic struck Korea, LINE’s focus was squarely on how to keep all its employees safe, so we implemented a variety of measures, in particular a work-from-home system. In turn, LINERs rose to the challenge, and have ensured the company is continuing to function and flourish.
How did we do it? Let’s take a look at how LINERs have adjusted to the work-from-home lifestyle, continuing to be productive at a high level while preserving work-life balance!
“Working From Home” – Not so new for LINERs
In fact, work-from-home is not a strange arrangement for LINERs because LINE has had a policy in place for some time allowing for remote work once a month. Because LINE offers a good VPN connection, LINERs have long been able to access the company’s system whenever and wherever they want via mobile or PC. In addition, work meetings are usually held via LINE Group Call, so people are quite used to working and interacting from over the internet.
Of course, remote work isn’t the same thing has only working from home all the time, week after week. In order to make the switch to that new reality, we required new guidelines — which is why LINE came out with “Useful Remote Work Tips for LINERs.” Nine issues have been published so far, covering a wide range of WFH-related topics, such as “an emergency kit for the mind,” offering LINERs under lots of stress access to professional help; tips on how to manage new tasks, encourage a cooperative working culture, and concentrate on work; online stretching and home training classes; and collaborative work tools and useful LINE PC tips that can be used in a variety of situations. Our “Useful Remote Work Tips” is published regularly, as we aim to do all we can to help LINERs get used to the WFH system.
Changing how we communicate
Working with people in other countries is an essential part of being a LINER due to the global nature of our operations. In the past, that meant overseas business trips and conference calls were a regular part of our jobs. Now, as travel is no longer possible most of the time, we simply shifted emphasis to conference calls and video calls. With simultaneous interpretation available for Korean, Japanese and English, it’s usually easy for everyone attending these conference call to talk and exchange their points of view.
The main tools we use for collaborating online are LINE Call, Group Call and LINE Meeting. Since we already use LINE as the main communication method internally, everyone has the option of interacting with their colleagues LINE or email, or they can start a LINE Call whenever they need to. In addition, up to 500 people can participate in group calls, with speakers able to share their screen with all the other participants. We currently use this for our weekly meetings and other meetings where visual materials need to be shared.
LINE also employs a range of in-house communications channels for delivering news and other engaging content with LINERs. For example, "Friday Noon Live" (FNL) invites famous people from all walks of life to share their stories and insights with the office, while "Unexpected Lunch" brings together LINERs from different departments but with similar interests to share great food and meet new people.
Both events have now been converted to all online versions for the COVID-19 era, earning high marks from LINERs. For FNL, people enjoy having the added flexibility of being able to listen from wherever they might be, as well as being able to interact with the other LINERs listening via live chat. For the online Unexpected Lunch, people may be eating at home, but they still enjoy interacting with their colleagues about all sorts of topics, like favorite travel destinations and memorable stories.
There is no stopping LINERs
LINE may have been ready for the transition to work-from-home, however, sometimes remote work doesn’t fully compare to in-person communications with your colleagues. In the office, you can just swing your chair around to speak to a colleague, without booking a meeting room. But that informality is lost with remote work. You can’t ask a colleague to walk with you to the store or to grab a drink before going home. It can get a little lonely sometimes. In order to help LINERs feel less lonely, people started to hold a variety of social events online.
Although we aren’t able to meet in person, still we could gather online to greet new hires. One development team actually welcomed newly joined members with such a fervor with a King of Investment concept.
(You can become a legend with us! Welcome!)
Another popular choice is holding virtual company dinners for our virtual offices. The most popular menu for virtual company dinners was of course, Korean fried chicken. Of course, timing is always tough, and sometimes on person has to eat alone while waiting for the other person’s delivery to arrive.
Did you know it is possible to play drinking games and other games during virtual company dinners as well? For instance, take a look at a round of “Mafia” being played during a service planning team’s virtual group dinner. You can feel the fun and excitement, right?
Birthdays are another important social area that have gone virtual. Team members used a custom-made image as their video call background to make the event more memorable. Take a look at one lucky birthday person wiping tears of joy from their eyes.
Recruiting goes 100% contact-free
After effect of COVID-19 has been how job interviews are conducted. Instead of being held in person, this year they’re been done remotely, too. Again, given the international nature of LINE, people here are already used to conducting interviews online, so making the switch wasn’t that difficult. And for those people who are hired this way, we soon send them everything they need to start working from home. All orientation and education/training courses are also held online. The current operations staff attend the online courses as guest speakers, introducing the company, groups and duties and answering questions. It’s an approach that has earned high marks from all who’ve participated.
The first round of this year’s annual recruitment drive for new LINE developers was held in early March. By that time, it was clear that the COVID-19 situation was too dangerous for in-person meetings, so the process was quickly changed to be all online: First the coding test, then the applicants’ documents were screened, and then first and second round interviews were held.
LINE: Always ready for the unexpected
The unprecedented pandemic has brought significant changes to our lives. However, LINE was already well-equipped for remote work, so was able to respond to COVID-19 quickly while maintaining workplace productivity. The ability of LINERs to respond quickly and set up a new way of working together virtually is just part of LINE’s collaborative culture and how we’re always ready to respond to the new and unexpected.
For my next entry, I will tell you the story of the proactive support, beyond a mere response, that moved a lot of LINERs. See you all again very soon! (Stay tuned!)
※ Please note that the details described in this article may not apply to all offices.