Since COVID-19 hit the Malaysian shores, here's how INMAGINE has been pulling all stops to keep the business afloat while maintaining a zero-infection workplace since the reopening of its office in June.
The recent pandemic is, by far the biggest challenge yet, with businesses worldwide still learning to cope with its adversities. INMAGINE is no exception.
With 20 years of bootstrapping experience, INMAGINE has come a long way since its beginnings as a premium stock imagery agency. Having fought and survived many hardships in its early days, the company has evolved into a global creative ecosystem encompassing various creative assets and software-as-a-service business models, with offices across 44 countries and more than 300 employees to date.
Since COVID-19 hit the Malaysian shores, INMAGINE has been on the ball, pulling all stops to keep the business afloat while also maintaining a zero-infection workplace for a safe reopening of its office in June. Even before the Movement Control Order (MCO) was declared, they had already implemented a contactless policy which included no guests, no handshaking, and only virtual interviews.
“We also drew out a zigzag seating arrangement for our employees with a rotational work-from-home (WFH) action plan in place to minimise headcount in the office. Hence, when our Prime Minister announced the MCO lockdown on March 18, we were 90% ready for it,” said Stephanie Sitt, Co-founder of INMAGINE who is currently spearheading HR transformation in the company.
“We’ve prepared well in advance, equipping our people with masks and hand sanitisers. We even managed to send some over to our colleagues in America before the country went into a lockdown,” Stephanie added.
The implementation of MCO saw 93.6% of the INMAGINE workforce in Malaysia working from home for the first time, proving to be a struggle in the first week. Weeks later, a survey done by the company’s HR department showed that an overwhelming 81% of Inmagineers reported satisfaction with their work-from-home arrangement, with 60% of them feeling optimistic to continue on indefinitely.
When asked about the top three challenges faced while working remotely, the majority rated that having ‘limited social interaction with colleagues’ was the hardest, followed by the difficulty of ‘food arrangement/preparation at home,’ and lastly, the ‘nature of a job that needs to be done in the office.’
The survey also concluded that 25% of Inmagineers were ready to resume work from the office (WFO) beginning June 1, so long as they feel safe. In total, 57.1% of the workforce feels that entering the office once or twice a week for work matters that require face-to-face communication suffices.
These findings led the company to adjust its action plan. A headcount of those working in the office is now fixed - the rest will continue to work from home for the following three months. This not only helps the company identify potential clusters should anyone get infected, it also frees up seats for hot-desking, an arrangement which tackles the issue of overcrowding in the office as the INMAGINE team continues expanding.
In April, the company managed to successfully onboard 13 new recruits across various departments. The right project management and communication tools played a role in helping them to transition well into their roles while working remotely.
“We check in with our employees more often than before, ensuring that everyone’s safe and have what they need to carry out their tasks. We also encourage over-communication to avoid miscommunication,” said Stephanie.
She believes that the company has grown even stronger as a team since the crisis, which reinforces the DNA of togetherness that had been set forth since day 1.
What’s the ‘new normal’ at INMAGINE moving forward?
Since 12 May, a dedicated team of Inmagineers have been tasked to clean and sanitise the office, as well as mark out social distancing lines to welcome the WFO team back. All Inmagineers have also received a care package which includes a sanitary tool and a case to keep spare masks while on the go.
"We have several mist machines which emit hypochlorous acid to disinfect everyone who enters and exits the office. Hand sanitisers are easily accessible, and the office is also fogged daily, with common areas such as the washroom and pantry disinfected regularly to assure Inmagineers of a work environment that feels as safe as home,” said Stephanie.
Besides wearing a mask at all times, everyone will undergo temperature checks via a thermal machine scanner at the reception area which beeps when readings exceed 37.2 °C . “They’re also required to scan a QR code to fill out a health declaration form daily." added Stephanie.
The company will continue to adhere to the guidelines stipulated by the government by postponing all sporting activities, town halls and festive celebrations until December. E-town hall and E-fitness is the way going forward.
Living the times, and knowing that tough times shall pass too
INMAGINE, like the rest of the companies around the world, has been impacted by the adversities of the pandemic to a certain extent. It saw a decrease in revenue in March itself, and has been actively cutting out marketing expenses to cope. However, pay cuts were the last thing on their minds.
“Salary adjustment is the last thing we would put on the table,” said Stephanie.
The husband-and-wife founders instead, chose to forgo their “salary” until things get better. “It’s nothing new. We can manage as long as we don’t spend unnecessarily. Being a bootstrap company, our motto has always been simple: to determine what is must-have, good-to-have and nice-to-have. It reminds us to spend wisely. It also helps that we are located in the heart of Kelana Jaya, which doesn’t cost us too much.”
Things slowly picked up for them in April, and by May, revenue began to bounce back with the reopening of the European market.
Some may wonder why INMAGINE as a tech company is rushing to open its doors. “It was a calculated decision. We can’t just follow what Facebook, Google or Twitter did because working from home is not for everyone.
Some Inmagineers have been stressed juggling between work and family for the past two months; or they need some form of social interaction, especially since some of them share small living spaces with housemates/siblings. It isn’t as convenient as one would’ve imagined. While most of our employees are adapting well to the work-from-home plan, we can’t neglect those who feel more productive working from the office,” said Stephanie.
“Maintaining a balance between the wellbeing of the organisation and our employees is crucial, and we strive to do what’s best for both,” added Stephanie.
In the past two months, the founders have also been actively distributing food to several communities around KL and Ipoh. “It feels good to know that we are able to help others, as well as take care of the families of 300 Inmagineers by ensuring job security.” Stephanie strongly believes that Inmagineers are the pillar of success to the business and hopes that everyone will emerge stronger from this storm.
INMAGINE is forging a future where design is within reach for everyone by adopting technological innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Through self-disruption, the Group is able to identify ways to bridge gaps and bring value added products and services to more people.
The three core products of INMAGINE are innovatively built with the integration of data, machine learning and artificial intelligence so as to be in line with INMAGINE’s mission to make every creative journey a smarter, faster, easier and more affordable one.
Inmagine’s major clientele is from the US and Europe which consists of marketers, freelancers and even HR personnel in need of modern creative solutions for learning content creation.
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