A week in review on how to manage an employee base working from home. Practices that simplified the transition to work from home and insights learned.
Amid the landscape of COVID-19, a common expression is making its way into the workforce vernacular - ‘The new norm.’ More times than not, it’s referring to working from home. Verys has always had a contemporary work from home policy, which made it relatively easy to transition our 200 employees overnight to a work from home posture.
We are fortunate. The Verys business model of outsourced software application development is conducive to a remote workforce. However, never has our entire team worked remote at the same time. While we did our best to predict all contingencies this would create, we’ve learned some things along the way that have helped us fine tune our ‘new norm.’
Verys had several business practices that led to an easy transition. Here’s a few that had a direct impact in enabling our switch to WFH.
Our version of daily scrums, sprint reviews, retros, and sprint planning have been the backbone for how we build software. Being remote, they now act as the glue that brings our teams together at a familiar cadence. The only difference is the channel or medium for how we meet. More on that below.
Like many companies, we’ve adopted Slack as the primary means for intercompany, and in some cases, client communication. With channels already in place for teams, customers, and technology interests, it has catapulted us into virtual conference calls.
At Verys, we use a platform called Nostradamus that allows us as a professional services organization to run every major aspect of our business - Project staffing, time tracking, hiring, forecasted financials -- all aimed towards achieving the best project delivery and utilization of our staff across our client base.
Verys is 100% laptops. This prevented us from sending workstations home and all the tracking and logistics that comes along with that.
No PBX phones here. We have a BYO Phone policy. With some employees leveraging Google Voice to separate their personal line relative to their business line.
Office 365 is our suite of choice. Another option is Google G-Suite. At Verys, we use it for real time collaboration and access to files from anywhere, on any device. Beneficial when working in-office, but critically important when working remote.
We build software. Jira has become our tool for managing our iterative development process. We haven’t missed a beat with our teams working from home due to our existing business practices using the tool and it’s cloud access.
We’ve quickly learned a few practices to improve upon this last week.
Even though working at home is familiar to most, our circumstance is definitely new to all. We’ve established a cadence for our leaders to reach out daily and connect with each individual employee. It’s a simple check in to see how the individual is doing. We ask them if there is anything they need. Most individuals need nothing, but in some cases, the conversation has led us to shipping out monitors, employees picking up office chairs, or getting an opportunity to clarify how to access our tele-health services. It has allowed us to maintain a pulse on how the organization is doing in a new time.
Our original cadence was once a month. Now, our leadership team is holding a town hall weekly. We have adopted Microsoft Teams for this meeting as it supports the number of participants and comes with our Office 365 license. We have questions come in through chat, and we strive to be transparent in our answers. With our daily written updates, and weekly virtual town hall, we are definitely encouraging over communication.
A big part of the Verys culture is the team comradery. We have company sports teams and gatherings of all kinds (both socially and philanthropic). We just had our first game night virtually. We used a combination of Twitch, Slack, and Daily.co to complete the overall experience. Our yoga classes will be switching to virtual sessions. We even have a #beer channel on Slack that started meeting Fridays after work, over a Slack Call. I heard they were able to raise their glasses and properly execute a ‘virtual cheers.’
We are adopting a cornucopia of video conferencing tools. While Slack has become the most popular tool of choice to support impromptu team calls, we are using them all - Zoom, Join.me, Webex, MS Teams. We are encouraging our employees to turn on their camera when participating on a virtual call. It definitely helps with humanizing the interactions.
Successes and reasons to celebrate used to be shared ‘word of mouth’ at our HQ office. Impromptu announcements of new client wins or the celebration of key deliverables have now transitioned to a Slack channel. We are more disciplined now at sharing these reasons to celebrate. Doing so virtually, allows everyone to experience the celebration.
I’m not going to predict the future. But times like this have the ability to extinguish or ignite trends going forward. Companies are being forced to work remotely, and when you take a step back, there are some advantages that come along with the challenges.
By removing geography as a role requirement in hire, you have the ability to find the right talent anywhere. Increasing your talent pool access.
One of the appeals of working remotely is having a career with the freedom to take control of personal time. Some studies have shown that employees who WFH get the balance right and have increased satisfaction. Other studies have reported that most WFH individuals believe they are happier than counterparts who still travel into an office daily. USA Today just reported that individuals typically save $4k/year when they WFH.
The obvious cost is office space.
This last week has been a new experience for all of us. One I’m eager to put in the rear view mirror. But in a strange way, working from afar has actually made me closer to many of my co-workers and my customers. Virtual meetings have been a window into their personal lives. I know who has pets, how old their kids are, what they ate for dinner last Monday, who’s caring for a parent in their home. This experience has given us a reason to ask a simple question - “How are you doing?” And by doing so, learn more about the people we work with.
WFH and building a remote workforce is not new. Like Verys, I’m confident that companies are quickly learning not just how to manage it, but learning how to do it better each day. When we get to the other side of COVID-19, we will not stay at home. However, without a doubt, some of the things we’re doing as a company now will carry over and continue to be our new norm.