The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has redefined life and work as we have all known it. 24 Seven is speaking with business leaders to learn how they are navigating the new reality and planning for what’s next. Dana Nugent is the HR Manager at Postlight, a digital product studio in New York City. Here’s their story of thriving in the time of Corona:
24 Seven: Tell us how Postlight handled the sudden pivot to the Work from Home model. Were some of your employees already remote? How did you transition everyone else and how do you evolve the process as you go?
DN: We had a handful of employees that were already remote – mostly that being our engineers who are geographically dispersed throughout the US, and a small international team. As you can imagine it was a big shift that happened very quickly to get set up for remote work. To our benefit, our engineering partners who were already working remotely pulled together a much-needed crash course for the rest of us. It included what they've learned through their experience over the years of what works best and walked us through all the potential pain points of suddenly working from home. For example, having significant others be in a shared workspace, and having conflicting conference calls, how to separate work from home life, and what tools could we rely on to make us more effective.
24 Seven: What about equipment requirements? How did you handle that then and now?
DN: One decision we made was to provide equipment but also to allow employees to purchase what they felt they needed to get their jobs done. We wanted to set everyone up for success. At the beginning, most people just went home thinking, similar to me, “I'm only going to be here for a couple weeks.” And now look at us. It's two months in, so we are being flexible with everyone getting what they need because it looks like we are going to be remote, or at least partially remote, as time goes on. So people bought simple things like mouse pads or an external keyboard, or external mouse – equipment they didn't realize how much they relied upon in the office. After the first month, we’ve found our rhythm of responding to needs as they arise.
24 Seven: It sounds like one of the keys to pivot success is flexibility – for both the organization and for the team. What are other elements determine setting up your team for success?
DN: First and foremost, we took into consideration the health and wellbeing of our employees, and those of their families as well. And that includes their mental health. This is hard on our team. And one of the things that we focus on is ensuring that we gave people the time off or flexibility that they needed. Many are working with a child at home for the first time. We recognized that we need to be more lenient with expectations and our PTO practices than we normally would be. While we still have client commitments, we understand that it's a balance. It’s important to us to let our team know that we're there for them.
24 Seven: What’s the give and take that’s required for that from both the company and employees?
DN: To meet client expectations while balancing employees’ personal situations, we ask that our team over-share their availability statuses. If they need to be out for childcare from 9 AM to 2 PM where they can do no work, we ask that they share that with the team so that can be built into the plan. We understand that not every situation is the same, and we take everything on a case by case, day by day. One of our team members one day had noted that she had her daughter with her and couldn’t do video chats, but she offered to be reachable through slack and email. This kind of openness allows us to recalibrate where we need to.
24 Seven: Tell us about some of the challenges of this sudden Work from Home scenario.
DN: Like everyone we’ve relied on trial and error. We are constantly evaluating what works and what doesn't work. I think keeping connection and culture is vitally important – even more so at this time. And we're really leaning on all of leadership for that. Our operations team has been doing virtual coffees with some of our newer employees, specifically those who had just started within the last 30, 60, 90 days. We do this mainly because at least people who had been with the company have the camaraderie and connection to other team members. And although everyone is now remote, for the new employees who were not expecting to go remote, they didn’t get a chance to feel out the team and company culture. So we reach out just to chit chat and make sure we are supporting them as they integrate into our company.
24 Seven: You mentioned one approach doesn’t work for everyone. How are you solving for that?
DN: Everyone’s situation is different. We’ve asked managers to increase their one on ones with their direct reports, and to move these conversations off of Slack to virtual calls to ensure we are connecting with everyone in the company weekly. Additionally, we want to create opportunities for everyone to have some face time with leadership and other team members, just to check in. We also do simple things like virtual happy hours which we call “kitchen beers”. In our office we would use this time for our team members to grab a beer, unwind and connect with each other. How could we replicate that important bonding opportunity? So we continued the tradition and now it has morphed into a meet up where the team might play a virtual game or show off their plants or pets.
24 Seven: It sounds like increasing the amount, the quality, and the pace of communication has been a big part of your strategy at this time.
DN: Yes, absolutely. One change that we have made has been to move our company-wide meetings from bi-weekly to weekly. These meetings are typically only a half hour long, but if anyone has questions, it’s their opportunity to ask leadership. It also gives us the opportunity to share where the business is headed. It helps us maintain the camaraderie that we have established here – it’s part of the company culture that we are so proud of.
24 Seven: What has surprised you in all of this?
DN: It was harder than expected for a lot of people to move to working from home, partially because it was coupled with a pandemic, but also because they didn't ask to be remote. I have heard a lot of employees say, “You know I always thought that I would thrive and love being remote, but I actually miss the spirit of being in the office.” I think it’s something we all took for granted. And then similarly for the remote team they’ve had to adjust to the impact of everyone being remote and how that has disrupted the way they are accustomed to working. But we have maintained a positive attitude and we have grown as an organization. We’ve always considered ourselves remote-friendly, but now as we look to the future and what our environment will look like, we realize there is so much more we can do for our team, both in office and remote. Whether it be through the onboarding process to make sure that in-office teams have equipment up front that they’d need for remote work, or making sure that some of our programs are set up in a way that everyone, regardless of location, can participate.
24 Seven: It sounds like cohesiveness and consistency is something your company recognizes is important right now.
DN: 100%. And I credit that to our company leadership. I feel lucky that I work in a company like this, and especially right now. Our co-founders always make sure that they tell everybody we're all right as a company. Their constant reassurance has made our team feel secure: “Okay the world is chaotic around me, but my constant right now is work. Nothing has really changed except for the fact that I need to work from home right now.” We have that stability to lean on. Feeling safe and secure at work is going to be increasingly important for employers to convey to keep teams engaged and happy, and from my perspective Postlight is doing just that!For additional insights and resources to help navigate today’s market, click here.