FirstPerson has long had a remote culture, allowing employees to work from wherever they needed. Accommodating schedules with flexible work locations has always been important.
Through the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to encourage flexibility. Employees aren't expected to be glued to their home workspaces eight hours straight each day. We understand that children need additional attention because they are also at home, and employees are encouraged to block time throughout their day to do so.
We have found it critical to stay connected and provide as close to an in-person experience as possible. To start, we instituted all-company Zoom meetings at 9:00am on Mondays and Thursdays. The purpose is twofold:
- to "see" everyone and
- to give critical, timely updates about the business
As a result, we've facilitated great conversations that help maintain transparent communication throughout the organization. If your company is too large to have all-company calls, consider implementing this on a smaller scale where the leadership team meets frequently and then cascades messages throughout their respective teams. This will send a strong message that the company is committed to transparent, two-way communication.
We've picked up a thing or two as we support a fully-remote team during this period of social distancing. Here are a few of our tips for effectively engaging a remote team:
- Convert all phone calls to video meetings. It can help you better understand the context of a conversation, and more importantly, it provides a sense of community to "see" and interact with your co-workers.
- Ensure employees have the tools and resources they need in their home workspaces. We've allowed employees to expense a few necessary items to make working from home more productive (think: second monitor, wireless keyboard, laptop trays, etc.) This could be a rather expensive endeavor, but we have found employees to be responsible and thoughtful with their asks.
- Delight your employees. Our CEO and Founder, Bryan, graciously offered Apple AirPods to anyone that needed them. We also surprised employees with porch-drop-off treats that let them know we’re thinking about them, all while supporting local businesses.
- Connect one-on-one with your employees. At FirstPerson, several members of leadership, myself included, have spent countless hours connecting with employees and have made it a priority to reach out to two or three individuals each day. These calls have proven difficult and rewarding at the same time. On the one hand, we have conversations about fear and other times we hear stories of courage.
- Support your employees. We have been open with employees about reaching out for support if they need it. Anyone experiencing a challenge can reach out to any member of the leadership team or HR and be afforded complete confidence with what they need. Like you, we've had employees affected by COVID-19 in some shape or form, and it's important to show empathy and be supportive, no matter how unfamiliar we are with the situation. We also supplied employees with alternative support methods if they are uncomfortable talking with leadership. Check out what we put together here.
- Find new ways to communicate and collaborate. We rolled out Slack in the middle of this new way of working. It has prompted conversations about fitness and pets, mothers to exchange tips on entertaining kids, and a place for random banter. Employees are enjoying this outlet to connect with their co-workers as the alternative to our usual water cooler chatter, which we miss terribly.
- Continue hosting social events. We wrap up each week with a virtual happy hour. Everyone in the company hops on Zoom to share a drink and conversation. Last week, we even found a way to play trivia. It's been a great way to unwind.
Shifting to a full remote workforce is new to many of us, but I hope that sharing what has worked for the FirstPerson team will help guide you to engage your remote team as best as possible. If I were to sum up our approach, I would tell you this: Treat people like people. It’s that simple.