Going Remote While Working Together
Maintain a closer connection with employees, partners, and customers
April 2nd, 2020
As CEO of a growing technology company, I’m dealing with the uncertainty and disruption caused by global events. This environment causes challenges for our employees, our partners, and our customers. I’ve found a few ways to maintain a closer connection between employees, strengthen our culture of collaboration, and continue to support existing and new customers, even though we’re all working from home.
It started for us on March 12, 2020 — Humio became a fully remote organization overnight as a result of government mandates around the world. In the interest of the safety and wellbeing of all of our employees, partners, and customers, we made the decision to close all of our offices in Aarhus, London, San Francisco, and Seattle. We joined the rest of our employees regularly working from home, and went 100% remote.
Like many startups, we have grown organically in a short time, going from one office in Europe to four offices in three countries in a two-year period. We believe in finding the best talent regardless of geographic location, and this has meant a large proportion of our company has always worked remotely. Humio has been practicing a hybrid-remote model, but due to the current situation, our entire company now works remotely.
Through this transition, we have learned some things along the way that I’d like to share with other companies that are going through the same journey at the moment.
Virtual Social Connection
I’ll start with myself as an example. I am an extrovert and have always enjoyed coming into an office. I get energized by discussions while waiting for coffee, ad-hoc chats, and seeing people face-to-face. Additionally, I am used to traveling and being able to interact with our employees in other locations. Given the state of our current environment, all of this has come to a screeching halt.
So how do extroverts feel about self-isolation? My answer is — we HATE it. Many of you are in the same boat, and even introverts need human connection and reassurance to not feel too isolated. So what can you do to simulate the social aspects of an office in a remote environment? Here are a few we’ve been trying here at Humio:
Coffee Breaks - Groups meet to check in online, grab a coffee - no agenda
Slack #WFH Channel - for informal discussions and sharing
Share Music - via Spotify Playlists or Slack channels
Hygge Hour - Hang out on a Friday evening on Zoom with a drink of your choice
Virtual Workout Sessions - get some exercise with others
WFH Tips - Maintain a list of tips for working from home with suggestions
Many of these initiatives we have just started, and I am certain new ideas will be added to the list as they are brought to life by our employees. I can already see that there is a lot of interest in creating the best virtual meeting background — possibly another competition idea. The hope is that these activities can help create a needed social connection for our employees to interact informally and keep contact with one another, especially in these very uncertain times.
Shared Context and Communication
For our team members who have always worked remotely, very little has changed from their work environment, and now the rest of our organization is learning what it is like to interact virtually with one another. The priority now is that we all need a shared context, and ways to communicate that are accessible and readily available. At Humio, we are lucky in terms of having the infrastructure in place to support open communication and collaborative work via solutions like Slack, Zoom, Confluence, GitHub, and Salesforce.
Our engineers also use our own software to maintain a shared context about our system. We rely on Humio log management to build and manage our product and support our customers. It provides real-time insights about our system by all employees no matter where they are working. Morten Grouleff describes how it works in a technical blog post titled “Using Humio to Improve Humio.”
Empathy is #1
One important item to note here, things are not “normal” for everyone right now and for the foreseeable future. The unknowns are many, and it is something that is a growing concern globally. This is why as a team it is even more critical to be empathetic and understand what others are experiencing. Many have children at home, struggle with cramped working conditions, are nervous about job security, have loved ones that are at high risk with regards to the COVID-19 virus — or are at high risk themselves — and the list can go on. Empathy for each other is a requirement. Empathy should always be practiced, but I find that it is even more important now to cope with the rapid changes we are in the middle of.
We are all doing the best we can muddling through. Hopefully, along the way, we will learn a few things that in the end will improve the way we work and what we value as a company.
I would love to hear more about what other companies are engaging in, and how leadership teams are finding creative ways to motivate companies right now. Feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.