The COVID-19 pandemic has upset markets and increased business uncertainty. As team members working from home anxiously search for balance and order, a resilient company culture has become more important than ever.
Early in March, we began to prepare for the pandemic. We told our team members that we wanted to continue business operations while maintaining a safe workplace that prioritises the health and well-being of each team member. We made sure that people would:
- Stay home if they are sick.
- Wash hands frequently with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use sanitizers frequently.
- Cover their mouth with tissues if they sneeze, and discard used tissues in the trash.
- Avoid external people who are sick with respiratory symptoms.
Along with this, a regular supply of sanitizers was made available, the housekeeping staff received protective gear and detailed cleaning instructions to ensure disinfection, and a health expert was invited to talk to the team. The health expert offered suggestions on how to take precautions in face of a global health emergency. But as the situation worsened, we decided it was better to stop risking our lives and start social distancing. We announced a transition to work from home (over a week before India went under a lockdown).
While we were still unsure of what to expect in the coming days, we knew that panic was not an option. Now, as we complete over two weeks of working from home, here’s what we’ve learnt.
Taking a leadership stance in distress mode
This means that apart from keeping employees and contract staff safe and paid, enabling work from home, ensuring compute availability, leveraging online meetings, we also:
- Honour commitments by enabling online on-boarding.
- Keep the connect with customers by revisiting product roadmaps and rethinking market strategy.
- Keep the connect with shareholders/investors by appraising on roadmaps, funding, people, and taking help wherever needed.
But most importantly, we want to ensure that we change processes while keeping the culture intact. We want to be frugal; demonstrate values and build & leverage trust.
A resilient company culture is an important part of Myelin. And from our inception, we’ve prioritised a robust culture where we value:
- Being Creative, Hands-on, and Agile
- Having a Passion for Innovation
- Taking Ownership and being Delivery Oriented
- Being an agent for the team’s success
- Taking responsibility for Individual Career
- Growth and Wellness
- Leading on Compliance and Transparency
While advancing technology has made work-from-home easier through an access to Virtual Machines and Virtual Private Network, technology is still only an enabler. In fact, many teams, despite the best technology, can slack if leaders don’t lead by example and if the team doesn’t feel supported. Take meetings for instance. It’s impossible to coordinate the efforts of tens of employees if there isn’t a clear sense of responsibility and ownership. Muddled roles result in long, unclear meetings with precious hours spent in over-communication. To prevent this:
- We continue to have meetings via video conferencing platforms, but they are short and precise.
- We still encourage a full team huddle. Larger team meetings are important as they establish purpose and we shouldn’t lose sight of them. As we conduct large team meetings, we make sure everyone gets a chance to talk about their progress and challenges.
But most importantly, we ensure approachability.
A crucial part of our company culture has been an open-door and minimal hierarchy policy and that’s what has helped us build a team that trusts each other and works together without friction. We’re bringing that culture to our home offices. While each team member marks their day on the calendar to signal free/busy hours, they remain approachable and willing to get on calls and solve problems. It is, in fact, this culture of approachability and coordination that has helped us transition smoothly into working from home.
Individual trust and relationships
We’ve always believed in offering flexible work hours. So, when team members prefer working from home as it can often mean less time spent travelling, we encourage that. But now as the entire team is working remotely, we don’t want to miss out on an opportunity for personal interaction. A core part of Myelin culture is a focus on each team member’s growth and much of that is enabled through the team member’s interaction with their colleagues and seniors.
Hence, one-on-one meetings haven’t stopped. All meetings now take place online, including personal meetings which are simply converted into video calls. In fact, no meeting begins without casual banter which reinforces friendships and brings some sense of normalcy in this current, upended world.
Communication and focus on mental health
The ongoing pandemic is unprecedented and it’s natural for all of us to be confused and unsure about how to navigate the crisis. While work must go on, it shouldn’t be at the cost of anyone’s mental or physical health. Therefore, we are trying to make our communication more effective, around how team members can successfully transition to working from home while also maintaining a routine. We’re constantly sharing guidelines on eating healthy, staying off social media, only working for regular hours, and taking ample breaks.
Every day we successfully work at home, reinforces the importance of a team culture that places people first.