How we created stability for the team during unstable times

Or Yagel
Or Yagel
Mar 25, 2020 · 7 min read

**If you’re part of the HR, management or employee experience teams in your company — this post is even more relevant for you.

It’s been almost 2 weeks since COVID-19 took over our lives, and in this post we want to share how we actually created an island of stability during these unstable times. Employees are worried and that’s normal. Their levels of anxiety are high and they’re not sure how to manage working remotely, especially when they’re not used to. There’s great uncertainty regarding how they will communicate, what’s going to happen with the company, what will they eat during the work day, how to work with kids afoot and still bring value (feels like an impossible mission) or how to cope with being alone for so long, and all this leads to a lot of stress, which is normal these days.

Flexible company DNA is our strength

These are the steps we took to create a feeling of stability, as much as possible. We could take these steps because we have a very flexible DNA in our company culture.

We’re used to making quick changes and our MVP approach helped us manage the situation, create a feeling of stability, and reduce our employees’ levels of stress. We’re not afraid to solve things fast or make changes.

  • Can employees take equipment? What kind? We allowed them to take monitors, keyboards, iPhone and Android devices for testing purposes, and even chairs so they feel as comfortable as possible working from home.
  • Who’s providing services at the office? We adjusted quickly to the situation — we had IT and operations on site for the first 5 days and then we made another decision to close the office completely. Employees knew they’d have someone who will be able to help them with remote connections, logistics problems, and even be there for them if they forgot something — they had someone on site to help. After everyone was set up with the equipment, we closed the office.
  • Extending the “10bis” meal plan card to include more options and flexibility. Extending the options of using the meal plan card enabled our employees to also buy groceries from the supermarket and prepare food that fits this new reality of people working from home. In addition, we extended the budget of “10bis” (meal plan card) to reach the minimum amount for free food delivery from restaurants.

Even in these complex times, it’s important for us to keep hiring. A new product manager joined us this Tuesday (yesterday).

Remember our flexible DNA? It enabled us to adjust our onboarding process so it will also fit our new remote reality. Yes, there are challenges, and maybe it’s not ideal to start a new job without meeting the people you’re working with in person, but we decided not to postpone his starting date — since we honestly don’t know how long this situation will last.

Usually when a new product manager joins the company, we hold a special lunch for all product managers. This time we changed the lunch to a welcome Zoom party with all of his fellow product managers.

  • We created a shared doc with guidelines (in just 2 hours) — we figured that this unusual situation may go on for a long time, so the team leads created a document with specific guidelines covering all areas of our day-to-day work. Yes, it didn’t cover ALL aspects at the beginning but it was quick and gave a lot of certainty to our employees. We could take a day or two to make it more comprehensive, but what led to our decision was fast delivery, so everyone will know what comes next. Since last week, this guidelines doc was updated a few times. Here’s our template, you can share it with your companies: Remote Work Guide
  • Giving teams more control — since we have a flat organizational structure, our teams have full ownership of their tasks, which allows them to make quick decisions and assimilate them. We don’t need to go through several levels of managers and get their approval — small teams make decisions so they can make changes to their work in a very short time.
  • 1X1 with employees — in routine times and especially now, the group leads are making an effort to hold weekly 1X1 meetings with each employee, in order to give guidance, remove obstacles, and sync on on-going tasks. This way we can detect problems when they arise, give employees the feeling they’re important, and show them that someone is listening to them. For example, this week an employee spoke with his manager about his concern that he’s not available enough because he needs to split child care time with his wife. His manager assured him we’re all in the same boat and it’s perfectly understandable, and gave him a few advice on how to be more efficient with his time.
  • 10 hours from an idea to releasing a feature — another example of flexibility and our MVP approach is planning a new feature related to the coronavirus in the morning and releasing it by the evening to keep it relevant. Usually this process would take at least a few days, but we made an effort and changed priorities in order to make it happen. execute a gradual release — from idea to design, coding, and releasing — so that within a few hours the new feature reached our customers.

Delivering a clear message and letting employees find their work-life balance (yes, especially now)

Especially during these days, there are a lot of constraints — people are working with kids afoot, since schools and kindergartens are currently closed, more family members are at home, and sometimes there just isn’t a quiet room to work from. It’s important to make employees feel that their management is supportive and behind them:

  • Make sure the leadership publicly acknowledges the difficulties of the situation.
  • Help teams prioritize so they won’t feel overwhelmed or frustrated if they can’t meet exact deadlines.
  • Take into consideration that employees can’t give their 100% (especially those with kids) — and that’s okay. Think of the org-structure and decide if there are changes that need to be made in order to support the company’s critical efforts.
  • Show employees you understand that they need to find a balance. Without regular office hours, they can easily find themselves working non-stop, especially when working with colleagues from the US, where time differences result in 4am meetings. Let them set their work limits, and exhibit trust.

Investing in employee experience — especially now

During these uncertain times, it’s the little things a company does that tend to mean a lot. We have a team working on making the employees feel more connected and happy. Here is a list of things you can do too:

  • Send each employee a package full of sweets just to give them the feeling that they’re not alone in all of this, in this new reality.
  • Yoga classes for employees with their families, including kids — when everybody’s at home, getting up and stretching can be good for our health, and having the kids involved can be a great activity hour of fun during these stressful days.
  • Provide interesting lectures — each month we have a ‘Solutalk’ where we bring an inspiring lecturer about a variety of topics (psychology, history, finance, culture and more). You can stream it online and help employees focus on other interesting areas, besides work, news, and whatever’s going on at home.
  • Be creative with happy hours — you can hold it together and send the drinks and desserts to employees’ homes to celebrate virtually.
  • Holiday presents — since Passover is right around the corner, and this is the time when we’d usually be dealing with holiday gifts, you can send employees their gifts home, and be creative about what you add to it.

Companies usually celebrate events like birthdays, child births, work anniversaries, and new employees in a certain way. Now we have to plan new ways to celebrate each event remotely. These celebrations are super important, now more than ever.

Soluto by asurion

Engineering. Product. UX. Culture.