Keep your soul alive while keeping social distance

Scale-ups have a unique culture of purpose and vision, togetherness and trust, commitment and resilience. How to maintain this culture and keep your team together while working from home? ScaleUpNation reached out to the members of our community, CEOs of the companies that have been working remotely for quite some time already, to share their tips on how to protect your employees and keep your soul alive while working online. 

How did working from home affect your team communication?

Michiel Vos, the founder of CocoPallet: Before the lockdown, we had already worked decentralized and had regular Zoom meetings. After coming back from trials abroad, our technical team now also works from home. Everybody adapts to new ways of communication. And we see a new tendency: we are now having more video calls with people instead of phone calls. There is more interaction, less distance. Also, the first minute of every call is used for updating each other about our local and personal situation. This creates a more personal connection, the feeling that we are all in this together.

Nabil Laoudji, the founder of YesAnd Labs (Los Angeles): When I joined InVision, a company of over 700 folks all working from home, I was anxious about how to get things done with my teammates in a remote setup. There is a learning curve, but with some patience and iteration good work can happen. I learned that when setting up an online meeting, I need to clearly define the outcomes and design activities in advance. I always time-box all activities and add some buffer for getting presentations loaded, getting mics working, switching between presenters, etc. I put my time-boxed agenda in a shared digital space and walk through it at the start of your meeting. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page.

Bessie Lee, the founder of Within Link (China): All of us just got on with working from home. No complaints, because we all understood that this is the best for all under the current circumstances. I actually found online meetings more productive than face-to-face meetings. First, people have no excuses for being late due to traffic. Second, we now keep every meeting to just one hour because it is much easier to focus during online meetings (no casual chit chat). Besides, when online communication technology works really well, talking to each other is almost as smooth as talking face-to-face.

The ScaleUpNation team meets to start a new week on Zoom.

Remote Facilitation Toolkit

What is the most effective mindset for managing the workforce online?

Michiel Vos: I am blessed with a brief career in the army and serving time in a war. In the army you prepare for staying functional during tough situations. When everything suddenly falls apart and there is total chaos, stay calm, don’t panic, show leadership. Do what you need to do in an organized, calm but extremely clear way. Keep your communication, logistics and morale up. That is exactly what we are doing now. 

Nabil Laoudji: Before you set up a meeting, ask yourself: does this work need to be done in a group? Some work is best done collaboratively (e.g., ideation), while another can be done independently (e.g., research). People may feel like you are wasting their time if the work you do together can be done independently. Also, ask yourself: does everyone need to be there? If you work with a group larger than 5 or 6, some people will feel excluded. Consider smaller breakouts to get initial work done and move to a bigger meeting only when needed. 

Get everyone “in the room”. Before diving into work, take a moment to connect with your teammates. A global pandemic such as this can be unsettling, especially with its impacts outside of work. Consider a warm-up exercise, for instance, have people share a personal photo from their house.

As a facilitator, managing energy is challenging. In a remote environment, it becomes even more so as there is generally less room for spontaneous interaction. Ask different participants (ideally, ahead of time) to lead different sections of the meeting. People are more engaged when they are talking. If you ask a question, be patient before filling the “dead air” with your own response. People often need some time to formulate an answer.

More tips on organizing your online collaboration from Nabil Laoudji 

Best practices when working from home from ScaleUpNation

  • Maintain regular work time and take appropriate breaks
  • Open and close the day together in your team via a video conference tool or phone 
  • Have a clear work plan and deliverables for the day, week and month
  • Share work plans and deliverables online
  • Report progress, ideally on a daily basis
  • If possible, create a place at home where you can work and have calls undisturbed
  • Make sure your video conference infrastructure is optimal
  • Invest in social connectivity with each other
  • When feeling ill, report this officially
  • Discuss with each other how to make working from home more effective

Protect your employees

  • Provide clear communication to employees on what to do
  • Provide autonomy and decentralize decision making
  • Provide an infrastructure for remote work

Get in sufficient cash

  • Strive for 3 months of cash at hand
  • Immediately pursue options for extending loans, and accounts payable
  • Make use of rescue propositions from government
  • Identify the most effective and least disruptive cost-cutting measures

Secureyour supply

  • Ensure adequate buffer stock of crucial parts and other inputs on hand
  • Check the situation at key suppliers and ensure their reliability

Help in the community

  • Target community outreach organizations in your area
  • Encourage your employees to volunteer

Commit to your customers

  • Reach out to and stay close to your customers. Help them.

Step up your business model

  • Articulate your concrete needs and share them with the ecosystem. Many individuals and institutions are there to support you, they just need to know how