Back in March, like the majority of the professional world, we had to make the quick decision to move to WFH (not something, it has to be said, I was a big advocate of before). Thanks to our customer base in Eastern Asia, we had an early view of what was to come. This allowed us to move quicker than most, actually setting up Odro in our homes two weeks before the official UK lockdown. We were keen to minimise the infection risk for the team and their families, as well as protect our business from any downtime.
Although it may have seemed premature to some at the time, in hindsight, this quick decision was 100% the right thing to do and set us off on our COVID venture on the right foot. It allowed us to settle into this new way of working, and take some time to prepare ourselves for how we wanted to respond to the inevitable wave of change in the industry.
One week later when Boris officially announced the offices were to close, it was almost a confidence boost as we realised we had done the right thing. We had been the forward-thinkers, looked after our staff. We were already getting used to our new way of life, whilst others scrambled to get organised. The world then started to get very scary very quickly, but we knew Team Odro were safe and set-up at home.
Throughout these first stages, we made a clear decision on what we wanted to be remembered for when all of this was over. We had to stop and understand what we could do to help people cope with what was to come. It was going to blindside most of the industry, and we had an opportunity to help them respond.
We pulled the team together online and made sure we were all aligned. We must gather as many good ideas from the market as we can and give our customers the knowledge and confidence they need to keep pushing on. It was going to be hard, but we must learn to lead people through this thing with a smile on our faces.
We’ve spoken about world-changing events from the past and what we’ve learned from that. We’ve reacted to the present, made the appropriate changes, and got ourselves settled into a new routine and way of life. Now it’s time to start looking to the future. This pandemic isn’t going to last forever but the things we’ve improved upon and discovered can.
We could have moped around at home, sat in our dressing gowns, reacted ad-hoc to client’s queries, and waited for it all to blow over. But that’s not the Odro way. Now we were comfortable with this new set up, it was time to hit the ground running (and I’m not talking about the Strava group). Instead of waiting for our clients to come to us with either bad news or requests for help, we took it upon ourselves to get proactive. We reinvented how customer success could be done. We planned training virtually, hosted refresher training for anyone who hadn’t utilised our tech properly yet but now had no choice but to recruit from their kitchen. Along the way we knew how important it would be to share any snippets of wisdom or knowledge we were learning.
We turned our in-house marketing team into an agency for our clients so they could get up-to-date content about the situation and promote their offering out to their clients and prospects. There was real momentum amongst the Odro community, camaraderie and a refusal to take things lying down. Together, we did everything we could to keep going strong. So far, the success stories are pouring in almost daily and celebratory gifs were all over our group chats. We’re still pushing forward today, but I’m very proud of how our team have reacted up until now – and I’m sure our clients are too.
One thing we were very keen not to lose when we were all in separate home offices was our culture. We have worked hard to create and maintain an almost family-like atmosphere and, forced to be apart, we were apprehensive to damage that. But in the past three months we’ve had
- Weekly “Odro in Isolation” video series for LinkedIn
- Beer O’clock on Fridays
- Odro Bingo
- Online Birthday Parties
- Celebrity guest Jason Fox came online to talk to the team about resilience
- Baby Showers
- Daily Quizzes
- The OdCast (An internal podcast where people from other departments interview each other for the rest of the company to listen to)
- Active Recruiters 10km & Half Marathon on 10th July (for Teenage Cancer Trust)
This may seem a lot of effort simply to “maintain culture” but it’s the most important thing in our business. We’re only a group of people after all, so if we lose that we really will have nothing. I think a lot of business owners forget about that when chasing profit.
It’s fair to say our culture hasn’t been adversely affected so far. And you’ll definitely find some staff enjoying cocktails and games in our Odro rooms on Friday nights (I’ve even seen a disco light and a macarena).
We’re a few months in now and there is a clear light at the end of the tunnel. It was time to start deciding what the future of Odro looked like. We gathered the leadership tea together to talk about what has went well and what hasn’t. I put a message out to our whole team to message me directly with their views on what working for Odro should look like moving forward, COVID or not.
A few weeks ago we dedicated our monthly All Hands meeting to openly discussing the pros and cons of the new set-up and how we were going to move forward; basically what’s here to stay and what was a temporary fix.
WFH was something staff had been asking about long before lockdown. We have staff with families miles away and there’s always childcare to consider. The team has proven they can be just as productive working from home as they are in the office. Something that makes things a whole lot easier when planning for growth.
We had a few options.
- Do we save on office costs and become a fully WFH company?
- Do we make everyone come back into the office every day?
- Is doing a bit of both even possible? Does that carry it’s own management issues?
We’ve made a big decision, and we’re proud of this move.
The new way:
We’re introducing our new “Work from Anywhere First” policy.
This means that the office is still there if you like, but you’re not expected to be there to do your work.
It also doesn’t mean you need to stay at home to be classed as “working” either. It means you can go to the local coffee shop rather than the office, or visit family across the country and stay for a while, provided you can get your work done whilst you’re there.
We still have fixed working hours. But no commute.
We’re also allowing people to get creative. Some of our team have family abroad, so an extended 6 week trip to Spain to work for 4 weeks and take 2 weeks off will be an amazing benefit.
I’ve personally seen the benefits of being more flexible with work. I’m now able to run a lot more, I see my family much more and I have definitely achieved more in this situation than I ever thought possible. I’ve got three children, so being home early enough to help with dinner etc has been a huge plus alone.
There are huge commercial benefits to this way of working too; for example a smaller office is an obvious cost saving, but was not a huge factor in our decision.
We now have a wider pool of talent for upcoming roles. We no longer have to hire within 10 miles of Glasgow, which means there are talented people that we can now work with across the country that were previously out of reach.
It also means we have one even happier workforce. We’ll have a few compulsory days a month where we’ll have half business day, half social days; everyone has agreed it’ll be even better when we do socialise together because we’ll be catching up instead of seeing each other at lunch every day.
We also expect one or two departmental face to face meetings per month. We’ve had some ideas around grading meetings:
M1 – Face to face required
M2 – Face to face or video
M3 – Video only
There are some potential pitfalls too. This current situation isn’t WFH. We’re locked up with nothing else to do, so we are seeing productivity rise – that makes sense. What happens when temptation returns? The shops are open, the bars are open, your friends are allowed to come over?
I believe in our team, and if we start the right way, I believe that the guidelines will be strictly self-policed amongst the team, and our leaders can focus on driving the business towards our goals.
We’ve come a long way since emptying out those desks and fridges in March and we’ve done amazing things. I’m very excited to see where this new “Work From Anywhere” chapter takes us. If it’s anything like the WFH chapter, relationships will be even stronger.
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