Globally, the transition to working from home as countries enacted various forms of lockdowns on different timetables at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic startled many companies as they scrambled to accommodate a new working style. While Lineup’s employees have always lived and worked globally, we have historically been an office-based company, and we faced many of the same challenges even as our company held up surprisingly well during the pandemic. As the world begins to cautiously reopen and we face a transformed tech industry, I have been reflecting on this last year, the challenges we’ve faced, and how our company has changed to better operate in this new environment.
Managers vs makers
With everyone working from home without the ability to drop into an office doorway for a quick chat, we noticed an incredible increase in video meetings. Though for managers and department heads, this practice of slotting meetings in to chat helps facilitate their direction and organization of other people, makers have been found to require longer blocks of time to focus on projects. Once we recognized that this was potentially interfering with employee productivity, we implemented meeting-free Fridays. This enables “manager” time to exist throughout the week for us to ask and answer questions of one another and leadership, while also providing space for “maker minds” to deeply focus on tasks.
Mental health matters
Under normal circumstances before the pandemic, we all had our outlets, we could spend time with family and friends, and we weren’t confined to our homes. Compounded with the stresses of a global pandemic and social justice reckonings worldwide, mental health issues skyrocketed across the world (the WHO and CDC each issued recommendations on dealing with anxiety during Covid-19).
In an effort to provide our employees with a safe place to discuss mental health issues, anxieties, fears, and even just general concerns about work to a neutral party, we partnered with Sanctus, a company that normalizes discussions of mental health in the workplace. They work with all of our employees, regardless of their location, by providing individual coaching sessions free of judgement.
We have always had monthly company-wide catch-up sessions, to keep everyone informed on our progress, new hires, and exciting product development across departments. Once we transitioned to having these online, we opened up an anonymized system for feedback on these meetings.
I will admit surprise to the results: our employees wanted more transparency. They don’t always want to hear about the wins, or what may seem to them to be repetitive announcements about how all is well. For the better, I think, they wanted a real overview of how we were all handling the ups and downs of the pandemic, how our business partners were coping, and a deeper understanding of decisions that were being made. This ethos of embracing failure and discussing mistakes to move forward and do better has always been our company ethos when it comes to product development and deployment, but now we’re applying it to our company-wide communication. Though surprising, I welcomed this feedback and our meetings now have switched their focus to a more transparent, collaborative tone that I think benefits us all – because we’re all always learning.
Leadership at most companies expected a shift in focus when our employees moved to remote work, but at Lineup that shift lent itself to even more productivity (we launched our new subscription management software, Amplio, in early 2021) and innovation in how we structure the company, function within our partnerships, and even how we talk about our products. We’re learning from mistakes and pushing boundaries in the industry, and I think some of that credit goes to employees being given the opportunity to work in a way that works best for them, even under the circumstances.
My final lesson from this unprecedented year and a half: trust your employees.
Providing employees with the ownership and resources to do their jobs and do them excellently – which is the reason you hired them – gives you both the opportunity to trust, and push the needle for your company.
With nearly no notice and under trying circumstances, Lineup employees have changed the way they fundamentally function both as individuals and as teams to continue their incredible innovation and push the company forward without a traditional office framework, and I am especially grateful for this lesson.