Keeping a business going, in un-chartered territory
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash
We’re all still wrapping our heads around the unprecedented health crisis unfolding around us. There’s been so much to take in every day while also getting used to a new way of working. It’s been inspiring to see that even though our Fat Zebra team has physically never been further removed from one another, we’re collaborating in a way we never have before. There’s a real sense of mate-ship, focus and momentum from all of the team which can only come from rising to a serious challenge, together.
Obviously, there are so many unknowns at the moment and it’s very much new territory for everyone. We’ve always been flexible in making sure our team was set up so they could work remotely if they wanted to, but our WFH policy wasn’t exactly designed with a pandemic in mind. We’ve been feeling our way along, experimenting, and finding new ways to do things. This is intimidating for any business, but it also gives us an opportunity to evolve.
There have been some tough decisions we’ve had to make already and some changes to our strategy have been inevitable, but some good news is we’ve learned that coming out on the other side of this crisis we’ll have far more adaptable and efficient ways of working together.
None of this is business as usual, so there’s been a lot of trial and error - but so far I’m really happy with the changes to how we work together at Fat Zebra. Given we all need to be banding together at the moment and sharing what we can, I thought I’d share two of the most significant changes so far;
Everyone’s informed, all the time
On Thursday the 12th of March, myself and the leadership team came together on an emergency call, chatting through the various options of how we should manage the increasingly serious threat of COVID-19. It didn’t take us long to agree the health and safety of our people was priority number one, along with ensuring we did everything in our power to limit the spread. Straight after this call we sent out an update (via Slack and an email) to advise all teammates to work from home until further notice (after collecting any essential equipment).
Being a global company, with employees in Japan and the US as well as Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Sydney, we’re already very familiar with working remotely and conferencing via Zoom. Our first action after enacting our WFH policy was to get the whole company onto a Zoom chat to run through the immediate updates and ensure everyone was on the same page.
This call was a huge success, with lots of lively discussion and some really great ideas. Given the success of this call as a channel of sharing key information with immediate two-way feedback, we doubled down on them, with weekly company-wide Zoom conferences now book-ending our week each Monday and Friday.
These chats are short and sharp, rarely over 20 minutes and act as a quick update and check-in. I’ll talk about major news and updates from across the business, but it’s a forum where anyone can get involved with the discussion or ask questions.
It’s also proving to be a lot of fun, surprisingly, and it’s energising seeing everyone’s faces again (and getting to virtually meet all the pets and kids that jump up on their laps). Like everyone else we’re seeing on social media, these video chats have also been an opportunity for the team to share some personality too. People are changing their backgrounds regularly, on today’s chat one of the team had Jerry’s apartment from Seinfeld as their background and our Communications Manager almost got a serious slap on the wrist for being in the office – turns out she’d just updated her background to a snap she’d taken at her desk a couple of weeks ago. The engineers quickly got to work getting as many hilarious filters in our hands as possible. Nothing like a company-wide meeting when at least 20% of the team have an animated pizza on their face.
Being prouder than ever of our culture
I’ve always considered myself lucky working with the team at Fat Zebra, and genuinely having such a good time together. There’s never any shortage of laughter in our office. We’ve worked hard to hire great people and we’re really proud of the culture we’re building together.
While we may not be able to find virtual alternatives for some of the things in the office (the café downstairs, the collection of Lego and the basketball hoop come to mind), we’ve been doing our best to make sure the culture is still alive and well while everyone’s at their new desk, at home.
Being such a tight-knit team means loneliness is a very real concern for working from home every day. Business continues so of course, there’s plenty of emailing and chatting on slack across the teams, but it’s those other conversations that we miss from the office while going for a coffee together or having a beer on a Friday. As people, we need to have real conversations and connections, not just exchange information.
Our People & Culture conversation thread has been running on overdrive on Slack. We’re seeing real slices of life from teammates all over the world, sharing photos of what they’re seeing and experiencing, and making each other smile. Friday drinks have continued and a stack of upcoming initiatives are rolling out over the coming weeks to make sure we’re still having fun together.
Of everything I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks, that’s probably the biggest thing for me. It’s the human connections that are the most important, now more than ever.