The title is a bit misleading–years of establishing a healthy remote-friendly work culture is what enabled us to go fully remote in less than a day.
Every one of our employees has a laptop and a cell phone loaded with all the tools and apps they need to perform their jobs, and which they’ve certainly used before with our “Stay Home When Sick” mandatory policy. So, when an email was sent out March 9th–after we got the word about confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cuyahoga County–informing employees about our mandatory work from home policy and to pick up what they needed from the office, we were already prepared.
Are you interested in learning more about how to establish remote work culture with a good work-life balance and productive communication? Read our 3-part blog series to see how the Hurricane Labs team uses remote work to do the right thing for our employees, customers, and community, and how you can too.
Unique interview style
It all starts with hiring. My job interview with Hurricane Labs was unique compared to any other interviewing experience I’ve had in the past.
During my interview, the focus of the conversation wasn’t my skill level or qualification, because those details were already determined by my resume and phone interview–something that’s important to confirm before bringing someone in for an onsite interview. Instead, the discussion went beyond my role and responsibilities, and was more about making sure I would be comfortable at Hurricane Labs.
As I started working at Hurricane Labs, it became apparent to me that Hurricane Labs hires not only based on skill, but based on the ability to communicate and collaborate. We aren’t perfect, and our Slack channel can get a little...interesting, but at least we can openly communicate with each other.
Collaborative company values
We can’t attribute the collaboration here at Hurricane Labs completely to hiring. It’s also a learned skill that’s developed with the encouragement of our leadership team.
Hurricane Labs is the first company of my employment history that I can say I’ve been completely comfortable with speaking my mind. New ideas are encouraged by everyone and we’re reminded often that “how we do things” is an evolving concept. Have a better idea? It’s always up for discussion and implementation.
A note on individuality, diversity, and respect
We also celebrate the individuality of our coworkers–no one is expected to conform or to compromise any part of who they are to work at Hurricane Labs.
Another perk I took note of early on was the workplace at Hurricane Labs being a bit more diverse than the usual cybersecurity company. Additionally, this is the first place I’ve worked where I’ve experienced (being an underrepresented gender) every single coworker assuming I’m here because I know what I’m doing. I’ve never had my intelligence or skill level questioned in the almost 3 years I’ve been here by anyone at Hurricane Labs.
Respect is not earned here. It is assumed that everyone deserves respect.
This type of environment–one of collaboration, communication, and respect–is vital to any work environment, regardless of whether it’s remote or not. You can not take full advantage of the talent you hired if you don’t allow them to feel comfortable with sharing and communicating their ideas to improve a product, process, or the concept of “how we do things.”
Respect should be a given. These are all areas you can start working on right now that will massively impact how your employees work together. Remote work can be challenging, but having the right environment for it makes a lot of difference.
Now, what about the tools?
Here’s what we use at Hurricane Labs:
- Video Conferencing
- Cell Phones
- Virtual Private Network (VPN)
You need to have a way for employees to communicate with each other in real time. Having a chat room also allows employees to set away messages and keep others up to date on what they are working on.
This is not, however, an outlet to micromanage your employees. You do not need to keep tabs on when they are active–you should trust that they will stay online enough to finish their jobs. It will show in their work if they are not putting in the time and you deal with it the same way as if they were in an office. (However, It is most likely that your employees will be working late and more often if their computers are right there, so do encourage them to take breaks to avoid burnout.)
Use the chat rooms to set up channels for each team, and allow employees to set up social channels as well. These social channels will be the “virtual water cooler” and keep employees connected to each other.
There’s something different about video calls. We could just use the phone and have conference calls, but seeing someone’s face and non-verbal communication adds a lot more context. Personally, I’m not really able to have a phone conversation as easily as a video conference, because a lot of details get filled in when you see a person face to face.
You can also set up video conferencing rooms for the entire day. So, for example, if employees are used to being in the same room where they can talk through what they are working on, they can continue to do so virtually. They can just…hang out together as usual.
Example: a Blackberry would be pretty sweet.
You don’t want your employees to put work data on their personal devices. Give them their own work cell phones, or suffer the consequences.
Before you say “but they signed a BYOD policy so we can just wipe their phones!” No, you should not be able to wipe their personal devices just because you don’t want to give them a separate one. First of all: rude, and second: employees will wait to report a device missing just to avoid having it wiped to see if they can find the phone or recover the data first. This doesn’t help reduce the risk of company data getting into the wrong hands. Plus, if you give them a phone you can set it up with all the apps they will need and have them ready to go on day one, and you’ll always have their phone number.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN will enable employees to connect to your company's internal network and access all the internal sites they need to. It also provides an extra layer of security as it creates an encrypted connection from the employee's home to the office, and it requires authentication. Multi-factor authentication–such as Duo or Google Authenticator–is an option to connect to the VPN as well.
It’s recommended that everyone stay home, but for those continuing to work from coffee shops, libraries, or airports–along with the risks of COVID-19–there’s the risk of public WiFi and it's important to have additional layers of security for these circumstances. Both now and down the road, VPNs are a good idea to incorporate into your security program.
Documentation, documentation, documentation! So important!
Your employees will be much better able to work independently if procedures and processes are clearly documented.
Tired of answering the same questions over and over? Document it! Take 15 or 30 minutes to document something that can be referenced again and again. This saves so much time and lets people work on their own when they need to, so as not to break the focus of others because you can’t see when someone has headphones on when you’re not in the same place (okay, I lied. You can see–that’s actually what status messages are for on chat apps!). Regardless of work at home or not, you should be doing this anyway.
You may not have everything ready to go and may just be getting started on making your workplace more remote-friendly. However, this is a good time to start.
The COVID-19 outbreak will, eventually, slow down and things (hopefully) will return back to normal. Right now you can not only use this opportunity to work out any issues that come from remote work, but you can also experience what it means to work remotely– and so empathize with your remote co-workers and employees in the future.
In our next blog post, we will go over methods you can implement to better support your employees if you are a manager, and ideas you can use to support your fellow co-workers and remain focused while going through this new experience together.