Working remotely works for our team, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. We’ve implemented some new things to maintain our company culture.
Do you remember the late 80s PSA from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (now the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids) that featured an egg and a frying pan? “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.” With the COVID-19 pandemic changing the world as we know it, that PSA feels all too relatable. This is coronavirus. This is your team on coronavirus pandemic.
At Layr, we’re working to build #BetterBusinessInsurance, and we have a lot of fun doing it. We are a small and mighty startup committed to the cause and to one another. We are intentional about our company culture. In fact, we have a publicly accessible Company Pledge where we outline things that we value and actively work to achieve like inclusivity, diversity, transparency, health – physical, emotional, mental – and more.
For our team, working from home until… is feasible, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. Not gathering in person for our Monday Morning Standup and missing out on negotiating about who should make the first pot of coffee leaves us feeling disconnected. It’s not just the social aspect – challenging and inspiring each other is much more difficult when we’re all remote.
Nonetheless, not long after we made the decision to operate Layr remotely to keep our team safe and keep serving our customers, we implemented some fun new changes to help us stay connected, maintain our company culture, and find respite from our own home offices.
As the token extrovert on my team and perpetual cheerleader for fun, here’s a list of things we’re doing at Layr. If your team is looking for new ways to connect, borrow from ours.
This global pandemic is having unprecedented effects on the economy and workforce and our mental health.
Maintaining transparency about your business, operations, and outlook is more important than ever. Knowledge is power. Keeping your team in the loop about what to plan for and when is empowering, builds confidence, and supports the “we’re all in this together” mantra. At Layr, we use our Monday Morning Standup to share updates, workflows, and align priorities.
Creating space for you and your team to practice personal transparency is paramount to productivity, morale, and mental health. Being personally transparent and vulnerable is scary and hard; it’s also a great way to support yourself and your team. We’re all having tough days where our productivity wanes. Sharing this with your team manages their expectations of you, and gives you the space to pause and recover.
Practice Inclusivity – Invite Everyone
“We’re all in this together.” All is all. When you’re creating space for your team to connect, include everyone. Seriously, everyone. Interns, executives, contractors, partners and spouses, kiddos, and even pets. Many of our Layr video calls include cameos from our “junior” team members. Pausing to engage the realities of our home and work worlds colliding demonstrates grace and compassion. Our families and environments are part of who we are, maybe more than ever before. Embrace it. We may be here for a while.
Our team is close – literally and figuratively. Our midtown Atlanta headquarters at ATDC is just over 700 square feet. We’re used to interrupting one another and adding our two cents to the conversation. We also share team lunch together on Thursdays. Now that we’re all working from home, staying connected is a challenge.
To check-in with one another and get some facetime, we started a daily virtual coffee break. We’ve maintained our daily office fitness challenge (well, at least some of us have), and we have renewed enthusiasm for our Slack channel #didacticism.
local_cafe Virtual Coffee Breaks Daily
The daily midmorning Layr Coffee Break is on all of our calendars. Those of us who are available hop into a Google Meet for some water cooler chat, face time, idea sharing, and more. We spend 15 to 30 minutes simply chatting about the day’s news, our personal victories or challenges, or other random topics like what Amazon delivery we’re most anticipating.
fitness_center Office Fitness Challenge
I was hired at Layr as the Head of Marketing, but what the team didn’t know they were getting as a bonus is a resident yoga teacher. A few months ago, I implemented an office fitness challenge. Startup can be sedentary; movement is medicine. I set up Slack reminders in our #general channel for each of our on-the-hour-every-hour fitness activities. We’re three months into the challenge. Here’s what it looks like:
- 10:00 am: 12 Pushups (Or Chaturangas)
- 11:00 am: 1:12 Wall Sits or 12 Squats
- 12:00 pm: 1:12 Plank
- 1:00 pm: 12 Pushups (Or Chaturangas)
- 2:00 pm: 1:12 Wall Sits or 12 Squats
- 3:00 pm: 1:12 Plank
When you complete the task you get to add a ✅ to the Slack reminder. Some days there are more checks than others. I’ll speak for the whole team and say we’re looking forward to razzing the slackers when we’re back in the office.
We are a Slack company. Our internal communication happens almost exclusively on Slack. We have channels for different functional areas and groups. We also have a channel, #didacticism, where we share the cool stuff we’re learning that is good for the whole. Recent contributions include:
- The Secrets to Superhuman Performance
- The Stuff You Should Know Podcast
- The Mandela Effect
- I’ve Worked From Home for 22 Years. Here’s What I’ve Learned
We value lifelong learning at Layr. (Say that 3 times fast.) This channel is a way to stay connected with one another, share what we’re learning outside of Layr, and inspire one another to expand our collective knowledge base.
Social distancing and shelter-in-place orders prevent us from gathering in real life. Thankfully, there is no shortage of virtual opportunities to participate in community events like Three Five Two’s virtual “Off the Record” series or Invest Atlanta’s “Live Stream” series covering topics related to coronavirus and small business.
Our team is creating shared experiences, at a safe distance at home, and talking about them in our daily virtual coffee breaks by offering book suggestions, Netflix binge recommendations, and sharing weekend plans.
None of us have much of a daily commute, so we’ve got some additional time to invest in other hobbies and activities we enjoy. Lately, we’ve shared about a dozen books that we’re currently reading, have previously read and found impactful or heard about through our networks. Here are seven:
- Built to Last: Success Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
- The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
- Lessons from the Mouse by Dennis Snow
- Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neill
- Radical Candor by Kim Scott
- Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
- Secrets of the Sandhill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It by Scott Kupor
tv Binge Worthy TV Recs
Netflix and chill? We’re here for it. Yes, we’re reading good books and attending virtual community events. We’re also vegging out on the couch and staying culturally informed by binging on the latest and most talked-about shows. What we’re currently watching:
- Little Fires Everywhere
Inaugural season now on Hulu brings the novel of the same name to television and tackles race and class issues.
Season 3 just dropped on Netflix; drugs, money laundering, need we say more?
- Schitt’s Creek
Seasons 1 – 5 on Netflix and Season 6 on PopTV gives you good laughs and better fashion thanks to matriarch Moira Rose.
- Self Made
The extraordinary story of a woman who rose out of poverty to become the first self-made millionaire.
- Tiger King
Netflix has us all wondering what Carole Baskin knows about sardine oil that we don’t.
Season 3 episodes air on HBO and transport us to a future version of the world where AI takes over.
spa Weekend Plans
We’re taking advantage of being around the house more and tackling projects. We close out our week by sharing weekend plans during our Friday Coffee Break. Our team is dynamic in the office and outside of it, too. Lately we’ve been:
- Cleaning out Cupboards and Pantries
- Creating Give-Away Piles of Clothing and Household Items
- Camping in Our Backyards
- Transplanting Trees and Planting Shrubs
- Restoring an Old Bicycle
- Training for a Marathon
- Converting Unused Attic Space Into a WFH Sanctuary
Staying connected and maintaining company culture might feel like the last thing on the priority list right now. It might also be just the spark you and your team need to weather this storm.
We believe small businesses are the backbone of America. At Layr, we’re doing more than building #BetterBusinessInsurance. We’re shifting some of our focus to support small business and provide resources to help companies grow and thrive during this uncertain time. Alongside yours, our small business is navigating uncharted waters. Our hope is that this lighthearted list inspires you and your team to stay connected and push through. #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork
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