I have to admit, I meant to write this blog post several months ago, but as you can probably guess, a global pandemic distracted me. We launched Breathe Life in January 2018 and have spent the past 2.5 years scaling up the team, product, and business. Just over a year ago we published a series of articles about our five values. One of the reasons we did this was to hold ourselves accountable to them. If our current and future hires, clients, investors, and partners knew about our five values then it would ensure we stuck with them as the company grew. I had originally intended this post to be about how our values have scaled with us and how they impact our day-to-day, but then Covid-19 struck, and almost overnight we became a 100% remote team for the first time in our history. 

I’m someone who has always believed in the power of teams working in the same physical space. I love the spontaneous product discussions that occur while waiting for the espresso machine, or the cross-team collaboration ideas that happen over an afternoon snack break, or the ability to grab someone for a quick chat as you cross paths in the office. While there were a lot of unknowns and stresses surrounding building a business during Covid-19, one thing that preoccupied me was how the transition to remote work would go and if our values would translate well.

What has happened over the last 10 weeks has surpassed my expectations for what a 100% remote team can accomplish. While I really look forward to getting the team back into the office, this has shown me, that when needed, our team can pivot to working remotely without any loss in output or morale.   

I wanted to highlight some examples of ways that we have managed to stay true to our five values – Human, Trusting, Resourceful, Proactive, and Playfulness during these difficult times. 

From the get-go, we knew we needed to create ways for us to maintain that human connection. We blocked times in the calendar where team members could get together for a coffee, a lunch, or an afternoon stroll together. We wanted optional drop-in Zoom events where people from different teams could chat and catch-up. 

Obviously, with a remote team, there needs to be a lot of trust but we decided we needed to put in place processes to empower teams and show them this first hand. We set up a framework for peer collaboration between the Product and Development teams and empowered them to come up with areas of improvement and to test different approaches to solving them. The first improvement was around the idea of assigning a Product Owner to each technical team rather than having them be client-based. This means our product team is now much more integrated and the results we’re seeing around ownership and team accountability are really positive. 

When it comes to resourcefulness, members of our Product and Customer Success teams have put a lot of work into finding solutions for some of our “virtual” client management processes. Rather than overloading people with unnecessary meetings, we now have streamlined processes and put in place documentation to ensure that our clients are happy and that our Customer Success team can work efficiently and effectively. 

An amazing example of proactivity came from Caroline, our Manager of Talent & HR who sparked the idea of creating a team wiki. This brought together a task force that built our new “how we work” processes focused on streamlining remote work. They have put in place policies to improve communications, drive efficiencies, and ensure that the team isn’t bogged down in non-stop virtual meetings. 

The last 10 weeks have brought a lot of changes and stress to people everywhere, we knew we needed to find ways to maintain a sense of playfulness amongst the team. Anne, our Office & Culture Manager, has done an amazing job at putting together some very creative, and most importantly, family-friendly happy hours for the team. We have done online escape rooms, virtual trivia, scavenger hunts, and even have an upcoming talent show!

I have loved watching our team come together and thrive remotely. It has confirmed to us that while perks like healthy snacks, free lunches, and an amazing espresso machine are good, they can disappear overnight. What really matters is ensuring our team feels connected, trusted, and challenged.