Caring for our team during COVID-19 (and not only)

There’s no wonder that the pandemic of COVID-19 affects us all. Even though we don’t yet know how it will fully impact us in the long run, we have at least a feeling that things will get complicated. 

March 16, 2020
Reading time 4 – 6 minutes
How our remote offices look like during coronavirus

Living in uncertainty is something we’ve come to accept and embrace. We learned how to identify and focus on areas within our control, where we can make real choices. The COVID-19 pandemic tested this in our attempts to protect our team in the coming weeks and months. What follows is what we’ve done thus far. Of course, we will adjust accordingly on the go.

Vlad, our CTO, is by far one of the most well-informed people I have ever known. His way of searching and acquiring information has always struck me. When the ripples of the new coronavirus barely started, he was the one to picture us how it will unfold and why it’s no surprise that we’re experiencing such a pandemic. It’s not the first, and it will not be the last one.

Therefore, we were fast enough, and we took a few internal decisions to make sure we protect our team and, additionally, our extended family and friends. For those of you who don’t know, we are based in Europe, Romania, and we have close ties with Italy — a country where millions of people are on lockdown, many living in quarantine because of the coronavirus. It was crystal clear that this is not a joke, not something that we can walk away from, not by doing nothing and acting like spectators.

At our leadership meeting, I shared my concerns regarding COVID-19 with Vlad and George, our CEO. I wanted to let them know how I felt when caught in the middle of random discussions around the hot topic of the moment. Mostly, frustrated, a bit anxious, with my hands somewhat tied. Everyone was throwing data, some scientific, some not, some factual, some filled with a bunch of mixed emotions. In some sense, I felt overwhelmed, and I wanted to change the narrative. 

Maybe this is my way of coping — I am a storyteller at the end of the day, but also because I genuinely believe in the power of putting together a red thread. You can harm by ignoring or fueling anxiety, fear, and self-interest, or you can help by inspiring hope, kindness, and collaboration. It’s up to you, the narrator, to find a balanced approach. Whatever you decide, you need to assume the responsibility of your words.

During our gathering, we established a set of specific measures that we all need to respect, at least for the following weeks. We will adjust when we have more information regarding the evolution of COVID-19 within our country, but not only. Meanwhile, we wanted to draw some clear lines.

Care is one of our core values, so it was not hard to find the tactic that fits us best. When you know what governs your company, you have full-speed ahead and can implement changes by the blink of an eye.

Here is how we are going to behave these days and how we protect our squad:

  • We encourage you to work remotely, but you are also free to join the office (fortunately, we’re only six people under one roof, and the house we’re working from is quite generous in terms of space). Whatever you decide, it’s your responsibility.
  • Take whatever you need from the office to create a comfortable setup at home (monitors, headphones, mouses, chargers, etc.). Please make sure you take good care of them because we will need them back at some point.
  • We encourage you to be precarious and wash your hands, avoid crowded places such as malls, theatres, cinemas, or other areas with high traffic.
  • If someone exhibits symptoms such as difficulty breathing, dry throat, persistent cough, high fever, please seek a doctor and let us know as well.
  • If someone gets infected with COVID-19 or is unable to work because of a fever or something similar, we will consider it paid leave(vacation days will remain intact since we will need them when all is said and done).

On top of that, we paid salaries earlier to help people buy food and whatever they need at home to feel safe and covered. It was our way of giving a helping hand and encourage them to get organized and be prepared if worse days will knock our doors.

Today, Vlad went a step further and created a dedicated Slack channel called, of course, #covid19, to encourage people from our team to make sure they consume and spread thoughtful information. Credible sources, proven facts, more sources than one, in-depth context. 

He even brought care, our value, in the middle of the arena and encouraged us to join a daily conversation around how coronavirus impacts us all. If you too are preoccupied for your teammate’s state of mind and emotional status, here are the questions we are going to answer regularly:

  • How are you feeling in terms of your health? Any fever, muscle pains, other symptoms? How about your dear ones?
  • On a scale from 1 to 10 (without seven because this number makes us often detached and lazy), how anxious do you feel?
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how motivated you feel to do meaningful professional work?

The answers we wrote down today on Slack were quite exciting, and I’m grateful that everyone is safe and sound. Moreover, as a CPO at Pixelgrade, I am beyond proud that we make room to welcome an entire spectrum of emotions

If you resonate, feel free to take these questions, adjust them, and start an honest conversation within your team, no matter how small or big it is. Stories can drag us away from loneliness and into a sense of togetherness, a feeling we seriously need these days. From there, we can shape whatever we require to keep going: psychological safety and a feeling of gratitude. Each one helps us get far — safely and bravely.

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