Remote First 48 Hours

How to Become Remote-First in 48 Hours? Here's How We Did It

Where were you when the announcement about the pandemic hit the news stream? It might sound like a horror movie cliché, but I was at a hotel close to Warsaw, enjoying the forest and good weather.

The beginning of the year is traditionally the time of planning and preparing strategies for the current and next years. And this time, it could not have been more different.

Together with the entire Predica leadership team, we were at a 2-day retreat offsite. We were working on business goals and our 2020 strategy.

Key points:
  • How to quickly move to a remote-first model?
  • What are the key tools to use?
  • Where to look for support?

The pandemic begins

Well, we had to adjust our plans and agenda. In such times, you have to be agile.

The news hit that the outbreak was becoming more severe, and the situation started to look serious. We saw it sooner. As we always follow all the markets, it was hard for us to miss what was happening in China. We made some contingency plans for travel arrangements early.

But things were different. Soon we realized there would be a pandemic. We quickly grasped the scale and potential impact of this event and re-aligned our agenda to respond promptly.

It was clear that the anxiety and uncertainty associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) rose every day among our employees. We saw our customers preparing for it.

According to the phrase, which likely originates from the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, “…for extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.” So, if extreme situations require extreme decisions and actions, we decided to act quickly.

Day 1: How to act? Face the challenge head-on (11th of March)

Day 2: Time of severe decisions and 100% remote work

Staying operational

How to run a business in the current situation?

Taking care of employees and their families 

What about other back-office departments?

How to cope with work in a limited space when you have children, and your partner also works remotely?

The Predica Way – the answer to some of today’s problems

Day 1: How to act? Face the challenge head-on (11th March)

Although WHO and local governments had already introduced some measures, we felt that this wouldn’t be enough to ensure the safety of our employees and their families. We all had put a lot of energy into building a self-managed and remote-first company.

Now we see that it was a smart decision. It was also a time to put it to the test.

First steps

We introduced a rule for all our employees to return from abroad, and stay in quarantine (remote work) for 14 days. The number of such people was significant. With many customers around the world, our people travel very often.

Secondary measures

We moved all meetings to online effective immediately. Internal and with customers. No exceptions.

It was not unusual for us. As a remote-first company, we use #MSTeams every day to communicate internally and externally.

We expected that there would be fewer people in the office. We also started to cancel face to face meetings and non-essential flights.

Our international team during remote work

Day 2: Time of severe decisions and 100% remote work

At that moment, we still had some people at the office and skeleton crew on duty (reception, IT). We paid attention to signals and planning. We saw the plague accelerated, spreading all over Europe.

Poland was not yet on the list of affected countries, but we decided to act. We’ve determined to be one step ahead of the situation.

We closed all our physical offices from 12th March till further notice, immediately. That applied to all locations around the world. All events, meetings with clients and internal, had to be moved online, with no exceptions. As the offices closed, it was logical to stop our customers from visiting us locally.

We introduced a policy change to let all people deny flights and travel. We knew that it would have consequences for ongoing work, but we did it right away.

Announcing Predica is moving to operating 100% remote-first

Social media announcement

And in the light of the events that were to come soon (closing the Polish borders), banning travel for our employees was a leading move. We have sent a message on social media to all our clients and business partners.

Staying connected

The primary question was how to communicate effectively with everyone across different time zones.

Internal communications on a day to day basis rely on Yammer (corporate Facebook “cousin”, part of Office 365 suite). We used it first to issue immediate communication and announcements. Leadership also made sure that messages reached employees’ mailboxes and smartphones.

You have to stay home, go remote even if you don’t feel like there is a need for it. We cancel all flights.

These actions raised questions. It is natural for people to have questions. What we did to address them:

  • Put HR business partners task force to find answers which spanned topics from policy to impact on local taxes or cross-border traffic.
  • We’ve established a dedicated team in MS Teams, and obligatorily added all people there to channel the communication.

If you need it – there is a Crisis Communication app for MS Teams available for free from Microsoft. Use it.

Need to quickly move to a remote-first work environment?

Within a few hours, we prepared a live event for all our employees (250+) with a Q&A session – again on #MSTeams. Here’s a guide to how you can use Teams Live Events for companywide communication.

For all sensitive topics, we created for our people something similar to a hotline (a dedicated Teams channel) with our HR Team.

Staying operational

Predica is a remote-first company. Let’s be honest; there are not a lot of companies, which operate in this way in 100%. We have 6 physical offices in 5 countries, with two hosting a significant number of people.

This situation caused many questions that needed answers. A lot of unexpected problems needed to be solved.

We act on those principles and the following priorities:

  • Safety of our employees and families
  • Supporting our customers
  • Securing business operations.

How to run a business in the current situation?

This is the most common problem to solve. IT is no different from other industries. We also need direct contact with customers. We don’t just sit behind computer screens and program like crazy.

Well, until recently, we thought that face-to-face contact with clients was necessary for the proper management of projects. The situation with the pandemic changed our point of view.

Social media post

Yes, the lack of direct contact makes some tasks difficult, but thanks to work in the cloud, it is also possible to collaborate with clients in a 100% remote-first model. Clients are also people. They see the situation, understand, and accept this model of action.

Based on the government’s recommendations to limit the spread of the contagion, the entire economy and all organizations, whether private or state-owned, had to adapt quickly to new realities. The remote-first work environment is a must-have today.

Microsoft came to the rescue and offered free 6-month access to O365 and Teams for all those in need. But most people don’t know: What tools to use? How to facilitate quick adoption? How to communicate changes?

Insight: Based on our perspective of the first week of the pandemic, some countries are further along in the process than others; however, all of us will have to switch to remote-first work. Expect 1-2 months of strict remote work for your company – plan for it.

Ask for support if you need it

A lot of businesses will probably need our help to run their enterprises in remote mode. Based on the tools we use ourselves and the first solutions deployed for customers this week, we have prepared a “rescue kit” package.

We launched a dedicated page, prepared leaflets and also a newsletter for our clients, established an information campaign on social media. We chose experts who will help.

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Important: We need to keep lights on in the business but we also understand that this is a moment where we can have an impact and help people. We decided that we need to advise customers without additional costs to help them accommodate the situation. Think about what help you can provide for your customers and peers.

In IT, we can have an impact. Look and see if you can help other organizations who struggle. Our CTO, Tomasz Onyszko, even jumped on the occasion to help a small government organization move to Teams and remote work during one weekend.

Taking care of employees and their families

HR, as the name suggests, relates to human resource management. We prefer to say: people. Just a week ago, it seemed that in this department, it is impossible to enter the remote mode completely. Unimaginable!

Example: employee onboarding process. Where in standard times, we collected CVs, made a selection, invited chosen candidates for interviews, signed contracts with the selected ones, then did a 2-day onboarding at the company’s headquarters.

Each new employee received all the required equipment, directly to their own hands. There was personal contact at almost every stage.

Insight: Part of onboarding is also that people need to set up their computer equipment based on our IT policies and procedures. Keeping everyone hands-on!

We took the challenge and found a way to do it entirely remotely. Without face-to-face contact. It may seem cruel, but unfortunately necessary to give us all security.

We carry on with interviews and recruitment. We switched to MS Teams to do interviews. For new hires, IT redirected the delivery of all necessary equipment to the new employee’s home address. On the day of onboarding, one of the HR team members has a video call with the new employees and carries out the onboarding training remotely.

What about other back-office departments?

Here, switching to remote mode went amazingly smoothly. Our finance department has online access and authorization to all necessary portals. We sign documents with digital signature DocuSign or for Polish legal documents, also certified signatures or the electronic banking signature available in Poland.

Insight: We use online storage for documents, and we do not send attachments in email. It made it extremely easy to switch to the remote-first mode for the admin and finance team. Also, we use digital signatures for all agreements and paperwork.

Planned live events were a challenge. Admittedly, the external ones were canceled, but what about those organized by us? We have a lot of loyal fans, and it would be a shame to leave them without Predica’s knowledge.

Here, we also transferred them to the internet and will conduct them as live online events. The only difference is the lack of physical contact, zero paper notebooks, pens or gadgets. What about previously ordered marketing materials? There was a way around that too.

For me, switching to remote mode doesn’t make much difference. I don’t order new stuff, and all the supplies of materials ordered earlier redirected to my home. One inconvenience may be the fact that I now have 25 kg of fudge on my balcony. How to resist them, they are so tasty! It’s definitely time to train strong will.
- Katarzyna KorowajMarketing Specialist

How to cope with work in a limited space when you have children, and your partner also works remotely?

The average age of people working at Predica is about 30. Many of them have small children. By government decision, nurseries, kindergartens, and schools are now closed.

The fundamental questions are: how to work at home since we have minors to look after? How to reconcile home duties with remote work and not go crazy? Because many parents have the same problem, social media is flooding with advice.

We also have some guidance, or rather, we can say that one of our employees found his ways, which he shared in an interesting article. If you are eager to know how he is doing staying at home with his two young sons, please visit: Full House: How To Work Remotely With Kids?

The Predica Way – the answer to some of today’s problems

We are not diviners, and we are not able to foresee everything. But we have the experience, technology and knowledge necessary to help address most of today’s questions and problems.

Stay safe and productive, wherever you are. Check out our rescue kit. Download

In the past, we faced various threats. Two years ago, one of our clients, the largest logistics company in the world, had to deal with a cybersecurity crisis.

Although it was not a health-threatening situation like today, in many respects it was similar to the one we are dealing with now. The company practically stopped, and over 100,000 people had to find a new way of working.

Staying true to our values

How to keep working in the face of a global epidemic? We operate by following our values to fight the current crisis:

  • Act with care. We took special measures out of concern for the health of employees and their families.
  • Be the challenger. Aside from the fact that everyone is remote today, we have new working conditions, and we needed to redefine our way of working.
  • Be one step ahead. We acted faster than many organizations or governments and are not stopping to think about how to be well prepared for what lies ahead.
  • Make it happen. We faced the current situation, re-developed methods and procedures, and then implemented them quickly. The result? The company works no worse than before, and maybe even better.

Before now, we didn’t have the opportunity to test us being 100% remote-first, and we know it’s not a permanent situation. We think that F2F contact is still relevant. Luckily, we have our way of dealing with today’s challenges – the Predica Way. If it works for us, it may also work for your business.

Additional content contributed by: Tomasz Onyszko, Katarzyna Korowaj

Key takeaways:

  1. Being prepared for going remote-first is key. Adhering to the official guidelines and taking precautions ahead of time will help keep your employees safe.
  2. Microsoft Teams is a very useful tool for communication, and right now you can get it free for 6 months – contact us for details.
  3. Follow our updates for more tips, guidance and resources, and feel free to get in touch for help.

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