“Our plan for the coming weeks.” That was the subject line of the email I sent to the Shiny team on March 15, 2020 outlining our plan to pivot to working from home as a result of the growth in Covid-19 cases. Those anticipated weeks have stretched into our working fully remote for a year. Looking back on that unexpected year, I come away with three key takeaways:
- Don’t underestimate your team’s resiliency. I was unsure how everything would pan out as we moved from working almost exclusively in the office to being physically dispersed. It was definitely a challenge at first as we had to re-think how we work and communicate. The team rose to the challenge, in how they individually delivered, how they helped each other succeed, and how they stayed focused on ensuring we delivered for our clients.They answered the call at every turn, and it was exciting to see the individual growth demonstrated along the way.
- Culture is the glue that holds people together. It’s not easy to create a culture when you’re only engaging through digital tools. We were fortunate that we already had a solid culture built around key values (like teamwork, accountability, curiosity, and being truthful) that enabled us to stay gelled as a team. It also helped that we built on some existing cultural touchpoints like our weekly Spotify list and set aside time each week to listen to it together. That cultural gel is one reason for how we were able to hire and bring on new talent in the midst of the pandemic and make it work.
- New structure means new opportunities. As we were no longer shackled to the idea of having to be physically co-located, its opened up the opportunity to work with talented people in a variety of different locations. It also encouraged us to leverage tools in new ways and add new tools like Miro and Asana to how we work, all of which makes our end product better, and easier to deliver.
It appears that we are approaching a new inflection point, where vaccinations will hit critical mass and the ability to cut down on social distancing will tempt us to return to “normal.” I, for one, hope we avoid that temptation. These learnings were too hard-fought and too valuable to be put aside. Instead, I will embrace these unexpected 12 months and use the experience to fuel our growth into 2021, and beyond.