25 things we’ve implemented at Front to keep a great culture while being remote

Like many companies across the world, we’ve had to transition Front to fully remote work in just a few days. If you’ve read anything from me before, you know I care a lot about people being happy at work, and now more than ever, I’m making it a priority. The least a company can do in these times of high uncertainty is to find ways to cheer up employees, help them weather this storm, and make sure they know they’re valued.

Our HR team has risen up to the challenge, and done a wonderful job translating our in-office culture into a remote culture. Here are some of the things we’ve implemented in the past 2 weeks. There will be more to come, and I’ll share all of them. In the meantime I hope these can be an additional source of inspiration to all of you. And if your company has implemented other good ideas, please tell me about them!

Communication

We always believe that clear communication is critical for teams to be successful, but it’s especially true during times like this. We’re keeping our usual internal communication processes and adding a few new ones to keep everyone informed while remote.

  • All Hands: We’ve always had All Hands every Monday so we’ve kept that routine while remote. There is usually a segment at the end called Mathilde’s Musings, where I share my thoughts on anything that’s on my mind. Lately I have been sharing my thoughts around how I’m dealing with this personally and how I still see a positive future for our business despite this change. I included an example from a recent one below.
  • Daily Weather Report: We usually send a Daily Weather Report email to our sales and marketing teams. Now we send it to the entire company every day to give everyone a pulse on ARR, churn, new customers, lead pipeline, hiring pace, etc.
  • Executive Team meeting time: We dedicate 30 minutes to COVID-19 and remote work topics in the executive team meeting. It’s super important to time box this, so that we don’t end up using the whole 1.5-hour meeting for it and can get to other ongoing topics.
  • Mathilde’s Company AMA: I host a weekly AMA (ask me anything) on Wednesday mornings. We use the app Slido so the team can submit and upvote questions from the whole company before and during this session.
  • Mathilde’s Planning Team AMA: I host another AMA just for our executive team. This is a time for them to ask any specific questions around strategy or bring up concerns related to their department.
  • Dedicated Slack channel: We created a #life-wfh Slack channel for employees to continue to connect socially and for people team to post resources about working remotely, articles with ideas of fun things to do indoors, etc.
  • 24/7 Zoom Room: This is a constant Zoom meeting for any Fronteer to jump in and chat. It is always pinned in the #life-wfh channel. The link auto-posts to the channel throughout the day.
  • Employee happiness survey: We usually send out employee engagement surveys every quarter using Culture Amp to measure what’s making our employees happy and what people want to change. Now we’re sending a survey specifically around remote working to make sure the team has what they need to be productive and that they feel like we’re communicating enough.

Benefits

We’ve changed our employee benefits temporarily so that the team can take advantage of them and get the resources they need while working from home.

  • Health and wellness benefit: We usually give employees a reimbursement for gym, therapy, and wellness through a perk platform called Cherry. We’ve expanded our marketplace on Cherry to include learning and work-from-home benefits like reading, meditation, and language lessons.
  • Catered lunch reimbursement: We have catered lunch 3 days a week in the office, so we’re reimbursing the team $15 per lunch on those days by adding that to their paychecks.
  • Midweek meditation: We typically have a guided meditation session every Wednesday through Journey Meditation. Now we hold it virtually over zoom.
  • Employee assistance program: We have a program to provide confidential counseling service to help the team with challenges relating to work, family, stress, finances, and other personal issues.
  • Books for parents: We shipped age-appropriate books to Fronteers who are parents so they can read to their children while working from home. They were vetted by a master librarian: Real Friends by Sharon Hale, New Kid by Jerry Craft, The Hero Next Door by Various, Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora, and Mix it Up by Hervé Tullet.
  • Bonusly cookies for charity: We use Bonusly, a tool that allows us to award each other with virtual cookies for living out our company values. You can then buy things on the Bonusly marketplace, like Starbucks or Amazon gift cards. Now the team can donate to the WHO COVID-19 response fund using their cookies if they want to give back.

Culture events

We have several cultural events on an ongoing basis in the office, so we took some of those and made them remote. We also added a few other fun remote opportunities so that the team has plenty of ways to connect and chat with one another.

  • Virtual Game Night: Normally we hold a monthly game night where we play games or build LEGO. Now that we’re remote, we play virtual versions of Codenames, Werewolf, Mario Kart, Settlers of Catan, and more using Board Game Arena, Colonist, Netflix Party, and Nintendo Switch Online.
  • Front-versary celebrations: When a Fronteer has their anniversary with us (1 year, 2 years, etc working at Front), we now send flowers to their house to show our thanks for all their work. We also give them a shout out in #random channel, and we send them a GroupGreeting virtual card that the whole team signs.
  • Buddy Family Lunches: Every new hire gets a Front Buddy, an existing employee that’s not on their direct team, who can help answer questions and generally be a friend at the company. We’ve arranged for Front Buddies and their buddies, etc, to get delivery lunch and have a Zoom call together while we’re remote.
  • Lunch for 5: We usually have a randomizer that selects 5 people from across the company each week to get a stipend and go out to lunch together. The goal is to encourage cross-functional bonding with people you might not work with day-to-day. This continues to run, but instead people can order delivery and hop on a Zoom call to eat and chat.
  • Plank: In the office, our teams would take a moment before lunch to do a plank for 2 minutes. We’ve kept that, but now we do it virtually over Zoom on Mondays and Thursdays.
  • #super-secret-friendly-fronteers: This is a group of Fronteers on Slack that our office manager reaches out to if we hear that a particular employee is in need of outreach. These Fronteers schedule time with them to be a friendly face and chat.
  • Birthday shoutouts: Usually we love to celebrate birthdays in the office, and we’ll order treats once a month to honor all the birthdays that month. Now we’re giving virtual shout outs in our #random Slack channel.
  • Skincare Fridays: To take advantage of being at home and encourage self-care practices, some of the team does a facial mask and hops on a Zoom call on Friday evening. It’s silly and a good way to end the work week.

End-of-quarter encouragement

We transitioned to remote work in March, which is our last month of the quarter and is always an intense period for us. Since there’s a possibility we could be remote for another quarter, I’m sharing a few of the things we’ve done for your inspiration.

  • Cards for loved ones: Usually the end of quarter is particularly busy for our sales team. We mailed them a letter reminding them of how much their work means to us and included blank cards for them to send to their loved ones during this tough time.
  • Video message from Bryan Schreier: Bryan is our board member and main partner at Sequoia Capital. He sent us a kind video message explaining how he’s thinking about these times, how he predicts it will impact businesses, and how we should think about moving forward.
  • Cameo from a celebrity: We have a lot of Fronteers who love watching The Office, so our People Team got a Cameo from Oscar Nunez wishing the team a successful end of quarter.

Remote work resources

We also put together some of our own resources for working remotely that are growing and changing every day.

As we find more ways to keep the team connected and informed while transitioning to remote work, I’ll share those too. In the meantime, I’m wishing the best for all our customers and companies around the world who are experiencing uncertainty and hardship right now.

LEGO builder. Co-founder & CEO @ Front (frontapp.com)

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