It’s been an extraordinary few weeks across the world. My good friends in CS Leadership and their teams have felt the changes of the last few weeks keenly. We’re an adept bunch, but this is something like none of us has ever seen. But, instead of asking them to tell you all how to work remotely with business-as-usual, I really wanted to hear them talk about how things really are. This is an extraordinarily candid panel, telling it like it is.
I’d love your thoughts on this episode! Comment below, and like/love/share/support if you found this inspiring, thought-provoking, or useful!
Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello and welcome to Episode 52 with the customer support leaders podcast, I’m Charlotte Ward. This week listen to leaders talking about the impact of the current pandemic on their working patterns and their team. Today five awesome leaders join me first up his previous podcast guest Natalie Petruch-Trent. Natalie is a technical account manager at Pandium coming from five years experience specialising in customer implementations for e commerce and entertainment. Welcome also to Ryan Klausner. Ryan is the California based head of customer operation for Orion labs, a leader in voice activated business communication and automation for the mobile frontline workforce. And welcome also to Sarah Batts. Sarah is the self titled Feels Herder at Olark. She does support and success as well as content creation and remote culture building. Welcome also to Simone Secci. Simone is based in Berlin where he heads up customer support for Doodle, the online polling and scheduling app. And, and welcome finally to Valerie Figueroa. Valerie is customer success manager at Ne sensory. So welcome, everyone. Thank you very much for joining me today. It’s been a heck of a few weeks and putting most particularly it’s been a heck of a last week or two. And I’m very aware that a lot of the material out there around this pandemic. And the situation socially, organizationally, geographically, politically, everything is advisory, a lot of the content I’ve seen is telling people, what they think, and what an organisation is planning to do, and what they think you should plan to do. But here we are, I want to get real this time and with this particular group of people, I’d love to hear what is actually happening out there in the real world, and how things are diverging from any plans, you may or may not have had a chance to make in the run up to this. So I’ve got a number of discussion points I want to hit. And the first thing that I would love to talk about is your backstory. Do you have any particular customer bases been affected by the changes in the world over the last month or so? When did you start to feel that impact and how do you You feel, and particularly a huge portion of the world’s support agents right now are working remotely and a newly working remotely. Where do you come from? in that story? Are you already a fully remote company? Or is this all a whole new world to you?
Natalie Petruch-Trent 3:18
So I’m based out of New York City. So as my team, we’re a relatively small company. So actually going remote wasn’t too difficult for us. We have one. We have one coworker that actually lives in a bot full time she’s based in Philadelphia. So she comes into New York City or did come into New York City once a week. And for the rest of that time, she would live in an iPad on a stand in our office so she could interact with us and we can interact with her. And actually for our office going remote, we just took that idea and rolled with it. So on a day to day basis, we’re all in a zoom with one another. For breakout meetings, we have slack calls. And personally, I really enjoy it. I don’t feel like my CEO is watching me all day. I can turn the zoom off the video off whenever I want, but it does really have that semblance of still engaging in an office setting. We’ve really been taking advantage of the zoom backgrounds. So we’ve been having different themed days, we had a Marvel day we had a Lord of the Rings day. So that’s, that’s been really engaging and quite frankly, it doesn’t really feel much different from that standpoint. I did go into an office we had an office in a WeWork. We stopped going into there about two weeks ago and that was honestly about the scariest part for me was it’s not now when we kind of know what we’re doing and how we’re moving Forward, it was that whole transition of what should we be doing what is WeWork doing about this to different members of the company have different risk factors that might mean that they have to start working remotely. And our CEO just decided to pull the plug and have everyone go remote mid two weeks ago about so before that I was mostly exclusively in the office, but luckily going remote hasn’t really changed much about the in office feel, as far as engaging with our customers can be on where I work is a SaaS integration platform. So we are actually in, I guess, a quote unquote lucky industry where we’re not really seeing too much turmoil. In fact, we’re seeing more people interested in software integrations given the state of the current world today, but it does, it has impacted How we’re doing work with our customers. Because we are doing a lot of training calls a lot of conference calls, and most of them are larger companies that are now adjusting to having people work remotely. And dealing with zoom videos and meetings that have 50 people on them instead of, you know, two people in them or we would do a lot of on site visits to kind of work out the actual workshopping of integrations. And that’s something that we obviously can’t do anymore.
Charlotte Ward 6:29
Do you think that you have a particular advantage in being a relatively small team and you have that one person already working remotely so although you weren’t remote first you this is an entirely new territory for you.
Natalie Petruch-Trent 6:42
Exactly. I think that really did give us some advantages that we obviously could not have really prepared for for seeing coming. But having one employee who was almost exclusively fully remote and we already had that bot setup in place for her really did make it really easy for For us to transition to that ourselves, and the fact that we are in a incredibly large company meant that we didn’t have to really think about bandwidth or conference chat lag problems. And it was more about just being able to all communicate and integrate and connect with one another in a way that we had gotten used to, and we were able to replicate that pretty well.
Charlotte Ward 7:30
Sarah I, if I recall correctly, Olark is entirely remote, correct?
Sarah Betts 7:35
Yes, we have 100% remote. Well, we sold off all of our offices, they quit renting anything about three years ago, two years ago. So we were mostly remote before then. So yeah, from the internal operations kind of stuff, nothing’s really changed our people ops has put together you know, been more clear about here are sick times here, how we will support you here’s the progress for if you are for a longer time. So that’s been really wonderful and comforting. We’ll have engineers just hop into support once in a while and say, Hey, I know you’re slammed, go away for a couple of hours, you know, take a break, got this business side, it’s been pretty wild. We have. So we make a live chat widget that goes on websites. So we have customers from every conceivable background. And so it’s pretty heartbreaking. All of the customers that we’ve worked with for a long time, who are trying to figure out how to handle like the travel industry handle having enough agents to handle all their cancellations and changes while also needing to downgrade and just not being able to afford anything. Where as on the other side, we’ve got a lot of brick and mortar shops that are, you know, training their team for the first time to use computers beyond point of sale to now sell all their material goods on a brand new shop, say using chat for the first time. So Like Natalie mentioned lots of trainings, lots of you know, thinking to the you know, the brand new customers and making sure that everybody’s on boarded successfully is taking a lot of time and resources but is also rewarding because it makes me hopeful about remote. Online. I think it will change people in a lot of ways. But yeah, we get both sides and it’s, it’s interesting to see both, for sure. And like I mentioned when we chatted earlier, even though we are used to being remote and this is absolutely nothing new. I’ve been a remote worker for almost a decade now. And I’ve always warned I will never go back to an office. But I am now stuck in my house with my four children. My husband and my pets and we do have the backyard but this is not a typical remote situation. So I like to remind people we are not working remote for the first time we are working under quarantine for the first time and that’s a whole different thing.
Charlotte Ward 10:00
Yeah, it’s quite different, isn’t it? It’s interesting. I think that the increase in customer trainings and those types of activities strikes me as something I wouldn’t have necessarily considered would be. And in the fallout of this, you know, I would assume that the biggest challenge would be transitioning to remote and maintaining the same service. I hadn’t really necessarily thought, even if it wasn’t that obvious and industry say travel or something, but there would be a change in the service, you know, changing the way we provide it or, or how we resource it.
Sarah Betts 10:42
Absolutely. And it’s been, I hadn’t really predicted that either. But with so many states ordering non essential businesses closed, people still need to pay their bills and they still want to keep their employees paid. So moving to exclusively online stores is a perfect way to do that. For Folks who sell physical goods that’s brick and mortar, and to compete with the places like Amazon and Best Buy and Walmart and whatnot.
Charlotte Ward 11:07
Absolutely, absolutely. And, I guess, quite a lot of places quite a lot of businesses that weren’t even considering that they had any online options and now having to consider that. I mean, stores and retail is one thing, but there are service providers out there who are having to be significantly more creative as well. And I guess we’re among them, right. Um, Ryan, how about you? How are you? How are we? Where are you coming from in this story? And, and where are you right now? What’s that journey been like over the last couple weeks?
Ryan Klausner 11:43
Yeah. Thanks for putting this together. Charlotte. I think it’s an interesting topic, and happy to chat about it today. So we at Orion labs, I’m the head of customer operations and we focused quite heavily on mobile front lines. workforces often these aren’t folks sitting at a desk. They’re the ones that are pushing your wheelchair or your grandparents wheelchair at the airport waiting for them at the gate. And we support the communication platform that they use, for example, we support a lot of transportation and logistics providers. Public transportation in particular is one thing critically impacted to varying degrees and we are a communication provider to those organisations. In addition to public security and public safety, those are some of our top verticals. Starting about a week and a half ago, just over a week and a half ago, our entire office went to remote as most do. Our office at Orion Labs is based in San Francisco. It’s about 10% approximately of our workforce is remote. However, the customer team is entirely in office I am based in Los Angeles, I fly up there weekly. So for myself, who often visits our larger centre prides customers in person with some regular cadence whether that’s for kickoff, or it’s just part of the overall customer lifecycle. It’s been interesting to be on the ground for what’s been I think about this is the third week I haven’t flown I made the call a little earlier than most that I’m not going to travel. I am a cx leader, but I’m also just as a person, I’m immunocompromised. So I had a difficult decision a few weeks ago, before it really hit the local health authorities and the state health authorities Am I going to take action on that just as an individual and and then also advise my team accordingly, if they have any similar concerns, whether that’s travel related, or in San Francisco, just taking Bart to the office can be a concern in some circumstances. So we discussed that overall. In terms of our business, we’ve seen continued growth in the last week and a half, which is quite fortunate. I realised that’s not the case for a lot of organisations, but we do have a lot of voice activated workflows that can automate a lot of the what was formerly a paper reporting process for an organisation to automate it through voice that can then be logged. So there’s a lot of systems in place included, including safety checks and safety workflows, especially for low workers, which we might be seeing more of. And I think, as a company, we’ve seen our customers move more to a lone worker scenario where previously they might have been working in a pair, just due to staffing and headcount. They’re not able to as often so what other redundancies can be put in place to better support from us as an organisation to support our customers. Overall, I think I was talking to my team about it quite a bit. These are folks that might have worked from home one day a week or one day every couple weeks and that was option was always available to them. But this is definitely an option Sarah mentioned even for the most seasoned work from home folks. This is You know, work from quarantine, this is a very different experience. So it could be as much as sharing the meal subscription boxes that are working for me and getting delivered to my house, which are a real lifesaver at the moment in ways that they normally were just a nice convenience, they’ve been incredibly helpful to also just letting them know that they have to be there first and foremost for their immediate family. And that needs to come first right now. Because if they’re not supporting their family, and by being home and supporting their needs, first and foremost, not going to be there to support our customers. So take whatever action you need on that side. Normally, you know, we’d write in slack stepping out for 30 minutes or an hour, we have greater flexibility than ever before. And I think reporting out for these sort of in the moment things are is less relevant. Because if they feel supported by us as an organisation to take care of what they need to take care of, which in some instances has been an emergency rice run or toilet paper run. I heard that there’s some on sales the store down the street, they need to seize on that. And we don’t want them feeling that they have to report out for every little thing we’ve seen in many instances, our team is signing on earlier than usual, and then might have to drop out for a few hours in the afternoon or working a bit later. But ultimately, our SLA s hasn’t haven’t been impacted. But, you know, we’re continuing to work as hard as we can, I think, well, making sure first and foremost, to take care of ourselves, because I think everyone’s feeling the effects of the pandemic in different ways that I know, sleep and nutrition. And all of these things that we often take for granted are some of the first things to go right now and people need to be resting up to take care of themselves, particularly when they’re in good health.
Charlotte Ward 16:43
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s interesting that you said you made the call early because of your medical background. And I think that’s not going to be unusual actually. It’s easy to think from one side of of the experience that this is just a hard call made by a government somewhere and today is the day that companies are open to work remotely. offices are shutting schools are shutting, you know, buildings are shutting and all sorts of sectors. But it hasn’t been that has it, people have had to make very individual choices. And that has probably had quite a significant impact on our teams. Anyway. We’ve almost had to provide early support before it has become an governmental edicts really, you know, that we we have to do this. And you made that call early Ryan. And you know, I think it was obviously it’s the right call, but I wonder if there has been a variability across teams experience of the people here. Has anyone actually just pretty much locked up on on Friday night and walked out with their entire team or has everyone pretty much had transitions? stories where some people have to go remote because of family issues or medical issues or, or they just made that decision early is anyone Simone or Valerie? Have you sense that things have happened at different speeds in your team?
Valerie Figueroa 18:13
Yeah. So God, what we got going on? So we decided to go, Well, some backstory, my company is already partially remote, because half of our offices based in Houston, so kind of like I think what Natalie was saying is we actually have a live zoom link or a Google Hangout link between the two offices. So we have kind of like a window into each office, which runs 24, seven. And a few of us, you know, work remote One, two days a week or whatever. So we’re already pretty kind of remote. And because we’re so small, it was really easy to just go remote. About a week ago, our leaders decided that they needed to make the call and, you know, help flatten the curve. Even though it was only like, you know, less than 10 people in office, we still were being extra cautious. And a lot of people, you know, their kids having to be home they were already working from home anyway. So pretty much like that Friday, we all went out for drinks and like Goodbye, drinks. And then we packed up the office and everyone took all their stuff home that day. And that was like the last day that we all were going to be in the same place. Oh, yeah, it was kind of like kind of bittersweet packing up the office. I had only been there for like, you know, two weeks at that point. And then we have some interns that we knew we’re not going to see until they leave for the season. So it was kind of sad, but, you know, we have zooms and stand ups and we already had a pretty good remote culture just because of making sure that we are being cognizant of like the divide between our Houston office in here and wanting to make that culture more cohesive. So it wasn’t too much of a tough transition for us to it or remote. Just because we had like you know, the zoom like going all the time and make it a point to get our faces on chat, or on zoom because we do have definitely So you have to either sign in or turn on captions. So we’re all kind of used to that, I guess.
Charlotte Ward 20:05
Right. Yeah. So it comes, familiarity with that well comes largely from your customer base as much as anything. Mm hmm. Simone. How have you found it?
Simone Secci 20:16
So obviously, you know, there’s a minute maybe in a little bit of a different situation than most people on this call, because, you know, I’m based in Berlin. And I’m Italian. So, you know, I’ve been in touch with my family that has been locked down for a long time now. I’m speaking to you. All right now from also locked down in in Berlin. I would say, I think maybe a couple of weeks ago. We, most companies that send their employees on in, in Germany. I think we did that about a month ago. We encourage people to work from home at their choice. You know, when it was in, there wasn’t any specific government ordinance or recommendation. But we just wanted to make sure that people felt safe and made their own choice. And, you know, that’s something that they really appreciated. For me my backstory, this is my first partial remote in office job in a while, before that, I worked 4 years only remote, fully remote. And, and for my team, we have worked, you know, either from abroad or for long periods of time for like months, or, you know, partially remote for a while. So we and we are a distributed company in doodle. So we have offices in Zurich in Berlin and Belgrade. To some of us in different parts of the US, East Coast, different cities, you know, New York, Atlanta. And we all always have to interact and work with each other without physical presence. So it wasn’t entirely new for us. But like, Sarah, like, rightly pointed out, this is a very unique situation. Even if you work fully remote for a long time, it’s a very different scenario. And so I think, yeah, you know, for us, it for me right now, it’s hard to, like, I’m getting used to this so much that it’s hard to remember how it was before. Like that. I’m reaching that point. And I would say, yeah, as you know, as an organisation that works with helps people schedule their meetings. Obviously, it’s an interesting situation where we’re helping a lot of people transition to be meetings because, you know, a lot of folks want their business to continue to work on their organisation to transition effectively to into this new scenario, people still have to meet and talk to each other in a different way. Right. So and a lot of people don’t really know how to do it. So it there’s a lot of importance now in this piece of like, onboarding, and explaining how to use this digital tools, you know, properly and to the best possible use for, you know, for companies to relaunch and give a different spin to their business meet together successfully. And so this has been really interesting. You know, and support obviously plays a big part in it, you know, so we’ve been very much involved and ultimately, you know, I was very proud of my team for stepping up and helping the folks In the intercompany transition to remote, especially people with kids we have, I have people in my support team that are fully remote and work with their kids around. So they were able to give tips to their parents that never did this before. And they’re very freaked out and needed. You know, and I think that that has been also a challenge for me, because that’s something that I don’t have children. So I couldn’t help on the way and get help from people in my team that just, you know, offered and, you know, went out of their way and other role to help other people in the company that they never met because of the different locations and under this, there was this general coming together people and helping each other.
Charlotte Ward 24:47
I think that’s it. Common stories that you mentioned a couple of challenges there that we’ve all kind of alluded to, I’m sure we’ve all certainly experienced there are particularly personal challenges around Working in the home environment beyond just being remote workers, as you and Sarah said, this is a very specific and special situation. And the other is just the the effort involved in something that people who remote work habitually take for granted. And it’s those activities like onboarding that I think people coming out of office situations assume just kind of happen naturally. But you have to be really intentional about them. But and both of those two points segue very nicely into my second discussion point, which is talking about our specific challenges. So I’d really like to hone in on what you think has been the most difficult thing that you found over the last week or two weeks or months since this hit you locally and organizationally and how you’re coping with it. So can we talk about really specific challenges What’s new?
Sarah Betts 25:57
For me the biggest challenge you know, because For a small team, small startup, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with like startup culture, but with that kind of culture and being so small, you get really used to just turning around and being like, hey, blah, blah, blah. Can I ask you this question? Or can we huddle in this meeting or hammer this stuff out? For me being kind of new to the team and still understanding how people operate. Specifically, like my leaders, it’s been really hard to kind of nail down some people to get their input on things like some key stakeholders are just not available. So for me, the challenge has just been getting that time, like, you know, virtual FaceTime with these people so that we can get decisions made, which I didn’t think I would have an issue with, because in the office, everyone’s so open, welcoming open door, but it’s actually been surprisingly difficult because he’s often at home, they have other priorities that they’re you know, toggling with besides work. And so, you know, it’s kind of hard to hold these people sometimes. I mean, you know, instant feedback on, that’s been my biggest challenge so far.
Natalie Petruch-Trent 27:04
Yeah, I would say even though my company is also asmaller startup, I luckily haven’t had too many issues or really any issues with getting actual face time from key stakeholders. And I say that as a credit to my CEO and the CTO, they have gone far above and beyond to make sure that everyone who needs to can get the FaceTime that they need with individual members of the organisation. That being said, I think, organizationally, what was a big challenge and a dramatic shift for us is that most let’s say like 70% of our go to market strategy for the rest of the year, centred around FaceTime and conferences and going to different conventions and meeting people in person. Part of that is because even though it’s I think a really, really cool platform. It is a little bit esoteric. And the best way to talk about it really is face to face with a person, which is definitely a lot easier to do when you’re in different convention or conference type situations. So organizationally, it’s been really pivoting our overall go to market strategy to be more about e content, he blogs, instructional videos, actually a lot more work for me to be working on. And a lot less of just seeing people and being able to talk to them and learn about their businesses just by walking by them past a panel or a booth. So that’s that’s been the big challenge organizationally. But as far as a day to day setting for me, I think that the biggest challenge has has been more personal. My husband is a freelance lighting designer and In the theatre and entertainment industry, so that was really kind of mind boggling just overnight that all of his foreseen income for the next six months is now non existent. And income wise, that’s something that we can definitely balance out and figure out but a lot of it is just the mental health component. So, my I have a pretty well constructed day between 930 and 530 or so. But I can’t really plan in my day for when my husband is trying to figure out what he’s now going to be doing with the next six months of his life. Or if a really or if a close friend of ours, whether it be family or friend is having a severe mental health issue because they also have lost all of their income for the next six months. I think that’s really been kind of the most Stark personal challenge is just the close relationships And the people around us who have been really hit by this and how my job on a day to day basis isn’t just supporting my customers anymore. It’s now very much supporting my husband and those around me to a degree that I hadn’t been planning on.
Charlotte Ward 30:21
Yeah, I think that’s really common as well from the discussions I’ve had so far. And I feel it myself, that what I am operating on now, and I say this is someone who’s starting a brand new role in two days. I’m operating now on a much higher level of general distractedness. Then I might ordinarily be operating on and I think we just all have to be a bit forgiving, right and a bit flexible, is ultimately what it comes down to. How about everyone else
Sarah Betts 30:52
I think organizationally, we’re in a beautiful spot. Just because we are so used. We do everything remotely onboard remote, we hire remote. We know everything there is the same more for us. Business wise is most of our customers take time to decide that Oh yes, I would like to add live chat to my website, which already exists. And I already have the sales and you know now it’s people that maybe had a Weebly site that was sort of sitting there that was a page that they could direct some Facebook links to or have a contact form. And now they’re trying to literally move 100% of their business to a website that they don’t even know what to do with it. And then train their staff. That’s never they’ve never worked online or remotely and they don’t understand how it works. So it’s exciting to teach people and they have been, as a general rule, just beautifully kind of nice. I had somebody I was helping with some logic around some rules, and she just mid chat just asked, How are you in your family? Are you doing okay? And it just like, thank you for being a beautiful person. Like there’s so much goodness out there. They’re personally it’s much harder. my stepdaughter is a senior in high school this year. And we don’t know what’s happening. I my oldest teen is a chronic runaway. And he finally came home and I had to put him in quarantine because I don’t know where he’s been. I don’t know he’s been with it’s just not safe. So, you know, personally wise it’s it’s really hard teaching kids that you can’t just go outside. Just because all the neighbourhood kids are out that’s especially why you can’t go outside. Please go in the backyard and play with the dog. She’s She’s happy to have everybody home. I think our dog is probably the happiest she’s ever been in her whole life because their kids laying on her playing Animal Crossing. The cat a little upset. He’s wondering why everybody’s in his hallway. But I went out last week and I found my cat just hissing at the wall. He’s just beyond because we’re playing a game where they were running up and down the stairs and he likes to nap on the stairs. So he just had it! But yeah, it’s there’s so much to take care of. And it’s it’s much much harder on a personal level because now I’m not just a customer support and content creator and customer success agent, I am now a homeschooling mom of 346 how many kids are here at any given time? I am the mental support for my spouse, we are each other’s entertainment You know, there’s no more traditional date nights we we have to find really creative ways to carry on with life and keep our sanity. And it doesn’t always work. We now have I think four switches and three or four copies of Animal Crossing and I don’t even know how much money was given to Best Buy in nor do I care withholding all recommendations except the AP screentime limits. Just
Screen time time is just disabled
HBO for everyone.
Charlotte Ward 33:54
I’ve upgraded to four screens on Netflix. I can tell you that
Natalie Petruch-Trent 34:00
Netflix has officially taken all of my money at this point.
Charlotte Ward 34:03
Yeah, yes. And I’m with you, Sarah. I think that, you know, even I’ve been full time remote for 16 years. And even acknowledging that as a remote worker, there is more blurring of the lines between work and home. This is entirely different that there is no there are no boundaries. Everything is just been thrown in a box and shaken up. Right.
Sarah Betts 34:30
Yeah, and I think the hardest part is the unknown. of it. It’s not just that we’re on set. We have spring breaks, we have winter breaks, we have summers and we survive all that because we know on September 1, the kids are going back to school and that’s a known there’s and there’s activities, there’s camps to send them to and the YMCA. And here it’s, you know, we don’t know if my stepdaughter is going back to school. She doesn’t know if she just saw her classmates for the last time in her high school career. We don’t know if there’s a graduation we don’t yet we just We really don’t know anything. And that’s the hardest part.
Charlotte Ward 35:02
Ryan did. Where are you? What are your feelings around this? What are your challenges?
Ryan Klausner 35:08
So I live in Los Angeles, but we have a family cabin up in the mountains, two hours east. And it was about a week in Africa that we said, let’s, let’s go there, which may or may not have been a good idea because, you know, obviously, urban centres have medical facilities, easily accessible. Good food supply and overall excellent supply chain, even if Los Angeles is one of the larger centres here in the United States. I also I’m a dual citizen. So I also hear from my family in Canada. So I sort of hear from from both sides of the 49th parallel, what’s going on. I appear I haven’t seen anyone in over a week. So I’m very fortunate that there’s no one to encounter deep in the mountains. Anyway, it’s been interesting I’d say it was a really interesting time right now most importantly, because coming into things as a manager, I think, and even just as a vendor for our customers, you know, we would start with support about a week and a half ago, understanding that a lot of their operations are going to be critically impact work with casinos, hotels, and we’ve seen those casinos closed down temporarily. We’ve seen those hotels posted them close down temporarily. So how can we best support them during that transition? These are conversations we had to have with our vendors. But more importantly, whether you’re a vendor partner, or a manager, this has been a real I think, an eye opening experience, that everyone’s a lot more compassionate that we realised we are all in this together. Everyone is when we’re generally reaching out asking how we’re doing or our families and of course, we’re asking the same thing of them in ways that we often haven’t had that that direct personal connection to our families and a genuine curiosity beyond you know, opening pleasantries. But this is truly heartfelt. But as leaders, I think it’s really showing us that we need to be human first, and managers second. And leading by example with that. So if you’re on a call, whether it’s a zoom with a colleague or a phone call with a client, if someone’s in the background, that’s okay. They know you’re at home. And that’s okay. Normally, you know, you’d probably want to work from home carve out a dedicated space. That’s not possible for a lot of people right now. And I think everyone’s understanding of that. My dog, the rare time there’s a shipment that arrives here, he’s gonna bark because that’s what you know, that’s what dogs do. And previously, I would have muted the call tried to quiet him down. At this point. Sure. I’m still trying to quiet him down because it’s disruptive. But we’re I think we’re all a little understanding this is just business as usual, for what we’re dealing with currently. And I think all of us need to have that level of understanding whether we’re in a b2b operation or b2c and lead by example, more importantly of that.
Charlotte Ward 37:57
Yeah, I think that’s a really important quite important Point to touch on that. Ultimately, we are all humans. And that, you know, actually, you know, outside of this experience, pretty much what I was just saying before, I’ve always felt the lines have blurred between my home life and my work life anyway, because I’ve been remote for so long. And I have had certain colleagues who have effectively watched my children grow up on conference calls, and watch Lego creations happen over the course of an hour on a conference call and that kind of thing. So for me, the lines have always been a bit blurred. That is heightened under these circumstances, but I don’t feel that that is a bad thing. Whether it’s temporary, whether it’s a little bit of a strain Personally, I think that ultimately kind of reminds us all that we are all humans in these circumstances and whether we happen to sit ordinarily in a great conference room or or in our, you know, our kind of Lego filled playroom. Ordinarily, wherever we are that we have, we bring our whole selves to work. At least I hope to do by and large, and it just happens for, for me and for many others that that that historically has has included children in the backdrop or or dogs or cats or whatever else is a part of our day to day life. And I, I one thing that really touched me, actually about a year ago was someone said that they felt it’s kind of beautiful, that I wasn’t afraid for my personal life to spill into my conference calls that my children would appear every now and then now they’d never really, I hope into flow interrupted my flow of work too much, or my productivity or my effectiveness too much, but they are there, you know, I can’t deny them. I do try sometimes, but I can’t deny it. So bearing in mind that we’ve been talking a lot about challenges, but there is this kind of beautiful side to it as well. What have been the big successes of the last few weeks? Simone have you got something You’d like to say here?
Simone Secci 40:01
yeah, I mean, just, you know, as I touched on before, I think he has seen the, you know, mediums stepping up, as in other people’s transition. It’s been really rewarding. And I think, you know, people been just generally more human, you know, more and more exposing their fragility. People in leadership, you know, understanding that this isn’t like showing the fact that you also are afraid that you’re also dealing with the situation that leading by example doesn’t mean that like, you’re invincible, and that’s like what you’re going to show to, to your team, you know, but actually, they like relate to you because you have the same fears. You also have you’re also afraid for your family members in other countries. And your you know, your friends are Getting out also are losing their jobs. And, you know, like, their, you know, partners or family members also they leave this we leave the situation of uncertainty together. And you know, it’s this challenge is sharing it’s a success it’s a success for coming together. And also yeah generally people you know, coming into this new lifestyle of working remotely sharing, we have seen like, you know, new type of like ways in which we entertain and save and you know, I am out with each other like we share baby pictures like you get to know sides of people that you work with, like human side, you know, that it’s no anymore so associate for it’s that person that you get to know them and everybody gets to know them. We I’ve seen this, you know, coming together. I’ll just close ranks and try to make the best of this time and, you know, try to push through but also really coming together as people in this, the Earthship, I think, if anything, after this will all come out stronger.
Charlotte Ward 42:18
Yeah, I completely agree. Completely agree. Valerie, what’s your take on that?
Sarah Betts 42:23
um, you know, similar to what someone else was saying. It kind of has brought our team together in different ways. You know, now we’re getting more of a peek into each other’s lives and just like how their families operate and meeting the kids that we’ve may have not seen. Um, you know, one of our co founders just had a baby, and is on paternity leave. And so he popped into our Friday, happy hour, virtual happy hour. And you know, things like that, like it was really cool to just kind of hang out with my coworkers, because we don’t really have like a planned fun time on Fridays. And so this last one was bring your own cocktail from your pandemic pantry. And so you know, we had some interesting creations that one person did was like tequila and Gatorade. So you know, had some interesting combinations, but it was fun to just kind of, you know, virtually hang out. And I think it’s been kind of like a nice thing to kind of see the other side of your coworkers. The personalised little bit. On a personal level, you know, I think I was really weary about going remote again. Because in a previous job, I was working from home like, you know, three days a week, and I just found myself so distracted and I think part of it was because I didn’t have a dedicated office space. In my last place. I was kind of like in the kitchen and we had a brand new puppy and a lot of home distractions. And so I was really nervous that that was going to happen again, like I would just be demotivated at home and like lazy and getting called out of my brand new job. But it’s actually been the opposite have been more productive than I think I would have been before. And like I have a schedule like in the morning I get up I walk the dog I come back in boyfriend starts breakfast we I do dial into my first day of the day at eight and I you know sit down we have our breakfast and then I go back in for another stand up and then I work until my lunch hour I’ve actually been carving on time for lunch which is good breakfast unplug of no day and then go back and then around five o’clock I start winding down and come back downstairs and like you know, play with the puppy and you know, because the boyfriend Hello, like I’ve been gone all day.
Charlotte Ward 44:33
And is that you attempting to transfer the office shedule to home because that’s that’s how you work best?
Valerie Figueroa 44:39
Yeah, I think it structuring the time has really worked well for me because like, if I think I have all day to do something, then I’m going to put it off to the last minute like I’m very much procrastinator. So knowing I have you know, I need to be done with my today’s tasks by five o’clock or so. It kind of gives me a little bit more motivation to like, actually sit here and like you know, focus on work and I add so like It’s even harder to like focus and this has actually been kind of a blessing in disguise because I don’t have anyone to like talk to my neighbour and like get distracted for half an hour talking about something random. So it’s it’s working out so far I’m actually quite enjoying the work at home life. Especially because my puppy is like, a staircase away. So that’s nice.
Charlotte Ward 45:21
What about other people’s successes as anyone else got a silver lining to this cloud?
Natalie Petruch-Trent 45:27
Yeah, I would say really just the same thing that a lot of other people I’ve been iterating on that it’s, it’s really been an amazing opportunity to get to know my teammates better. You would think that you would, you would know them better sitting next to them in the office every day for you know, nine hours but but with remote work and being on zoom with everyone all day you really are carrying into a part of them that you just can’t access in the office. And we’ve I feel like I have engage more with my coworkers and learned more about them and their interests in the past week than I have in the past month.
Charlotte Ward 46:06
Yeah. Sarah, you you raised your hand as well. And,
Sarah Betts 46:10
yeah, I am loving that people are finding the benefits of remote work as a passionate, remote work advocate. That makes me super happy. But I was just gonna say that my silver lining here has been with all those new customers as much as it is an influx of work for all of us. It’s been really cool to teach people something new and have people come outside their comfort zone and get to be with them as they do that fake like, Yes, I got it, it did something totally new and different. And I succeeded. And that part feels really good. There’s also just the neighbourhood feel like I live in a in a cul de sac. And there’s now a group text that just goes around and I’m running out to get this or I have extra oil or you know, something that I have to share, or does anybody know how to do this thing? And it’s been really, really cool to see the whole community come together that way?
Charlotte Ward 46:55
Simone Secci 46:56
think more than ever before.
Charlotte Ward 46:59
I have been teaching my friends and family how to do new stuff. And and you know, that’s kind of what we do as support folks anyway, and I kind of
Ryan Klausner 47:09
really enjoy just helping them figure it out
Charlotte Ward 47:13
is a kind of natural happy place for a lot of for a lot of us, right. Yeah. Ryan, how about you? Have you got any real successes of the last few weeks?
Ryan Klausner 47:22
Yeah, I think it’s to sort of everyone’s point, it’s a great time to break the mould or whatever you thought is the template for your role, your team’s role, it’s a great opportunity to disrupt that in some ways. So initially, as much as I thought it was a challenge to work I had I was caught I felt really distracted like a lot of us and I’m sure like a lot of our team members. It also transitioned into a great focus at a time where people are trying to find a focus. I had an outlet that I was able to ultimately adjust to it wasn’t immediate. It does take some time I’m I’m I’m a third week of social distancing here in self quarantine, for lack of a better word. So I found the first week and a half the most challenging, and then there was a little bit of a bump down, and then I’m back on track and really focused. As a team, I thought it was a nice opportunity to introduce new things at a team meeting, we usually keep fairly strict to our agenda in the interest of time. At our first fully remote team meeting, I prepped everyone that we’re going to do a show and tell portion, bring something from your home for fun, talk about it for 30 seconds. It just can’t be disinfecting wipes, toilet paper, anything of the moment. It has to be something truly from your home that gives us a little insight about you. And we all had a lot of fun. We’re going to keep that up for the next few weeks
Charlotte Ward 48:42
excellent Yeah, I love the it can’t be toilet roll or disinfecting wipes I am. We’ve all got those right. There’s nothing
Ryan Klausner 48:51
hopefully And importantly, not everyone does. And I didn’t we don’t want anyone to feel bad if they’re trying to find supplies that they don’t have either. So it’s think it’s important to be cognizant of that as a leader as well.
Charlotte Ward 49:03
The very true, very true. Okay, let’s move on then to planning. What does the future hold for you all? And I’m not asking you to get your crystal balls out and look to next year, or even to the next task. But what about next week, next few weeks?
Valerie Figueroa 49:22
Honestly, I’m just hoping that I can keep a job. I mean, I didn’t talk about this earlier, and I wish I would have but like our product is, you know, our customer base is primarily low income. And they’re either relying on disability or they work, you know, jobs that don’t really require a highest skill set. So those are like, you know, bartending and Lyft drivers and, you know, those are jobs that are now kind of extinct because of what’s happening. So, you know, obviously, like we’re concerned about longevity with our company. We’re still in serious is a funding. So we’re still new. And we’re hoping that we can raise another round this year, but it’s looking less likely because of just the economy. So I’m doing everything I can to make sure that we’re successful. And I think everyone is in the same boat in our company, but just making sure that I’m taking care of myself and making sure that I’m doing what I need to do to make sure that I do have a job. I know it’s kind of like a bleak future planning but that’s the reality because of where our company is and just current state of things. Yeah,
Charlotte Ward 50:35
and it is a lot of people’s reality right now. Let’s be fair. Yeah.
Valerie Figueroa 50:39
Now like I’m torn between, you know, easing my woes with shopping sprees, versus saving for a rainy day. So like there’s that balance of like, treat yourself but also like, Girl, save your money.
Charlotte Ward 50:53
I hear ya. Anyone else do you have any particular plans the next few weeks?
Natalie Petruch-Trent 50:58
Yeah. I would say that, that that was kind of my my first concern whether I would have a job. Luckily, as I mentioned, it looks like my company is going to be doing all right for a while. As far as planning for the future, my husband and I, we had kind of gotten to a rhythm of throwing parties every other month or so. That’s obviously something we can’t do right now. So what we’re planning on doing is putting together kind of a little a spreadsheet schedule of how we can support those around us and the ways that we can. So reaching out to artists for individuals with maybe skills they don’t normally use professionally, and seeing if we can do private, live streams of a specific skill or performance or talent and sharing that with friends and family and others who would then be able to contribute tips or additional life. stream gigs. So I think that that’s kind of what myself and my husband are doing, and preparing for the future in a way that we can entertain ourselves and engage with others and also give back to the community in a way
Ryan Klausner 52:15
where I think it’s hard I think everyone’s like, what how are we planning, it’s you know, and everyone’s thinking one week at a time for the most part, but a few things that we’ve done that I think have worked well as an organisation and as a leader that I’m hoping to continue, is we did a 5pm weekly pet and kid call anyone with kids or pets or none of the above and just want to see everyone else’s Feel free to join it’s 15 minutes, come at any point leave at any point, there’s no obligation, it’s purely fun. Nice way to socialise with colleagues get a little insight into their home where they live, like their children, their pets, sometimes their many pets. It’s I think, all helpful to keep spirits up. But at the same time, we just have to Take the new challenges as they arise week by week is where we are today. I didn’t necessarily foresee three weeks ago, when I started this and I’m hoping and optimistic where we’ll be in three weeks, we’ll be in a better place. But I think we need to really focus day by day as much as possible to keep everyone supported, especially in a distributed model. And normally, you know, we’re all like, that’s a, you know, a phone meeting that should have been an email right now, I’m having video chats that could have been an email and that’s intentional. And it’s because I think very much to sort of Valerie’s point, you know, normally in the startup world, you’ll move your chair and your colleagues right there and you can ask them something this is a nice way of going around that while still having some personalization and one on one contact with your colleagues.
Charlotte Ward 53:46
Yeah, completely. I’ve I’ve plenty of messages where I’ve just instantly said do you want to just jump on a call right now. You know, it’s a it’s easier and be it’s, it’s it’s FaceTime with a small f and a small team. Isn’t it? It’s, it’s just that social contact, it’s seeing someone’s face in, in a world where that suddenly got much rarer. What about other people’s plans? Sarah or Simone have you got do you want to chip in here with what your future looks like for the next few weeks, couple of years?
Simone Secci 54:18
So, I think I got a little bit over, like, I got very involved with the, with the remote piece, you know, being one of the people that had the most experience with this, you know, like in my, in my company and the leadership team and, and then when my team, so I sort of, like split between there and, you know, adding the support team and that took a lot of my time, and that was completely unexpected. You know, I was just like, I can do this right now. I could help people out. You know, I gotta figure out this thing and the best way possible and you know, So at the same time, though, we were onboarding a new person, because you know, that there’s all this planning you did before this and that still goes on so as to go on and I’m going to bring in another person. So I was lucky enough to set up and place the structure to do that with my team, and they were incredibly supportive. And I was able to delegate a lot like for the next week, you know, my plan is to jump back in 100% of the you know, we sort of we said, Oh, we can do this we could do this What’s that feel good part now that we did this with Okay, we’re remote now. And now we need to move on and focus on you know, the projects that we planned and keep going. Also for give us like a sense of like, of goals of like something to look forward to which is exciting becomes extremely important. You know, what you think of professional goals before This now is a life goal. Like now it is the thing that keeps you going. Because you have to imagine a, you know, a world after. And and I think, you know, focusing for us it’s sort of like, liberating in a way, you know, and I don’t think that I would ever express this this way in life, but you have to aspray from the negativity of the outside. And focusing on work is an excellent way to do it. You know,
Charlotte Ward 56:38
yeah, throw yourself into it, and they’re cool. And you can extract quite a lot of positivity and good experience from this. Absolutely. Let’s move on to my final discussion point then, which I hope you’ve all come prepared for, which is your one piece of good advice right now. But this week, so who would like to go first with their absolute Crystal Gem of a piece of good advice for this week?
Sarah Betts 57:09
Oh, gosh, I was just going through, I’m not I have one solid piece of advice. But I think having, I keep saying this to everyone have grace, have grace with yourself, have grace with the people around you. Um, you know, there’s always the saying that you never know what someone was going through. And now we kind of have a peek into that the person that we’re working with, you know, they may be worried about parents or children or partners, or they may be on the verge of losing their job or any number of things. So I think the kindest, most important thing that we can do that will get us through this at work at home, in every facet of our lives is to just have grace and mostly with ourselves. And that’s a reminder to myself, because that’s what I struggle with.
Natalie Petruch-Trent 57:54
I’m actually going to kind of piggyback on Sarah but from the reverse perspective. I would say, find something that works for you. And don’t worry about doing something that works for other people. I know. That sounds a little odd, but you know, there’s all the articles going around having remote work, make a desk have a specific setup on pants every morning. That’s all great advice. It probably works for you know, 90% of the people in the world, but it might not work foryou. And the same thing might not work for you every day. I’ve been living mostly from pyjama pants. It’s been getting me by just all right. And I’ve decided that I’m going to work in a room that we have our foster kid in. I don’t have a dedicated like work set up in here right now. But I do have a kid and that is getting me through any painful calls on him on that day. And maybe that’ll be different tomorrow, but just do what works for you.
Charlotte Ward 58:57
Yeah, I agree that the advice out there is really about putting on pyjama putting on proper work trousers I’ll call them trousers not pants, putting on proper work trousers and your you know your best dress shirt and have your dedicated desk and that does work for some people and for some people is even reasonable advice for a normal remote situation. But actually a lot of the advice out there really is people piggybacking on what you would consider to be properly considered, and routine and ongoing remote work crap and outlet and that doesn’t apply because as Sarah said, right at the top of this call, we’re not we’re working remotely. We’re working from quarantine and dies entirely different. I’m very happy in my jogging trousers, jogging balls. I don’t know what you’d call them jog, like just athleisure Yeah, type stuff. Thank you very much. Very comfortable in it been in it for 16 years. I’m not going to change now. But yeah, this isn’t normal remote work. So a lot of those rules don’t apply. Definitely do what works for you.
Simone Secci 1:00:13
If I may, I have two piece of advice that someone else gave me that I think a very important. One thing is, especially for people that are no, this is anybody that is not familiar with remote work, is listening to this is your ad is not a repository for things, get things out, write them down, make a record of it. If something interesting important comes to you, set that aside, write it down, get to it later. Don’t keep anything in your ear, documented as much as you can. And another thing is, you know, over communicate before communicate less. Like maybe the you are over communicating and then you go from the process. simply taking things out of it taking meetings out. But that comes later. It’s better to over communicate that communicate less in this time, especially if you’re going through a transition.
Charlotte Ward 1:01:14
I came across a remote work consultant A number of years ago. And I have one single quote from her that I absolutely live by now. And that is that over communication in a virtual world, is just the same as normal communication everywhere else. We have to really over communicate in the same way that when you’re, when you are auditioning to be a TV presenter or something, they want you to be really extrovert and be big with your hands and expressive in your face. It’s kind of the communication equivalent of that remote work. You have to go beyond where you would normally go in terms of your communication style. And that just starts to feel normal.
Valerie Figueroa 1:02:03
Something that I practice today because I realised how crabby I was being being cooped up in the house. So, like prior to me getting this job, like three weeks ago, I was unemployed for three months. So my boyfriend’s also at home. And so we’ve literally just seen each other for the last four months, basically, like every single day, every single night, like wake up is there to sleep is there like, you know, no can get and myself getting really short tempered for like literally no reason, like you’re breathing near me. Stop. Um, and I think it’s really important that like, for those who aren’t familiar with remote work, and maybe haven’t had the benefit of having their spouse home with them, as well or their kids or their pets, like, take advantage of this time is special to like, look at the bright side of things. Specifically, like you know, just forgive easily like, yeah, you’re annoyed but like put that aside and like Give your spouse a hug or a kiss, like take a 15 minute break and go walk the dog together or play with your kids or whatever for a minute because you’re not going to get time back. And I think it’s really important that we like building self care into our schedule in the day. So like for me, like I like to go downstairs, I get my water I’ll play with the puck for a little bit your boyfriend kisses on the head back upstairs, my little office, small things like that can like keep you sane, really and from strangling your partner and going jail because that’s bad. You know, it’s really important to like, kind of forget that like, you might hate your kid or your dog at that specific moment because they’ve just been barking or like yapping at you. But to just look past it and say, okay, like this is special circumstance, like you get a pass like I’m going to love on you right now. Just because I think it’ll just help everyone just to kind of move forward and I know can be really stressful especially parents having don’t the kids and noisy paths. And MIDI, whatever. And this is something for me that like, has been kind of a roadblock for the last week and so reminding myself that it’s okay to like time and like, just kind of leave it all, you know, leave it at the desk and then go into my life real quick and come back has been really helpful for me at least.
Charlotte Ward 1:04:19
Ryan, how about you?
Ryan Klausner 1:04:21
About me? I like to I like Valerie strangling from remark and you just sort of shrugged. Charlotte that was that was my that was my… Yeah, I think we’ve you know, we’ve all had some moments with our, with our partners,
Charlotte Ward 1:04:37
all things are possible at this point!
Ryan Klausner 1:04:39
Right, you know, things arise in small spaces, confined spaces. I’m gonna go back to what I’ve been saying. I feel like sort of the thesis of anything that I’ve been talking about today, which is, regardless of what your role is at a company or in your home, be human and be kind and those two things is really what’s going to get us all through both personally and professionally. Whether you’re looking for your next role in the in the CS space, or you’re wanting to ensure that you’re demonstrating value in your role right now, that’s the best way to go about it.
Charlotte Ward 1:05:17
Thank you so much. I think there’s been a lot of great, I had no doubt that we would have some true crystal gems of advice there. Thank you all so much. And I think if this call demonstrates anything, it demonstrates that there is great value in reaching out to people being unkind having grace and being human under the circumstances and I think we will all come out of this for the better even though we are a little challenged right now. Thank you so much, everyone. That’s it for today, go to customer support leaders.com/52 for the show notes and I’ll see you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
A little disclaimer about the podcast, blog interviews and articles on this site: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text and podcast belong solely to the author or interviewee, and not necessarily to any employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.