Around this time last year, we started hearing subtle mentions of a new virus called COVID-19 spreading in various places around the world. What we didn’t know was that in a matter of weeks, life as we knew it would change forever.
When Smartcar started working from home in March, many of us thought we would be back in the office by June. When that didn’t happen, we optimistically thought: “Perhaps October!”
After a year filled with the uncertainty and instability of constantly extending our temporary work-from-home situation, we decided that it was time to make a call on what our work scenario would look like in the long term.
In December, we sent out a company-wide survey to gauge the team’s thoughts and feedback on how remote work was going for them and which type of work model they would prefer in a post-COVID world.
Here is what we found:
When reflecting back on 2020, the results were clear. Smartcar’s productivity levels had been at an all-time high, and we’ve had one of our most successful years to date. After hearing the team’s feedback, it was an easy decision to make Smartcar a remote-first company.
At Smartcar, “remote-first” means that our team members can live anywhere in Northern California and will be working from home full-time. Once it is safe to do so, we will meet up twice a year for an in-person All Hands meeting followed by an offsite.
In March of last year, many of us thought we would be back in the office within a matter of weeks. Most of us didn’t put much effort into setting up a designated workspace, quickly realizing that working from our couches and beds were culprits of our worsening back pain and poor sleeping habits.
To help ease the transition to remote work, we gave everyone the option to come by the office and bring their monitor, desk accessories, and office chair back home. We also introduced a one-time stipend for all team members to use on standing desks, lighting, keyboards, webcams, or anything else to help make work-from-home life more comfortable and productive. Finally, we announced a cell phone and internet reimbursement policy to ensure that everyone has access to fast and reliable service.
If you’ve read some of our past Culture blog posts, you’re probably familiar with Smartcar’s regard for team bonding and company-wide offsites. In pre-COVID times, we organized fun team outings every quarter, from scavenger hunts to bubble soccer and go-kart racing. Ever since we started working from home, we’ve hosted all of our quarterly offsites online.
Here is an example schedule from our latest offsite:
Once it is safe to do so, we will gather twice a year for an in-person All Hands meeting and offsite. Everyone will be reimbursed for their mileage as they make their way to the event venue, where we can reunite, celebrate our successes, and get to know each other in person.
In addition to our offsites, we always strive to think of new ideas and activities to organize. For example, we host:
In our remote work survey, all team members mentioned that they felt more productive working from home than in the office. However, many team members also noted that long-term strategy meetings and brainstorming sessions were more difficult to conduct in a remote work environment. To help mitigate this challenge, we started using Whimsical, a collaborative mind-mapping and brainstorming tool. And this is only the first of many steps we’ll take to help the team stay productive.
As we adapt to the new normal, Smartcar is excited to be a remote-first workplace. We believe that our team will benefit from the flexibility of working from home while feeling included and connected to Smartcar’s mission and product.
Feel free to reach out to share your own ideas on keeping your team engaged in a remote workspace. I’d love to hear your thoughts!