The Good, Bad, and Supportive
When I began drafting this blog entry, I wanted to write an open letter to 2020. Then I realized it would simply read something like this:
We hate you.
Please go and never look back.
So, obviously that wasn’t going to work. Why? Because the underlying meat of that open letter is making it all about 2020 and its maelstrom of poo. Truly, we wanted to make this post all about the humans persevering through 2020, not about the year itself. (I mean, we all watch the news and scroll Twitter; we are painfully aware of what happened in 2020.) All that really matters is the humans, since real-live people are what power this company—and how we found (and are still finding) the concentrated strength to be awesome, support each other, and ultimately build kick-ass technology.
A lot happened this year. Good, terrible, and also hilarious. There were tears, gut-blasting laughs, and virtual hijinks via video calls. So we’re gonna make this post all about just that. We want to recognize the good, the bad, and the supportive. (If you’re wondering why I didn’t list “ugly” in that previous sentence, it’s because when things got ugly, we received overwhelming support—and things didn’t stay ugly for long.) This is a testament to our leadership and how they put humans first, which got us through this tumultuous year.
Keeping it Real
Truth be told, this year was tough for our people. We at Shift3 are a collective of tech nerds who joined this company because of its mission and its awe-inspiring sense of community. Our buildings are filled with assortments of people who wander our halls to network, meet up, chit chat, teach, learn, innovate, and simply grab a cup of joe and an everything bagel. We signed up for those interactions and that energy specifically. So when our company decided to go fully remote in the second week of March, you can imagine how that news hit. The energy we carried around with us in those buildings was tactile and grew organically with every interaction we had. And with one email, we were sent home to stay safe and brace ourselves for a potential first wave of COVID-19 to hit our communities. Side note: This was certainly necessary and we don’t regret making this call at all. But it doesn’t mean we were enthusiastic about it.
The upside to 2020 (yes, we found one!) was our remarkable growth, despite our work-from-home status. Our team grew by 87% this year alone. One hundred+ team members were recruited, interviewed and onboarded—via a completely virtual process. Our recruiting process wasn’t the only process that went virtual and the adjustment was painful and hilarious all at once.
Pretty sure 90s pop band Jamiroquai predicted correctly when they sang about the future being made of virtual insanity. The future is now—and it has been insane. Pop references aside, we had to make the most of 2020 by mastering the art of video conferencing to maintain all continued communication between our teams and clients. In the span of a few short weeks we became adept at dressing business-casual from the waist up, we became painfully aware of body language, and the ‘mute’ button became a worthy adversary. The virtual life forced us to be aware of our toddlers, pets, messes in backgrounds, spouses in some state of undress walking cluelessly into the frame, and became paranoid that our cameras would get hacked and someone would see us picking our noses.
The thought process alone just to jump on a quick Google Meet was stressful. Am I presentable? Is my spouse watching our toddler? Are the dogs in another room? Can you see my folded laundry in the frame? Am I close enough to the camera where you can’t see my pajama pants? The mental prep list before jumping on a call was different for everyone, but I guarantee ‘jumping on a quick call’ wasn’t as easy as it sounds.
If someone were meeting a client, you could almost guarantee a cat would jump into frame and flash its behind to the camera. During an intense discussion regarding campaign strategy, someone would ring the doorbell and you’d be drowned out by barking dogs. During one of our podcast recordings, our host’s daughter ran by screaming in delight while playing (And I think they kept it in the final episode!). You get my point, working from home has been an adjustment.
More fine tuning was made when we had to pivot our live events and conferences into virtual webinars. That part wasn’t as difficult, but it certainly wasn’t the original plan. Being “Agile” isn’t just a custom dev methodology, it’s a way of life. Gotta roll with those punches, and 2020 gave us a beating.
The State of Our Minds
Nothing brings a company together like a crisis. And nothing shows the strength of its leadership like how they treat their people—and how they support their mental wellness when the going gets tough. Well, the going got damn tough. Thankfully, our leadership had already put an Employee Assistance Program in place which supplemented our existing health benefits. Not only could team members receive triage-level mental wellness care, they could also reach out for assistance with legal woes, life coaching or financial help. Additionally, our team leaders were keeping a watchful eye on personal bandwidth, workload and personal hardships.
Our team lost loved ones to COVID-19. We almost lost actual team members. (Thankfully, we did not.) The point is, when our team became weathered and began struggling, our leadership team recognized that, allowed grace, provided guidance, and offered support in any way they could.
Back in Q3, our leadership team foresaw that winter would be hard for many. The holidays were getting close and hardships tend to become amplified during those times; not to mention the risk for COVID-19 exposure was increasing by the day and that in itself was a scary prospect. In anticipation of this, leadership unilaterally cut all Q4 hours by 40%. Everybody kept their same pay, but it was mandatory that they only work 60% of their full, normal work week. Our new policy began in October and will be maintained until the end of 2020. We will revert to normal, full-time hours on January 1 and will be working from home until at least June 30, 2021. This is a company that takes care of its humans so they’re well and strong and ready to lead another day.
Hope for 2021
Amidst the work-from-home chaos and virtual conferences, several really fantastic things happened as well. Members of our team got engaged, married, had babies, and started side hustles with their hobbies. Our company grew, our teams expanded, and we more than doubled our business from previous years. We banded together to support our community by delivering groceries to 3,000 families in need and we built software to help those displaced by COVID-19 find employment and life resources.
In the midst of all of this, we survived. It wasn’t easy—and we still have a long road ahead of us, but we’re well-equipped … and most of all, we have the support of the Shift3 army behind us making sure we can stand another day. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2021.
Are You Prepared For 2021?
The new year is closing in on us and that means it’s time to revisit all your digital tools to see what’s working and what may need some help. If you have some ideas to help grow your business, but you’re not sure how to execute, schedule a chat with us using this link.