Powering Your Business in Today’s Work from Home Environment: Webinar Recap

TravelBank recently hosted a webinar, “Powering Your Business in Today’s Remote Environment,” in which a panel of experts discussed running a strong work from home (WFH) program in the midst of COVID-19. Below we’ve covered the highlights.

For this webinar, Josh Abich, Chief Revenue Officer, TravelBank was joined by business leaders with diverse experience managing remote teams, including Marco Mahrus, VP of Payments at Brex, Jessica Garcia, Head of People at Fitbod, and Brad Treese, Head of Business Development, at Skyroam.

>> Related: Why CFOs Know Remote Work Is Here to Stay <<

The panelists have decades of experience in a variety of fields, including sales, marketing, customer success, recruiting, training, and partnerships.

WFH Without Drops in Productivity

Many companies began transitioning their entire team to WFH before official lockdowns went into effect. All panelists have realized no decreases in productivity, and some think workers might now be even more productive.

Jessica noted that for Fitbod, employee health and wellbeing absolutely come first. “We’re really lucky that our product can still be used during lockdown, so as long as our employees are still healthy and happy, we will continue to deliver.”

Helping Employees Feel Connected

For Brex, Marco reported that, they’ve been thinking a lot about how to help employees feel connected, engaged, and supported. Brex has taken a special focus on remote new hire on-boarding.

“We’ve extended the overall timeline, rolled out a new hire center with organized documentation, and deepened our on-boarding buddy program to ensure a more hands-on on-boarding experience.”

Adapting to Help Customers

In order to continue delivering value to customers, it’s important to understand the challenges they are currently facing and look for ways you can adjust the products or services you deliver accordingly. Think about offers your customers can take advantage of now. Finally, practice empathy.

Brex launched Remote Rewards back in March the moment they saw COVID-19 was really going to affect how their customers work and grow. Brex customers now get 7x back in points on collaboration tools, in addition to increased offers on AWS, Slack, and Zoom. “We also recently announced a new partnership in which Brex customers get 3x on Apple purchases.”

Encouraging Exercising at Home

Fitbod is a health and fitness app that uses data to design custom workouts for users based on a variety of factors, such as the equipment they have available. It was initially targeted towards gym-goers as well as those exercising at home with limited or no equipment.

For the first few months of lockdown, Fitbod offered the app for free to people using equipment-free, bodyweight-only workouts. The app is no longer free, but there are offers for front-line workers and others affected by the crisis. The company has also modified the product roadmap slightly to continue to develop the at-home workout capabilities.

Supporting Better Bandwidth

Brad explained how Skyroam’s global WiFi hotspot keeps users connected around the world without the worry of roaming fees, unsecured connections or configuring SIMs.

The company’s primary use case prior to COVID-19 was staying connected during international travel. Now customers are using Skyroam to support better bandwidth, while more people are working and learning from home.

Easing the WFH Transition

If your organization already had team members working remotely, you likely already had communication and remote work tools in place. Steps that help ease the transitions to remote work include:

Cultural Shifts Resulting from Remote Work

Many organizations are now holding shorter and more frequent meetings over Zoom.

Brex specifically adopted a culture of writing after their transition to work from home. Marco explained, “Similar to the approach made famous at Amazon, we have fully transitioned to a long-form memo (5-6 pages) culture away from slides. This drives not just deeper thinking but, more important, broader inclusion in key decisions and broader communication of conversations that would otherwise have come and gone in a verbal setting.”

WFH Stipends

Many organizations introduced WFH stipends to cover expenses such as fitness and food deliver for meals. TravelBank allows employees to expense up to $150/month against certain items within the new WFH expense category. Employees love it.

Solutions to Empower Remote Work

Popular tools such as Google docs, Zoom, Slack, Threads, Notion, and Ringcentral have only gotten more popular with the massive shift to remote work. There are also some new tools gaining momentum, like Marco’s recommendation, Krisp, which silences background noise during calls, so you can eliminate disruptions no matter what’s going on at home.

Additionally, Fitbod has been exploring mental health services such as TalkSpace to offer additional support to anyone in need, even for issues not work-related.

TravelBank has been crowdsourcing exclusive offers and deals for WFH solutions in the TravelBank Marketplace.

Expenses Versus Stipend

As you think through what expenses your business will allow for remote workers, understand the difference between providing a new expense policy that outlines reimbursable work from home related expenses and offering a monthly stipend. A stipend qualifies as a fringe benefit and is generally subject to withholding and employment taxes. Asking your legal and finance teams for their advice is always good practice.

Ensuring Productivity Without Micromanaging

For teams that are new to remote work, the balance between good support from leadership and micromanagement can be tricky.

Brex has found that increased frequency and decreased duration of meetings can help. For example, switching from a biweekly meeting format to a quick check in three times per week can provide teams with the communication they need and keep team leads informed on progress. Adding optional “office hours” for ad-hoc conversations is another great way to keep managers and reports in touch.

Fitbod takes another approach, allowing “squads” to form and evaporate as necessary to tackle new project ideas. Additionally, they rely on a history of transparent documentation practices and place trust in employees’ good intentions.