The health and safety of our team members, client partners, and their families is our first priority. COVID-19 cases have surged in many states, and the fall and winter will bring more uncertainty. Against that backdrop, here is how we are keeping our Tandem community safe–while still designing and developing the high-quality custom software that drives business results for our clients.
We began full-time remote work in March. At the time, we didn’t know how long this would be necessary, but now we know that we’re in it for the long haul: all Tandem team members will continue working remotely for the remainder of 2020. Our Chicago and San Francisco offices are closed until it is safe once again to work in indoor spaces as a team.
When a Tandem team member has an essential need to go to the office–for example, to use a specialized piece of equipment or to pick up personal items–we’re requiring that office visit be scheduled and approved in advance. This will help us maintain a record of who has used the space, so we will be able to assist with contact tracing efforts if one of our team members does become sick. While in the office, they must wear a mask at all times, and must clean any touched surfaces with a Lysol wipe before leaving.
Sometimes, people can’t work from home because of maintenance being done on the house or other special circumstances. This is a part of life, and we would never penalize anyone for this kind of everyday inconvenience–but we also do not consider this an essential reason to work from our offices. For this type of conflict, we have created a new time off category that does not subtract any hours from the employee’s PTO or sick bank.
To help Tandemites be as focused, comfortable, and productive as possible while working remotely, we have provided a budget for each team member to spend on home office improvements. This might include furniture, office supplies, technology, or even environmental aids like white noise machines or lighting. We have also begun providing a monthly internet stipend to offset the costs of home internet that is now being used for work. This stipend will continue until we decide to fully go back to the office, whenever that may be.
Kickoffs, Design Sessions, Demos, and Other Meetings
At Tandem, so much of the way we work relies on collaboration, communication, and close relationships with our clients. This has not and will not change. The way we meet looks different for now, but we’ve had great success in using virtual tools to enable collaboration. We are using Google Meet for the majority of our virtual meetings, but are also using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other platforms depending on our clients’ preferences.
We have added 12 new Tandemites since the beginning of 2020, and anticipate continuing to grow over the second half of the year. Just like our other types of meetings, our interview process will be conducted over the phone and Google Meet to help keep candidates and team members safe.
For design and engineering roles, our interview process typically includes a design or coding challenge as well as time spent pairing with current team members. That hasn’t changed: the only difference is that these interview phases will now be conducted remotely, like our day-to-day work.
When we moved to remote work this March, we wanted to ensure that we maintain our healthy culture and team engagement. We’re in a different mode right now, but we don’t want to lose what makes the Tandem team great. Some of the tools that have helped fill the gap of not physically being in the office together include:
- Donut: We added the Donut app to Slack this April to help facilitate connection while we work remotely. Since then, DonutBot has made 124 introductions between team members, with more than 100 groups of two or three people meeting up for a virtual coffee. We are all busy, but it’s great to prioritize time to connect with other team members and maintain our personal bonds.
- Lattice: Lattice is our performance management system. We use it for 6-month and annual performance reviews, but we especially like using Lattice on a day-to-day basis to give positive feedback to each other. We publish this feedback in our Kudos Slack channel to recognize team members for their successes. It helps us all stay connected to the great job people are doing.
- Slack: We’ve used Slack for communication for a long time, but over the last few months we’ve added many new channels for the types of water-cooler discussions we used to have in person. Whether its #animal-crossing, #plant-parents, or even #wash-your-hair-less, we’re finding opportunities to share hobbies and passions with each other every day.
- ‘Lunch money’: We began our monthly ‘lunch money’ stipend in May to encourage our team members to treat themselves every so often while supporting local restaurants. We will continue the lunch money program for the duration of our remote work plan.
Usually Tandem has a team off-site in the summer, which this year is not logistically possible to safely host in person. Our leadership team is working to create a safe remote alternative for our team members to spend time together, learn, and celebrate.
When it is safe to return to the office–which at the very earliest will be January, and may be later than that–it will be optional. We will not require people to work from the office until they feel confident of their safety. Upon our first phase of the optional re-opening, our office space will be rearranged to allow for better social distancing. At some later point we plan on returning to an office-first setup, but we’ll let the reality of the pandemic lead our decision-making.
Truly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest test of our communication, adaptation, and design thinking skills. We’ve been working remotely for more than four months now and we’ve done an exceptional job at going from an office-heavy approach to a company functioning well in a remote environment. At Tandem, we’re fortunate to have a team of inventive, collaborative, and empathetic people who rise to even the biggest challenges with optimism.