July 2020

Home Working for the Long Haul: How Duco Supports Our Remote Teams

Duco just completed its strongest ever sales quarter – with all staff working remotely. Here are some of the measures we put in place to keep people happy, healthy and productive.

By Peggy Nelling, HR Generalist

We’ve all heard the phrases “unprecedented times” and “new normal” more than we’d care to, but it can’t be denied that change has been thrust upon the entire business world. Companies are being forced to adjust ways of working and consider whether some of these changes should be here to stay.

When it became clear that Covid-19 was going to send us all into our homes and away from our offices and each other, Duco was in a good position, relative to a number of other companies. As an organization, Duco was already well-equipped for remote working, with portable technology and a robust Business Continuity Plan (BCP) to keep the wheels turning.

The real hurdle, as it turns out, has been ensuring employee wellbeing – both continuing our ongoing mission to ensure that Duco is a great place to work (even from the couch!) and adapting to the highly unusual situation.

For highly collaborative teams like Duco’s, adjusting the way things get done is a difficult enough task, but the People team also committed to making a concerted effort to support employees with the unique mental and emotional challenges we’re all facing.

Duco just closed our best sales quarter ever – a feat which required input and coordination across all teams – despite the remote locations. We couldn’t have achieved this without a highly functioning, engaged workforce, comfortable working from home and with each other. So here are some ways we approached keeping our team connected, motivated, and healthy, in every sense of the word.

Increased communication and transparency

Part of the heightened anxiety many people are feeling can be traced to the uncertainty of the global situation and the lack of reliable information from trusted sources.  “No fluff, no spin” is one of Duco’s core values, and we wanted to ensure that all of our team members could rely on the organization’s communications to calm any workplace-related stressors.

With that in mind, we increased the frequency of our all-company “Town Hall” video calls from once a month to every week, alternating between our regularly scheduled virtual gatherings and shorter info sessions where key leaders can give updates on how Duco is responding to the ever-evolving business landscape. It is important that information is not obfuscated or sugar-coated as well; our employees know that they can trust communications to be complete and accurate, even when the news isn’t all rosy.

Our CEO, Christian, began writing near-daily “Corona Chronicles” –  conversational emails full of company history, insight into how (and why!) we do things, and illuminating information on our product and our market. His effort has caught on with other team leaders, and updates have come from our Engineering, Customer Success, Product, Sales, People, and Singapore teams. In these messages, important information is distributed, but we also make sure to celebrate our successes and keep positivity up.

Accommodating a different set of needs

For many people, working at home is not entirely new. However, remote working in conjunction with the rest of the household – children included – is unique territory. Distractions and interruptions are inevitable, which can be a major drain on focus and productivity.

Our employees have always appreciated the flexible working arrangements that Duco offers, and our team members who are caring for children, partners, and other relatives need that flexibility now more than ever. Duco’s managers and People team worked with individuals to ensure that the time needed for their professional duties and personal responsibilities were aligned. Duco also reinforced our unlimited holiday policy, so that everyone on staff can take the time they need when they need it, for illness, childcare, or just some necessary time away to rest and relax.

Even with the opportunity to take time off when it’s needed, there are still people on the team who have trouble fully disconnecting. Particularly at home, where the boundaries between being on and off the clock can feel blurred, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just answering that last Slack message or tackling just one more task. In celebration of the hard work that went into our record-setting sales quarter and everyone’s long-distance dedication, Duco have granted an extra company-wide holiday on Friday, July 17, giving everyone the chance to shut their laptops and enjoy a little bonus time for themselves.

Mindfulness and health

During chaotic times – and even during “normal” times – deliberate mindfulness can be an effective technique for stress reduction, calming yourself, and caring for your mental health. Healthy employees are not only more productive in the short term, but also avoid burnout in the long term.

Duco is lucky enough to have Anne Fleshler, an experienced meditation instructor, on our Customer Success Team. Since our BCP went into effect, Anne has led numerous virtual 15-minute guided meditation sessions for many employees.

Sometimes, the mental health challenges associated with high stress situations require outside intervention. Recognizing the immediate need, Duco’s People Team accelerated the ongoing process to ensure that free, confidential mental health assistance was available to all employees worldwide, either through Employee Assistance Plans or their local healthcare coverage.

The team also sped up the rollout of TicTrac, an individually-directed wellbeing program that lets employees focus on and get guided support for their mental and physical health goals – like staying positive, sleeping better, eating healthily, and moving more.

With our normal routines interrupted, we all needed to find ways to keep active, and the Duco team stepped up with creative solutions. While our BCP has been in place, we’ve been moving: virtual high intensity interval training sessions, group yoga, and even a burpee challenge!

Staying connected as a team

The entire world is craving connection right now; we’re missing many of the casual and personal connections that we were used to making throughout a typical day.

At Duco we want to make sure we keep up our strong team bonds. Our annual Duco Day was retooled to be a virtual event, with company updates, internal and external educational talks, a quiz, and bingo.

Teams across Duco have found different ways to socialize; the Sales team played a high stakes game of online Monopoly, multiple groups have daily and weekly stand ups, and we’ve carried on our Friday treats tradition with a virtual happy hour on Friday. Duco’s people are its greatest asset, after all!

Structuring a safe return to offices

Globally, many companies are evaluating whether there is a need for an office at all, considering that lockdowns have proved that business can move along without staff needing to gather in a single space. The cost savings of eliminating rent and office amenities are attractive, certainly. However, Duco has found that a portion of our staff was very eager to get back into the office when local regulations and official advice allowed.

Though Duco’s official policy allows for individual choice of working location for (at least) the remainder of 2020, our People Team assessed the local guidance for all six of our international locations. They devised regional-specific plans for how to ensure a safe return for those who were interested, including providing PPE and hygiene supplies, creating a sign up system to prevent overcrowding, and reconfiguring individual and shared working spaces to allow for plenty of social distance.

This process is ever-evolving; as new information and best practices are released, our in-office plans adjust too.

In summary

Even though we, like the rest of the world, would love to get back into the office and return to “normal operations,” the reality is that there’s a long road ahead before the world will be back to what we knew pre-Covid. Adaptation is necessary, and we think we will keep some of these new strategies and rituals to ensure that Duco is always a great place to work, in the office or at home.