Understandably, we are all getting a bit neurotic about what the “new normal” will look like post Covid. We’re all running out of ways to use the word “unprecedented”! Second only to the guesstimates on just how cataclysmic our economic forecast looks, is what corona-virus has done to our hither to held as irreversible societal and working norms.
As someone that started a new role as corona-virus hit the UK, I feel well placed to comment on how overnight compulsory homeworking has affected a scaling tech business.
It is probably the stuff of a particularly detailed anxiety nightmare to take on a senior role, spend 10 days with the founder for onboarding, to then be stranded eleven thousand miles and an 11 hour time difference apart. In March this year, this was exactly my personal challenge. Over the past few months, I have come to appreciate the many genuine advantages of a remote team based from home, that I intend to make permanent in my territory.
Despite much anguish and hand wringing when lock down was first announced, I reflected that plenty of businesses have successful teams that do not work in the same four walls. Whilst we have a relatively modest global head count of 20, split across 6 offices in 6 times zones, there are plenty of much larger organisations who are, to say the least, disparate. Walmart, which has one of the largest headcounts in the world, employs 2.2 million people in 27 countries, which doesn’t seem to have done last year’s $3.8bn of profit any harm. I know many of the investment banks, who are not constrained by budget, have senior leaders that hot desk permanently. More recently, in response to Covid, tech stalwarts Google and Facebook have announced they expect their teams to work remotely for the rest of the year. As I wrote in an article for Fintech alliance, in Spring this year, frankly tech businesses should be a masterclass in managing relationships remotely.
Lockdown has been over-whelming positive for Dacxi from a commercial perspective. Whilst I am sensitive to the devastation that Covid has reeked for businesses and individuals worldwide, we are in the truly privileged position that corona-virus has positively impacted our turnover. As a digital offering, the majority of the UK population being stuck at home was very helpful, as was a broad distrust of traditional financial infrastructure positively impacting the crypto markets. It has been somewhat surreal that our busiest ever months have been over the lockdown period.
Whilst at time it felt like the four horsemen of the apocalypse were enthusiastically saddling up, personally there is much about full time home working that I will seek to preserve.
Like many people, my schedule gained a whole day a week from not having to commute. Thus, I was able to fill my diary with high quality opportunities to trouble shoot small issues and think deeply about broader strategies issues — hugely useful, of course, when the world is in meltdown and constantly changing. I will miss encountering a problem, to spend a few minutes walking around the garden with a cup of tea until the solution presents itself. A walk to a grotty third-floor bathroom just won’t achieve the same! I would suspect moving forwards, we will all be picky with our time, and only meet someone physically, if we can justify the travel time, be they 10 minutes or 10 hours away, when a zoom call will do.
In terms of corporate culture, it is now broadly accepted you can efficiently run a geographically disparate headcount. I’ve loved some of the igneous methods that have emerged for keeping morale up, including zoom-hosted team quizzes, “dress up Friday”, and internet broadcast HIIT classes. Frankly, I’ve feel much closer to team members in different continents, now I am acquainted with their living rooms, spouses, kids, cats and lounge wear. Moreover, it should be a time to shine as people managers, and competent management during the bad times binds people in a way that doesn’t happen when the going is good. I hope, too, that the tech obsession with London wanes — sky high rents, and zero work/life balance in offices long overdue a refurb but considered trendy, is long overdue a reconsideration in my opinion. It is not true that only London based businesses succeed, as the growth of tech hubs in Manchester and Birmingham will attest.
I have a hunch that the business environment will be friendlier and more inclusive. Pre-Covid you would be mortified to have your child or DHL delivery interrupt an important online meeting — now it seems par for the course. We are all entitled to hobbies, relationships and to live in a property/area that we like, and more flexibility in the work environment would go a long way. In my opinion, tech businesses should be trail blazing in this respect!
In next week’s blog: Scaling quickly & why tech valuations are more art than science.
Adventures of a Unicorn is a business blog written by Katharine Wooller, Managing Director, UK & Eire, Dacxi.com. It documents the daily life of tech startup in hypergrowth. Dacxi.com is a unique crypto business in the crowd lending space.
All views expressed in this blog are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now or will be affiliated.