Employers, Let’s Not Abandon All the New Habits We Picked Up During the Pandemic

I don’t think anyone will be surprised when I say the coronavirus pandemic made us dramatically change how we work at Doodle. As a software-as-a-service company with offices around the world, we already had a good handle on virtual meeting culture. But even with this head start, moving to a completely remote work model came with new challenges.

Thankfully, it looks like we might finally have some light at the end of the tunnel. But what’s in store next?

Here are some observations on what we’ve experienced at Doodle over the past year, as well as some predictions about what to expect when the pandemic ends for real.

Remote Work Is Here to Stay

Before the pandemic, Doodle allowed remote work for up to five days a month. We thought it was important for people to work together in a shared space. For many businesses, I think the belief (possibly even fear) was that people needed to be in an office to do their best work; allowing them to work from home would cause too many problems.

COVID has shown us that’s not the case. If anything, it has made us realize that cutting out stressful commutes and letting employees work where they want makes people happier and more productive. It’s a win-win situation, which is why Doodle — like many other companies — is changing its approach for the post-pandemic world. Specifically, we’re telling employees to work remotely if that’s their preference. If our people feel they can do just as good a job from their homes, we’re happy to let them.

Employees enjoy the flexibility of remote work, have a better work/life balance, and are just as productive at home as in the office. Given all that, it feels silly to go back to the old ways of working just because they used to be the norm.

We’re also implementing a work from anywhere policy. For instance, if someone in our Berlin office wants to move to South America (and it’s practical), we want to help make that happen. I think this is a trend we’re going to see from other companies, too. Our recent State of Meetings Report found a growing number of people say flexibility will be a key factor when considering their career moves going forward. So it’s not just a matter of being nice to employees — allowing flexibility is an intentional recruitment and retention decision.

Mental Health Will Stay Front and Center

We were already very serious about looking after our employees’ mental health at Doodle, but when the pandemic led sent everyone home, we doubled down.

When people work remotely, you may not be able to pick up on the same kind of hints as you would when sharing an office with them. For example, if I saw a team member looking a little down one day, I’d offer to grab a coffee and have a chat with them. The pandemic meant I couldn’t do that, so we had to look at other options. As with remote work, many of those options are ones we’ll continue when life returns to normal.

Our recent State of Meetings Report showed that mental health check-ins were a driving factor in the growth of virtual one-on-one meetings during the pandemic. That’s something we’ve encouraged our managers to do. When we’re not in the office environment, it’s not as easy for someone to just grab their team leader if they’re feeling overworked or stressed. These quick check-ins once or twice a week make sure these conversations happen and people aren’t silently suffering at home.

We’re also offering our employees resources from Headspace, and — as cliché as it may sound — we’re asking our managers to overcommunicate with their teams. We want them to open up their calendars for everyone to see, schedule more time, and be as transparent as possible in meetings. When people feel informed, they feel more involved in how the business is being run and more valued in their roles. An open-door policy helps make this transparency possible with a remote workforce. Our employees have really appreciated this, and that’s why we’ve asked all our team leaders to retain this open-door policy once the pandemic ends.

As meeting experts, we’re always very conscious about ensuring our teams optimize their time and are not getting burned out by loads of unnecessary meetings. In an effort to avoid Zoom fatigue, we’re reviewing the number of meetings our employees have — and whether they’re all necessary. We’re constantly reconsidering our practices at Doodle to determine the best ways to give everyone space to recharge and refocus.

COVID 19 made us reevaluate our workplace culture, management practices, and meeting productivity, and I don’t think we’re alone in this. I definitely think many companies will make similar changes to their operations if they haven’t already.

Jessie Lajoie is chief people officer of Doodle.