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How We GSD in a New WFH Environment — And How You Can, Too

While the transition from being a semi-virtual to a fully remote workplace happened overnight, it’s possible to maintain productivity. Here’s how GPO did it.

From discovering how poorly we were washing our hands to learning that a little sardine oil and a big cat can go a long way — the restrictions and social distancing brought about by COVID-19 have been a learning experience for everyone.

For the GPO team, it’s been a time of reflection, change, and productivity. Yes, productivity. Our transition from a semi-virtual to a fully remote workplace happened overnight, and it did so almost seamlessly. Here’s a retrospective look at how we smoothed out the switch to WFH, and you can, too.

1. Maintain Top-Down Transparency

Along with The E-Myth, Radical Candor is one of GPO’s recommended reads. Leaders who are radically candid assertively challenge their peers to leave their comfort zone while caring for them at a personal level. At GPO, this style of management trickles down into the relationships between peers and ultimately creates a space for collaborative transparency.

When COVID-19 catapulted from “distant possibility” to “imminent threat,” the compassionate transparency that we had been practicing already remained standard. The week of March 11, 2020 (when WHO Declared COVID-19 a pandemic) GPO’s leaders spoke to the company at our weekly all-team meeting.

“Business is going to change. However, we’re committed to being transparent, staying agile, and remaining open to innovation. Rather than losing momentum, we challenge you to use this time to work smarter and develop new ways to demonstrate GPO’s value to our clients and prospects,” GPO President, Nic Cauwe, shared.

All-company check-ins covering the company’s financial health and next steps continue to happen every Wednesday morning, and they will not drop off when we go “back to normal.” In fact, rather than leaving us thinking, “When can we go back?” these updates empower us to reflect on our path going forward.

2. Foster Clear Communication Standards

Before our overnight transition to WFH, GPO had team members in Austin, Nashville, Colorado Springs, and Bozeman. Even though the team is physically spread out, the collaborative nature of our work has taught us ways to streamline virtual communication.

Don’t deal with “okay” technology.

In 2019, we switched between Google Meet and Zoom, depending on the type and scope of our meetings. However, toggling back and forth created confusion, and we noticed that we had fewer call-drops + better sound quality when utilizing Zoom.

We migrated the whole team and ALL our meetings to Zoom, internal and external. Even though some clients were apprehensive at first, the switch has led to fewer IT issues and less frequent, “Can you hear me?”

Now, we’re not saying switch to Zoom (and this is not a paid shoutout). However, we do recommend finding a teleconference platform that works for you and sticking to it. It’ll streamline your remote communication a lot more than you can anticipate. Also, Zoom, if you’re reading this, do the ADA-compliant thing and work on your captions!

Do talk first and Slack second.

TEXT CHATS CAN BE CONFUSING. And no, we weren’t screaming at you! At GPO, we opt for hopping on one-minute conference calls over starting 20-message Slack threads. It helps us use our time and our brain space more efficiently — concentrating on the problem at hand rather than on decoding the message on the screen.

Pro tip: Link Zoom to your Slack account, and you’ll be able to use the “/zoom” slash command to start meetings within any Slack thread.

Don’t let distance dilute your brand.

Along with making Zoom our standard platform for video conferencing, Jabra speakers are the GPO microphone/speaker of choice. Also, we keep things transparent and engaging by enabling video-calling on all meetings, including Happy Hours and Coffee Talks (continue reading).

Lastly, we keep the long-distance team spirit going with GPO-branded Zoom backdrops, which are a lovely way to conceal the hoards of Amazon boxes sitting in our home offices.

GPO team on Zoom

3. Be Intentional with Relationships

Attempting to plan and engage people with a remote event can be a daunting task. However, the benefits of remote team-building events far outweigh the challenges. Not only is team-building remotely fun, but it also contributes to an engaged workforce, which, according to Gartner, “correlates with higher average revenue growth, net profit margin, customer satisfaction and earnings per share.”

Though we hosted the occasional virtual happy hours and events to help keep the team connected before quarantine, now we’re turning up the frequency and raising the stakes on our favorite events:

We host virtual coffee talks and happy hours.

We kick the day off or round out the week with our favorite libations and water cooler conversation. Some days, we even pick a theme to discuss. UFO sightings, our children’s quarantine shenanigans, junior skijoring, and pet stories are a few things we’ve covered.

Additionally, we play the occasional game of Quiplash, where content writers, developers, and SEOs square off in a Cards Against Humanity-like duel of wit and speed.

We have semi-monthly one-on-one meetings.

Everyone at GPO has semi-monthly check-ins with their supervisor, helping us track our yearly goals, course-correct, and just talk life!

We learn from each other over lunch!

From “How to Make a Pitch Deck in 45 Minutes” to “Lessons Learned in Client Onboarding,” GPO uses learning events to foster professional growth and skill development. Learning sessions can be hosted by anyone in the company and do NOT need to be industry-related. (Adds “well-rounded” to our LinkedIn skills)

4. Standardize Project Management & Work Flow

Trello is our internal project management tool of choice. We have a board for each team, and use swimlanes to track projects and tasks at each stage, from new requests to QA to site deployments. To help keep everyone on task, we use a standardized Trello template to create each card.

The template includes:

  • An internal due date, client delivery date, and expected publication/deployment date
  • A description of the problem
  • A summary of GPO’s intent/task
  • A checklist with success criteria

This template helps us know what we’re doing, why, who’s involved, and when it’s due — keeping our work transparent and clearly defined!

5. Build Trust and Respect

From going on walks to making it to doctor’s appointments, each person at GPO has a long to-do list outside of work. We are a multitude of 3D-printing, cattle-raising, sous vide-cooking, hyphen-loving dads, moms, pet lovers, and yoga teachers! When our personal life calls, we answer confidently, knowing that our team trusts us to make efficient use of time and respects the boundary between work and life.

Being an agile-minded company allowed GPO to stay on track while transitioning to remote work over only a few days. Nine weeks into the switch, we’ve fine-tuned our communications platforms, training strategies, and home office setups. And even though we don’t know exactly what lies ahead, we’re looking forward to it.

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