Although a large part of the WordPress community is used to working remotely, we -at Yoast- never really believed in remote working. We’re weird, we know. Actually, we are strong believers in working from our office. In our experience, the best ideas are the ones that accidentally occur when you meet a random colleague at the coffee machine.
Of course, part of Team Yoast is working abroad, but about 90 people work in our Wijchen Offices. The COVID-19 situation needed us to switch to a remote situation overnight. That was a major adjustment. We’ve been working from home for two full weeks now. Lots of Yoasters have children at home too, that need schooling, nurturing and loving. In this post, I want to share my experiences of the last two weeks. It’s been a challenge, but I feel like we were up to the task!
These are scary and difficult times
Under other circumstances, it could be a fun experiment for Yoast, to try to start working from home. But this is not a normal situation. We are all worried. Worried about getting sick, worried about our families and worried about our business. So, these are scary times. For all of us.
And the scary times make the adjustment to work from home even harder for us. Human contact is so very important when you’re feeling scared and overwhelmed.
I, myself, am really struggling. I am worried about my father who had a kidney transplant (20 years ago) and as a result of that has a very weak immune system. I am sad for my daughter, who is in the final grade of elementary school and misses all the end-of-an-era stuff. I am struggling with my four children, helping them with their schoolwork and coping with their fears. And on top of that, I am running Yoast. That’s some next-level multitasking. I never have been busier in my life. Fortunately, my husband is the very best and is doing the exact same thing. I am so very grateful to have him by my side.
What were my biggest fears and how did I tackle those?
My biggest fear before we started this remote adventure was that I wasn’t going to be able to keep my Yoast family together. Also, I was very worried that our productivity would be low, and that we would have to postpone all kinds of releases of our plugin.
Keeping my Yoast family together
I was so afraid that I was not going to be able to get the same level of human interaction with my colleagues. I was very worried that they would not be as involved with Yoast if I wasn’t able to see them in person every day. I was afraid I could not keep them informed about what was happening in our company.
That’s why I started to do a daily vlog. I made my first vlog on the very first day of our working-from-home-period. My vlogs all start with an introduction-snippet in which I tell people about what is going on, how the business is doing and what they can expect. And then, I include all kinds of fun and informative snippets from people working at Yoast. Each vlog contains an episode of ‘Hey, what kind of workplace is that?’ in which a Yoaster shows us what their desk and homework station looks like. And another Yoaster tells us something about a project he or she has been working on. We also share fun news and shots of our babies and pets (three Yoast babies were born in the past two weeks!). These vlogs have been a huge success. At least that is what my viewing figures tell me ;-).
We zoom a lot! Video-conferencing turned out to be a big hit! People have daily check-ins with their teams and individual conversations with their supervisors. That all seems to work. Once a week we have a zoom-meeting with all of the Yoasters. I give people the latest news and they have the opportunity to ask us anything. We also wave a lot.
In addition, we are now putting together a coaching program. Working from home, while in isolation and with all of the scary COVID-19 things going on, is really hard. As of next week, we’ll offer everyone a coach to talk to. That’ll just be a colleague with some experience in coaching or tutoring. Hopefully, that’ll help people to deal with the stressful situation.
And we’re arranging for all sorts of fun online activities Yoasters can participate in. We have online Friday-afternoon drinks, but we’re also planning to do some extra online-coffee moments people can check into. And, we would like to do some online games as well.
I think we are doing rather well and I am not that scared anymore that I cannot keep my Yoast-family together during this crisis. But it will need my ongoing attention and I’m planning to give it just that.
I was also a bit worried about whether people would be as productive as they were used to be working from the offices. Especially because lots of Yoasters have (small) children at home. And of course, for those with small children, productivity is a little less. That’s just how it is. I told people: ‘Je doet wat je kan, en samen maken we er het beste van,’ which is Dutch and it rhymes. Translated in English it would be: Everyone does their best, and we’ll make the best of it together (which doesn’t rhyme, I know).
We asked people to communicate explicitly each day what they were going to do and after each day what they had done. People are doing a lot more than I had expected. They’ve been amazing. I never did meetings before with children attending, but in every zoom-meeting I do nowadays, one of our children pops in. That’s fine and that doesn’t seem to have big effects on our productivity at all.
My worries about productivity were totally unnecessary. People are just as productive or even more productive than they used to be! I am so very proud!
Now, I am actually worried about people doing too much and getting overwhelmed. But I will tackle that next week!
Still a lot of challenges
This COVID-19 thing is not over. I fear that we aren’t even halfway through. This will take some time. We still face a lot of challenges. As a company, we are doing fine. People are still buying our premium plugin, which allows me to pay the salaries of my colleagues. But I am worried. We don’t know how it’s going to go from here. At the same time, I am a glass-half-full kind of girl. Very optimistic. I actually skip a lot (when not quarantined), that’s how upbeat I am. We’ve learned so much from this situation already. We’re focused on things that are important, we have learned new ways to communicate with each other. For me, it is much easier to schedule zoom meetings with people outside Yoast now, because I got used to video conferencing. We found out that our company is resilient, that we can adapt so very quickly. We’ll get through this!
For all of you! Please stay healthy! Please stay safe!