Last year brought a lot of change. Companies across the globe had to pivot, ready or not, and many went fully remote just like we did here at Veracode. 2020 transformed the way we work and communicate, changed how we raise our families and celebrate holidays, and even inspired us to (often humorously) reflect on the everyday traditions that we took for granted in the “before times.”
After our big shift to remote last year, we shared our own journey with some helpful tips from Veracoders, like using an “ON AIR” sign to let family know when you’re on a call or setting a firm schedule with alarms to prevent burnout.
March of 2020 was a huge change for all of us at Veracode, and certainly one we never imagined to still be in place a full year later. We had a lot of concerns about what would happen to our corporate culture that was so important to us all, or the strong relationships we nurtured with our customers and prospects, how would those fare? Here we are a year later. After countless Zoom calls and endless kitchen coffee trips, we’re looking back at our remote year and sharing some tips, some lessons, and some thoughts on how we’ve changed. But first…sit up straight!
Your back really needs a decent desk chair
Some of us learned about lumbar support the hard way. For a good part of 2020 I sat on a rickety chair that I built myself, taunted by the sleek setup and high-backed desk chairs of my coworkers on Zoom. It wasn’t until the summer, around July, that I knew it was time for a change and bought myself a brand-new desk and a brand-new desk chair. See below for a before and after:
Lifechanging (and so much brighter)! Almost immediately, it was easier to get into the zone and my back was on the mend. It just goes to show you that no matter where or how you work, lumbar support or bust.
Check in on teammates – and your teenagers
Veracoder Marcus Watson found ways to ensure that the mood is light, especially in chats. “The teams within Veracode have their own channels to communicate and we try to make sure there’s levity in the business chat,” he says. Marcus misses the “buzz” you get from working in an office, including how much easier it is to pick up on things that don’t quite translate well over text, and he makes it a point to check in with others if they’ve been under-communicating.
When it comes to balancing home and work life, Marcus notes that while it has been tricky with two teenagers, he’s felt supported through his work and has even found that it helps him slow down a little. “Schooling from home has also encouraged me to take more breaks during the day – checking in with the kids, and making sure everything’s ok, and we all take breaks to hydrate, eat, and chat,” he says.
He’s all about carving out time, too: “Working from home is no less valuable than working from the office so I try and avoid the temptation to put in longer hours. I make an effort to have firm breaks and set personal boundaries to make sure that work doesn’t interfere with personal life.”
Don’t apologize when life gets in the way
Suzanne Ciccone on the Veracode marketing team has found it really helpful to set reminders that prompt her to move so she isn’t sitting down for two hours straight. But more importantly, she realized that you don’t have to apologize for everyday things that are out of your hands. “I think before all this I used to feel the need to pretend everything was always in control, my home life wasn’t affecting work at all,” Suzanne says.
“But it was, and still is. It’s pretty impossible to pretend anymore, and that’s a good thing. I do still tend to apologize for the home life interruptions, and hear others doing it as well, but I hear myself doing it now, and I’m working on it! I think this year has taught us that it’s not something to apologize for.”
Suzanne is determined to maintain the balance by not pretending that everything is perfect…especially when her cat Toshi is maddeningly inquisitive on work calls.
Carve out time to spend on something positive
Katy Gwilliam, a newfound Veracoder who joined us last year, has found a lot of positives in WFH life despite missing those water-cooler moments with colleagues. “Cutting out the daily commute has bought me more time for exercise, so I’ve gotten into a great running routine that really helps break up the day and makes me feel more energetic,” she says.
Breaks are a must, like stepping out of the house to grab coffee from her local café or joining some virtual Veracode activities. “The rapid shift to digital has made us more reliant than ever on tools like Zoom and Slack to stay connected and these platforms have enabled the company to continue hosting Town Halls, virtual drinks and hackathons without interruption; pretty amazing when you think about it,” Katy says. “And through the very nature of experiencing this strange time together, one unexpected upshot is that we’ve grown to learn about and appreciate each other as people, not just as colleagues on the other side of the desk.”
Simplify and upgrade your space over time
It can be helpful to reduce clutter. Like me, Veracoder David Buckle upped his desk game by improving his home office setup last year. Take a look at the before and after photos below; David was able to move to a larger flat, which meant he graduated from the dining table to a permanent desk setup in a designated working spot.
“Now my desk is in my bedroom; I have simplified my setup so that when I switch off my laptop for the day, I can switch off from work and relax,” he says. Simplicity in your WFH space means you can actually unwind with a sense of finality to your workday, recharging for tomorrow.
Define your schedule and stick to it to save sanity
In the first edition of We’re All WFH Too, Veracoder Darren Meyer shared the importance of setting a defined schedule that includes your kids, which can help you avoid sitting at your desk for the entire day. A year later, he still stresses the importance of setting that planned schedule:
“I think the main thing I’ve come away with after nearly a year of having my kids and partner as ‘co-workers’ in my home is the importance of being even more deliberate about planning not only for productive work time for everyone, but for time to relax and enjoy life together,” Darren says. “And to have a solid plan for how to handle the increased need for flexibility when kids require support in their work.”
If you adapted well, celebrate that synchronicity
Doug Wilcox, who has a pretty epic workspace at home and in the office, says his team’s foundational drive to make things work has helped them succeed. “We’ve proven that we can work remotely and be connected and productive,” Doug says. “We should expect more companies to realize that they don’t need to tether us to a desk (Veracode was never like that, anyway) to get us to be productive.”
Doug has also found over the past year that his home and work life are efficiently blended. For him, it isn’t a possibility to distinguish the two and that’s okay: “Part of the balance of home and work was keeping them separate; that’s not possible, currently, so there’s just life.”
The blurred lines between business and life
The line between who we are professionally and who we are at home has blurred over the past year. Glimpses of each other’s personal lives, whether through Zoom interruptions or scheduling conflicts, have shown us just how important it is to be understanding and supportive as we all figure this out.
“Our home and work lives blended and even collided this past year, but in a lot of ways it has made us better and stronger,” says Veracode CEO Sam King. “It forced a new level of empathy and compassion among and between Veracoders, and even among and between Veracode and our customers, prospects, and partners.”
Customer calls used to be almost all business, but now they almost always start with a check-in on how everybody is doing or some other reminder of our whole selves, not just our work selves. “It’s hard not to make a new or stronger personal connection with people when you see them holding their baby or their pet hanging out with them,” Sam continues.
Blurring home and work life has been a struggle at times, but in many ways, it forced us to see the shared humanity in each other in ways we might not have otherwise been able to see. And, ultimately, it has made us a better, stronger company.