Together We Flourish, Remotely

Aubrey Lear, Senior Employee Engagement Manager

Article Categories: #News & Culture, #Employee Engagement, #Diversity and Inclusion

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Now more than ever, we want to maintain the culture that has sustained us over the last 20 years – a culture best captured by our mantra, “do great work and be a great teammate.”

Like many other companies, Viget is working through the new challenge of suddenly being a fully-distributed company. We don’t know how long it will last or every challenge that will arise because of these unfortunate circumstances, but we know the health and well-being of our people is paramount. As Employee Engagement Manager, I feel inspired by these new challenges, eager to step up, and committed to seeing what good can come of this.

Now more than ever, we want to maintain the culture that has sustained us over the last 20 years – a culture that I think is best captured by our mantra, “do great work and be a great teammate.” As everyone is adjusting to new work environments, schedules, and distractions, I am adjusting my approach to employee engagement, and the People Team is looking for new ways to nurture and protect the culture we treasure.

The backbone of being a great teammate is knowing each other and caring about each other. For years the People Team has focused on making sure people who work at Viget are known, accepted, and cared about. From onboarding to events to weekly and monthly touchpoints, we invest in coworkers knowing each other. On top of that, we have well-appointed offices where people like to be, and friendships unfold over time. Abruptly becoming fully distributed makes it impossible for some of these connections to happen organically, like they would have around the coffee machine and the lunch tables. These microinteractions between colleagues in the same office, the hellos when you get off the elevator or the “what’d you get up to this weekend” chit chat near the seltzer refrigerator, all add up. We realize more than ever how valuable those moments are, and I know I will feel extra grateful for them when we are all back together.

Until that time, we are working to make sure everyone at Viget feels connected, safe, healthy, and most importantly, together, even when we are physically apart. We are keeping up our weekly staff meetings and monthly team lunches, and we just onboarded a new hire last week as thoroughly as ever. There are some other, new ways we’re sparking connections, too.

New ways we're sparking connections:

Connecting IntentionallyWe are making the most of the tools that we’ve been using for years. New Slack channels have spun up, including #exercise, where folks are sharing how they are making do without a gym, and #igotyou, a place where folks can post where they’ve found supplies in stock as grocery stores are being emptied at an alarming pace.
Remote Lunch TablesWe have teammates in three different time zones, on different project teams, and at different stages of life. We’ve created two virtual lunch tables, one at 12PM EST and one at 12PM MST, where folks can join with or without their lunches and with or without their kids, partners, or pets. There are no rules or structure, just an opportunity to chat and see a friendly face as a touchpoint to your day.
Last Weekend This MorningCatching up Monday morning is a great way to kick off your week. Historically, I’ve done this from my desk over coffee as I greet folks coming off the elevator (I usually have the privilege of sitting at our front desk). I now do this from my desk, at home, over coffee as folks pop in or out of our Zoom call. One upshot of the new normal is I can “greet” anyone who shows up, not just people who work from my same office. Again, no structure, just a way to start our week, together.
Munch MadnessYes, you read that right. Most of the sports world is enjoying an intermission. Since our CEO can’t cheer on his beloved Cavaliers and our VP of Design can’t cheer on his Gators, we’ve created something potentially much better. A definitive snack bracket. There is a minimal time commitment and folks with no sports knowledge can participate. The rules are simple: create and submit your bracket, ranking who you believe will win each snack faceoff. Then as we move through the rounds, vote on your favorite snacks. The competition has already sparked tons of conversation and plenty of snack hot takes. Want to start a munch-off of your own? Check out our bracket as a starting point.
Virtual Happy HoursSigning off for the day and shutting down your machine is incredibly important for maintaining a work-life balance. Casually checking in, unwinding, and being able to chat about your day is also important. We have big, beautiful kitchens in each of our offices, along with casual spaces where at the end of any given day you can find a few Vigets catching up before heading home. This is something we don’t want to miss! So we’re setting up weekly happy hours where folks can hop in and say hi to each other face-to-face. We’ve found Zoom to be a great platform so we can see the maximum number of our teammates possible. Like all of our other events, it’s optional. There is also an understanding that your roommate, kid, significant other, or pet might show up on screen (and are welcome!). No one is shamed for multitasking and we encourage our teammates to join as they can. So far we’ve toasted new teammates, played a song or two, and up next we’ll play trivia.

At the end of the day, we are all here for one reason: to do great work. Our award-winning work is made possible by the trust we’ve built within our teams. Staying focused and accountable to ourselves and our clients is what drives our motivation to continue to show up and do our best. In our new working environment, it is crucial that we can both stay connected and productive; a lot of teammates are stepping up to support one another. Here are a few ways we are continuing to foster our “do great work” mantra.

New ways we're fostering great work:

Staying in TouchThe People Team is actively touching base with every employee. Our focus is on their health, productivity, and connection. These 1:1s have given us a baseline for how we can provide the best support for our team, from making sure they're aware of flexible work options to setting them up with the tools they need to be successful. We’ve delivered chairs, monitors, and helped troubleshoot in-home wifi issues. We are committed to making sure every Viget is set up for success.
Sharing is CaringWe’re no stranger to remote teams. We have four offices across the U.S. and a handful of full-time remote folks, and we’ve leaned on our inside experts to share their expertise on remote work. Most recently, our Data & Analytics Director, who has been working remotely full time for five years, gave a presentation on best practices for working from home. His top tips for working from home include:
  • Minimize other windows in remote meetings.
  • Set a schedule and avoid midday chores.
  • Take breaks away from the screen.
  • Plan your workday on your shared calendar.
  • Be mindful of Slack and social media as a distraction.
  • Use timers.
  • Keep your work area separate from where you relax.
  • Pretend that you’re still working from work.
  • Experiment and figure out what works for you.

Our UX Research Director also stepped up to share her expertise to aid in adjusting to our new working conditions. She led a microclass on remote facilitation where she shared best practices and went over tools that support remote collaboration. Some of the tools she highlighted included Miro, Mural, Whimsical, and Jamboard. During the microclass she demonstrated use of Whimsical’s voting feature, which makes it easy for distributed groups to establish discussion topic priorities.

Always PreparedHaving all of our project materials stored in the Cloud in a consistent, predictable way is a cornerstone of our business continuity plan. It is more important than ever for our team to follow the established best practices and ensure that project files are accessible to the full Viget team in the event of unplanned time off. Our VP of Client Services is leading efforts to ensure everyone is aware of and following our established guidelines with tools like Drive, Slack, Github, and Figma. Our priorities are that clients’ needs are met, quality is high, and timelines are honored.

As the pandemic unfolds, our approach to employee engagement will evolve. We have more things in the works to build and maintain connections while distributed, including trivia and game nights, book clubs, virtual movie nights, and community service opportunities, just to name a few. No matter what we’re doing or what tool we’re using to connect, we’ll be in it together: doing great work, being great teammates, and looking forward.

Aubrey Lear

Aubrey is Viget’s Senior Employee Engagement Manager based in our Falls Church, VA, HQ. She is an organized advocate for color coordinated calendars and closets, but most importantly she is a believer in team spirit and creative thinking.

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