2020 was, in so many ways, a year of transition. Personally, after a number of years leading recruiting teams both at Box and Coda, it was my first full calendar year heading up HR. What a year to start in HR, right?!
Like many other companies, we were forced to adapt in a number of ways, including to company-wide long-distance collaboration and a new work-from-home “normal.” Thankfully though, with Codans already working across the country, we found that our new normal didn’t stretch our existing processes all that far.
From Coda’s earliest days, we’ve emphasized both transparency and collaboration. And these values often manifest themselves in the everyday rituals of Codans. We open every single meeting, including company all-hands, to questions with a , a process that sets expectations and gives personal context to what we’re balancing at work. And we routinely share kudos in a dedicated Slack channel as a reminder that we recognize the work accomplished.
Because these rituals are so deeply ingrained in our culture, the transition to a fully-distributed team didn’t feel quite as jarring as it could have. While there were certainly kinks to work out along the way, I found myself finding reasons to be thankful for the culture we had already established—specifically, a culture in which Codans felt comfortable sharing their unique circumstances and asking for the flexibility and support they needed.
Here’s a look at the elements of company culture we did evolve over the past year. And, in the name of transparency, I asked Codans to weigh-in on our past and present cultural rituals; some of their thoughts are included below.
Zoom fatigue is real. Pre-WFH, Coda’s meeting cadence included six all-hands meetings spread throughout the week. As we shifted to virtual meetings and virtual collaboration, Codans leaned on our value of right over familiar to push back on extra standing meetings for new workstreams. And we worked together to repurpose the way we collaborate to protect our time for deep work.
I’m on Zoom a lot more often. Body language isn’t easy to read, and people get distracted easily. But, I’m also building bonds of equal strength with people in different locations—and that might not have happened without an entirely distributed company.
In large part due to our culture of questioning, our meeting cadence is now more inclusive. We condensed the schedule to four company-wide meetings, all held at 1PM PT to make schedules more predictable and more appropriate across time-zones. We also introduced No Recurring Meeting Wednesdays to give Codans time for deep work, to catch up, change work locations, and even balance other life commitments.
The impact was immediate.
I think we’ve become more lightweight — fewer regular meetings, more reliance on our Coda docs and other workspace tools. I like that I have more focus time on individual work.
We’ve always been a social company. When in the office, we ate lunch together, we’d often hop out of the office for a quick coffee break or a walk, and once a quarter, the entire company would come together for a hackathon. And much of the feedback we received about virtual collaboration, like reading interpersonal cues and being easily distracted, carried over to feedback about socialization as well.
In response, we created a weekly company-wide social hour. And thanks to one of Coda’s founding members, Monica, each week is focused on fun programming, including trivia, crafting cocktails, family games, and more. Many teams now have a weekly social hour as well.
I was really worried about being able to establish a more casual rapport/cadence with my team members but I think we’ve done a great job in keeping the fun bits of our company culture even though we’re rarely face to face.
We’ve made ourselves at home in Zoom chat—a place we now give kudos, post funny comments, and add color to team, company, and even board meetings. And our wfh-ftw channel (or as Shishir, our CEO, accidentally wrote in a board deck wfh-wtf 😆 ) has been a great place for people to share their WFH experiences, gives updates on amusing happenings throughout the day, share photos of loved ones, and even build empathy.
It’s tempting to assume others are doing better than you when you don’t have visibility into their lives. I tend to think that I waste so much time during the day being distracted or just losing motivation to work, while others are still getting work done left-and-right. But when people started sharing their daily struggles as well, I felt so relieved knowing that I’m not the only one and it’s okay to be feeling this way. People at Coda tend to be very understanding already, but I’m surprised at the level of transparency and empathy people are showing each other this year. 🤎
Encouraging work-life balance
Are we working where we live, or are we living where we work? Working from home has certainly blurring the lines between work and life. While Coda has always encouraged flexible schedules and an understanding that Codans should prioritize their health and wellness, we’ve integrated new rituals to make sure our WFH processes are sustainable. Specifically, we’ve established regular reminders of mental health and wellness resources and support networks available. We’ve also introduced support for continued education, including support for families with children home from school.
Coda was very attentive to its employee’s mental health already, but this year it was more so.
And we’re trying to lead by example. Time off is encouraged. Kids and pets are welcome in Zoom calls (my 5- month-old has made many appearances!). And we’re respecting boundaries, including muting Slack notifications.
I enjoy the flexibility that Coda gives us to fit the workday with our personal schedules. As a result, sometimes my hours shift around at my choosing, which is a plus.
The world around us is ever-changing—so need to be the rituals that support our company culture. And we’ll continue to evolve them in a way that ensure Codans feel supported, productive, and optimistic.