It’s been one year since Etch went fully remote. And in that time, we’ve conquered becoming a remote-first organisation. The next step is for us to realise our ambition of being people-first, remote-second. Here’s how we’re making it happen.  
Ross Chapman
Ross ChapmanRoss Chapman is the Head of Design Thinking in Etch Horizon

It’s been one year since Etch went fully remote. And in that time, we’ve conquered becoming a remote-first organisationThe next step is for us to realise our ambition of being people-first, remote-second. Here’s how we’re making it happen.  

We’ve previously talked about how we ditched the office within just six months. But how do you foster a remote-culture of inclusivity, autonomy and trust? One where everything “just works”?

That’s the ambition at Etch. Eventually where our 'remote culture' just evolves to our culture, but there’s a transition for a reason. 

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We are currently all working in a pandemic rather than remote work 

What do we mean? The reason we're working remotely is because of the pandemic, rather than a choice we've made. But at Etch, we have already made that choice for when we're working in a post-pandemic world. And instantly it's changed our mindset. 

But we haven’t just simply transitioned to a remote business - our team has so many other demands including childcare, the mental health impact of working within a pandemic, and many other demands on their time. We also have employees that either work part-time or full-time to consider. 

As a business, what have we done to execute upon our roadmap? Here are some of the key areas: 

Remote Culture Champions 

In January of this year, we realised that our culture shift couldn’t be lead from the top; it’s a multi-level change that has to be experienced and engaged with. To deal with that, we formed a Remote Culture Champion team, with a representative from each of our Etch teams. Their responsibilities include:  

  1. Champion our values at all times 
  1. Encourage teammates to adopt behaviours 
  1. Look at cultural aspects in the business and come up with solutions 
  1. Own the feedback loops and experiment with ideas to improve 
  1. Help gamify & celebrate the adoption of best practices 

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Digital Pledge 

With a change of work environment, we found we were encountering new questions to answer. How do you manage your time when you’re at home? What’s stopping you from being in front of the computer and putting in longer hours? With a central location becoming over 40 locations to work from, our employees needed further instructions to build autonomy and trust. While researching for inspiration, we found a couple of ‘Digital Pledges’, so in an all-hands meeting, we went ahead and created our own: 

Be kind to myself  

I will look after my mental and physical health, and will take breaks from work without feeling guilty   

Say “no” when I need to  

I will push back when I need to, but respect the needs and priorities of the business  

Ask my colleagues how they are doing  

I will take the time to listen to my colleagues and respect their views and opinions  

Set realistic deadlines  

I will ask for help, and flag any concerns in my workload to my team   

Recognise different ways of working  

I will respect different working styles and practices, and find a way to work better together 

Speak to other teams more regularly  

I will take the time to speak, listen and share with all teams  

Encourage and respect Radical Candor  

I will challenge directly, but respectfully  

Celebrate successes of all sizes  

I will celebrate individual effort, achievements, sales and personal successes 

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Initiated a weekly feedback loop 

How do you change? By listening, learning and launching. We needed a feedback loop to not just hear how our teams were feeling, but to also encourage celebrations and idea generation. Friday Pulse provided us with an automated way to initiate this feedback loop and after a couple of months collecting feedback, the Culture Champions are now in a position to experiment with changes to take that feedback into action. 

In addition, we also formalised team stand-ups and what we called Team Tea Times: A moment to not talk about work, but to check-in and get to know each other a bit more. We have learnt that we’re never going to get 100% engagement. We recognise that Etch is a company made of both introverts and extroverts, so accepting that is vital when putting any metrics against engagement. 

Social Clubs 

Building upon the social side of Etch, we rebooted our social clubs and provided roundups on club activities. Etch has so many clubs including Run Club, Book Club, Steps Club (for sharing your step count activities in) and even a Cocktail Club that meets Thursday evenings.  

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Planned fun 

From our weekly feedback loops, we started discovering how people were experiencing remote work. One key area was around how teams were feeling overworked and overwhelmed. They missed the ‘watercooler moments’ and happiness levels were being affected. 

In addition to banning meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we initiated a virtual Happy Hour at 3pm on Fridays. In recent weeks, we’ve found the Zoom fatigue is real, so we’re now trying our Kumospace to experiment how we can improve the engagement in social interactions. 

 

 A message to your future self  

18th March 2021 marked the 1-year anniversary of Etch going remote. We celebrated this landmark event by contributing to a Mural asking, “what was your favourite moment over the past 12 months,” “what does your workspace look like” and invited each team member to send a message to their future self. In that message, they can write what they’re grateful for, what goals they are setting for themselves and anything else they care about, which we will then email them in a further 12 months’ time 

This is only the beginning 

As you can see, we’ve achieved a lot of change over the past year. This is merely a snapshot of just some of the initiatives that we’ve implemented to help Etch become a people-first, remote-second culture, and there’s still a lot more to come. In addition, there’s still a lot more to do around diversity and automating a lot of the processes that we’ve worked into our daily livesMore updates on our journey coming soon.  

If you'd like to know more about our journey, and how we can help with organisation's cultural shift or People Advisory Services, get in touch

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