How BlueCat is scaling its WFH culture

BY Ben Ball

BlueCat employees are no strangers to working from home.  In fact, remote work is something that we’ve prided ourselves on doing well for some time now. 

When the entire company started working from home, however, we realized that a few adjustments were necessary to scale our culture and practices.  So we pivoted.  We’ve been trying out a few new things.  Call them what you like – coping strategies, life hacks, or just ways of maintaining some degree of “normal”, whatever that means these days.

Since every company is trying to get used to this shift in workplace culture, we thought we’d share some of what we’re trying out.

Expanded company all-hands meeting

Pop quiz:  what do you call a group of cats?  That’s right – a clowder.  (It’s apparently derived from “clot” – in case you were wondering.)  In the interest of keeping everyone informed about how the company’s doing, what our plans are, and what the future holds, we’ve been holding these “clowders” more often. 

They used to be once a quarter; now we do them once every two weeks just to satisfy the need for information in this time of significant economic uncertainty.  After every clowder, we do a survey to take the organization’s pulse.  We want to make sure that everyone’s questions and concerns are dealt with.

Informal chats

One of the things a lot of us miss from being in the office is the casual conversation (read:  human connection) that happens on the sidelines of “real work”.  This isn’t unproductive time – far from it.  This is where we connect as a team and build that esprit de corps that powers us through the work we have to do.

With this in mind, several of our teams decided to purposefully set aside time for informal catch-ups.  No business agenda.  No metrics.  Just a time to connect, talk about what’s going on, and commiserate.  Many teams have started meeting for lunch as they would in the office.  Groups have formed around cooking classes and other non-work themes.

Meditation

With all that’s going on, a lot of us are looking for some inner peace – or at least a way to put everything in perspective.  “Mindfulness” is an over-used term (particularly in tech companies), but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a useful concept in trying times like these. 

Mindfulness isn’t new to BlueCat – we regularly offer meditation, yoga, and related sessions in our office.  We decided to double down on that, offering weekly Zoom-based meditation sessions through our usual guru.  It’s our way of staying centered and focused in the midst of the chaos of everyday life.

Company-wide social events

We put on regular social events in the office and for remote employees even in the best of times.  As those shift to an online format, we’re doing them more often and picking themes which allow everyone to participate.  We’re trying to be creative about it (Trivia!  Riddles!  Pets!).  Several people have really helped out in a big way to offer ideas and even host events.  One recent event featured a “virtual petting zoo” live from an employee’s actual farm – complete with llamas, pigs, and all sorts of other critters.

Contests

Employee engagement is something we’re really trying hard to maintain.  With that in mind, we’re prioritizing events that put participation front and center.  Our first shot across the bow is the “pimp my workspace” challenge, where BlueCats show off their WFH set-up and attempt to out-Liberace each other.

More employee resources

Aside from the informal things we’re doing to maintain morale, BlueCat is also making more practical information available for the real-life challenges our employees may be facing.  We added a new COVID-19 resources section in our learning management system with pieces on financial support offerings, talking to your kids about the pandemic, cleaning tips, and other areas of interest.  We’ve also opened up new Slack channels where people can share best practices on working from home, share thoughts about the pandemic, and keep each other up to date.

Hiring!

While we’ve slowed down the pace of hiring due to general economic uncertainty, BlueCat still has a mission to fulfill.  We’re focusing our hiring efforts on sales at the moment, building out the team we need to engage with customers and prospects.  This is a general reflection of the confidence we have in our product, our market, and the future of our company.  Continued hiring is perhaps the strongest signal we can send to our employees that BlueCat remains strong, profitable, and engaged.

Ben Ball

Ben Ball is the Director of Strategy and Content Marketing at BlueCat. Ben served for ten years as a Federal employee, with three tours as a Foreign Service Officer (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan), and five years at the Department of Homeland Security, where he focused on immigration issues. A graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Pitzer College, Ben lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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