Working from home is not a foreign concept for many tech companies. Working from home during a pandemic is. Companies are tasked with ensuring they’re providing ample support for employees who are struggling with office setup, childcare and mental and physical wellbeing.
NYC tech leaders are leading their digital offices with a blend of over-communication and transparency while implementing tools like Slack and Zoom for weekly town halls and daily stand-ups.
Internal adjustments aren’t the only challenge, however. Many tech companies are rethinking their business strategies, and in some cases, that means altering project timelines and speeding up product deliveries.
In part three of a three-part series, we’re looking at ways businesses across NYC are working to better benefit customers while protecting their employees.
How Ocrolus’ business strategy is responding to COVID-19: One of our core missions has been to help impacted businesses get capital through our lender partners. Last year, more than $50 billion worth of small business loans were funded using our data. When quarantines started occurring, we quickly realized the scale of the problem and pivoted to build new products and services that are relevant to our customers in this new climate.
Recently, Congress passed the CARES Act, which provides $350 billion for small business lending through the Paycheck Protection Program. Our team at Ocrolus has been extremely busy building new products to help financial institutions support these loans. Our goal is to help keep these small businesses afloat until the country stabilizes and companies are able to reopen.
As we speak with various organizations about how we can help, we are seeing in real time the difference between lenders built for scalability and those that are less agile. It’s important to acknowledge that many financial institutions are more bandwidth-constrained than ever. Like borrowers, lenders are challenged with strict shelter-in-place guidelines, which results in a real gap between rising demand and lenders’ ability to meet that demand. We’ve been having continuous conversations with both existing customers as well as other financial institutions who are looking to scale to meet the challenge.
How newly remote teams are impacted: Ocrolus has always encouraged a flexible work-from home-policy, so our headquarters’ team, based in NYC, has been able to adapt to working remotely with relative ease. Even so, without the face time of being in an office, communication is critical, so we’re relying heavily on Slack and Zoom video calls to ensure ongoing communication. We also spend time clarifying objectives and expectations so we can continue to work toward our shared goals remotely.
As for our 800 and counting employees in India, who power the back end of our system by validating exception data within our machine learning model, we’ve asked them to work from home with boosted infrastructure including internet, laptops and remote compliance measures. We are leveraging a secure cloud solution deployed within our AWS account. This allows us to scale, monitor and provide services quickly while ensuring that we continue to protect the security and privacy of our customers’ data.
When this is over, we will still need agility and to be able to flex up and down with the markets.”
How Ocrolus’ business will be impacted: When this is over, we will still need agility and to be able to flex up and down with the markets, which is key in financial institutions. If anything, this crisis has clarified our core value proposition to customers by empowering them to be more scalable and better prepared to handle exogenous impacts on their businesses.
How Cohley’s business strategy is responding to COVID-19: The most significant change we’ve made is to offer three free months for clients who commit to a 15- or 27-month contract. Brands still need to advertise right now, and to do that effectively they need content to work with. We’re in a fortunate position to be able to accept lower-than-usual revenues in Q2 and give our clients’ bank accounts some much needed relief.
As far as Cohley’s positioning, we’ve worked hard on developing our team’s tonality. That means being patient and empathetic and sharing resources without expecting anything in return. It’s a great opportunity for us in the extended marketing community to come together and help each other.
How newly remote teams are impacted: We’ve tried to over-communicate everything and be as transparent as possible. We’re working hard to strike the right balance between being optimistic while also being authentic. As I told our team earlier this week, there’s no playbook for the challenges that we’re experiencing right now. Alignment starts with communication, and we’ve started using tools like Asana to track progress and upped the cadence of our leadership meetings.
We’re working hard to strike the right balance between being optimistic while also being authentic.”
How Cohley’s business will be impacted: I’ve traditionally been very against working from home, but the team has really impressed me with how productive, collaborative and effective they’ve been. More important than any of those factors is their shared energy; they’re rising to the occasion and their energy is palpable.
How UpClear’s business strategy is responding to COVID-19: Business operations at UpClear have not been majorly affected by COVID-19. We are a small but global company, so we have always built our infrastructure, ways of working and communications to be primarily online with our knowledge base and assets in the cloud. One of our teams is in Hong Kong, and the office was closed in January, so we were exposed early in the process and able to anticipate and set expectations for our Europe and U.S. teams as best we could.
All our employees have laptops and we supplied all necessary technology prior to the full switch to working from home. We have been able to maintain projects and meetings with our consumer goods clients. We have also continued recruiting, even onboarding three people in March and April. The biggest change has been on the personal side of our business, not meeting with our clients and working together in our offices, which we miss.
How newly remote teams are impacted: Firstly, we have focused on the safety and peace of mind of our team. For those that did not have options outside of small apartments in the city, we offered Airbnb accommodations.
Secondly, from standpoints of communication and alignment, we have leveraged our internal tools (Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Stream) to share and communicate even more than our usual standards.
Thirdly, on a personal level, we realize this as a moment in history that we are living through and have shared personal anecdotes and pictures on our weekly newsletter. In some ways, the situation has brought us closer.
This will present an opportunity for some clients to reinvent themselves.”
How Upclear’s business will be impacted: Working in consumer goods, we are quickly going to see an acceleration toward direct-to-consumer online sales. We will also see how differently certain brands and product lines have performed and responded to the market, given these circumstances. This will present an opportunity for some of our clients to reinvent themselves, develop new offerings and adapt to this environment and market. As an enterprise software provider for consumer goods brands, our goal is to manage and provide new data analytics to support this transition and help those brands grow and make the most informed decisions.
It has been valuable to see the impact that this time has had on our environment. We are very focused on our corporate responsibility, and the impact of business travel is something we will adjust in our business practices. We believe all of our partners will be more open for online collaboration, we will see less time spent in travel, and our in-person events will be valued that much more. We hope other businesses will do the same.
How Pager’s business strategy is responding to COVID-19: Pager has seen a five-fold increase in chat volume since the onset of COVID-19 from our existing customers. As a result, we've mobilized our entire company to respond to our clients’ needs by rapidly enhancing our solution, including introducing a COVID-19 symptom checker, standing up hundreds of new telemedicine providers and adapting workflows to ensure patients can be cared for efficiently.
On the business side, we’ve seen a spike in interest across health plans and health systems providers. To help the healthcare community, we’re offering our COVID-19 solution for free to new enterprise customers. We believe it is critical that both health plans and health systems have what they need to communicate with patients remotely.
We’re offering our COVID-19 solution for free to new enterprise customers.”
How newly remote teams are impacted: The health and safety of our employees is our top priority. We quickly mobilized to take precautions and closed our offices by mid-March ahead of the NY Pause initiative. As a result, all of our employees have transitioned to a work-from-home setting. Pager was well prepared for this transition, as over 50 percent of our engineering team already worked as a distributed team since we founded the company. Investing in remote practices over the years enabled the entire company to quickly adapt. We were able to apply our learnings to ensure all employees could operate, and thus far it has been a great success.
How Pager’s business will be impacted: Long term, we believe COVID-19 will transform many aspects of all our lives. Particularly in the industry we operate, we believe it will enable telemedicine to go mainstream in terms of adoption and usage. It has now become a critical tool for many in the healthcare industry today. Pager's technology and clinical services enable the industry to acquire telemedicine capabilities and much more very rapidly. As a result, we expect to see increased demand for our solution and have continued to hire in all departments, including engineering and clinical services.
How Sawyer’s business strategy is responding to COVID-19: Since the stay-at-home orders were issued, Sawyer facilitated the shift to digital experiences and classes. From launching Zoom training sessions to creating an entire library of online classes and digital experiences, Sawyer has scaled partnerships with thousands of providers across the country and currently offers over 3,000 live online classes weekly.
Since the launch in mid-March, the company has seen tens of thousands of students booked in online activities. Families and educators have been connected through innovative technology, redefining community not through physical proximity but shared experience.
How newly remote teams are impacted: Given the nature of our work and the adaptability of our team, I was never concerned about shifting our daily workflow to virtual working. We have team members who regularly work from home a few days a week, so we had remote tools already integrated into our work culture. Our team is also innovative and close-knit. In just a few days, we created fun Slack channels, began hosting game nights and organized virtual lunch times. This helped to transition our existing team culture to new virtual connections.
Where we did need to focus our attention was supporting the parents in the office as they adjusted to a new work dynamic. Sawyer exists to support parents. About a third of our team is working parents, including both myself and my co-founder, Stephanie.
As everyone shifted to a work-from-home culture, we were focused on making sure that our employees who are parents felt supported. The struggle of parenting while doing distance learning is well-documented, and for us, it was important to model by example. Each step of the way, our team has been supportive, compassionate and flexible.
We had not planned to have online learning be a large part of our business.”
How Sawyer’s business will be impacted: Like the entire country, our company is challenged by the uncertainty. We had not planned to have online learning be a large part of our business, but we’re seeing positive impacts to the migration to online learning.
The small businesses that we support have been able to extend their reach, gathering parents from across state lines. We’ve seen families across the country be able to take a single music class with distant relatives, and for the first time, parents are able to access the best classes for their children from across the country.
We see the future of education for children as a combination of school curriculum blended with extracurricular activities, and many of these may be online, as in person may not be an option. We believe Sawyer can sit at the center of this. Investing in joyful, easy discovery of these classes is going to be core to our business.