As COVID-19 spread worldwide in early 2020, companies were forced to quickly change and adapt their ways of communicating, collaborating, and managing teams remotely. In this article, we will share why we see Imaginary Cloud´s future as a Remote-First company and provide some precious tips on how to make it happen in your own business.

We always put our Imaginarees’ well-being first.

It has been almost two years since COVID-19 changed our lives forever. Before the pandemic, we were all used to different ways of working. For us, there was nothing we loved more than having our people mingling at our offices for another great day! Because we are a close bunch, Thursday’s Happy Hours and Friday’s pizza gatherings were on pretty much everyone’s schedule.

At the beginning of March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and our working dynamic had to change drastically. Caring for our Imaginarees is of utmost importance to us, so we decided to send our people home straight away. At the time, it was not yet mandatory to work remotely, but it felt like the right and safest decision to make. When the government introduced mandatory remote work, our team was already smoothly adapted to the situation by then.

Growing in the face of adversity.

We have faced many challenges during the pandemic, but we can say we have managed them with flying colors. There is no doubt that COVID-19 accelerated many trends, and remote work was the main one. Putting our safety first, we transitioned to a simple and incident-free full "from-home" working model, leaving the office only for administrative work.

In the past year and a half that we have been working from home, much has changed in Imaginary Cloud! We have managed to grow our business, almost double our team, keep a 5-star delivery service, win more awards, and increase performance and productivity. We are aware these achievements were only possible due to our human-centric culture, everyone's sense of responsibility and commitment toward the team, and having the necessary infrastructures and tools for the operations’ proper functioning.

So, what can we expect from a post-pandemic world? We might not have an answer for that yet, but one thing’s for sure: getting back to the old ways will be very challenging and might not even be the right thing to do. Instead, we believe we are running towards a more inclusive “new normal” where everyone’s interests and needs are appreciated and considered regarding the ways people like to work.

Our team has chosen the Remote-First model, and we've listened.

In this short term, three new realities emerged: (1) people that don't want to go back to the office, (2) those that want to do it from time to time, and (3) the ones that want to do it every single day of the week, since not everyone can work remotely due to lack of space and conditions at home.

In general, we believe the majority relies on options one and two, but it is up to every company to provide alternatives, means, and processes that allow everyone to work together seamlessly. The leaders’ job is to promote and implement a productive, democratic, and comfortable workplace, independent of each one's choices from where to work.

After a team assessment - where we tried to understand our Imaginarees’ interests and desires - we concluded that a remote-first working approach would be the most suitable option for us.This decision aims to provide a flexible and inclusive environment where every person has the freedom to choose where to work from. This hybrid model allows everyone to continue to work from home at the same time that it gives the possibility to go to the office when needed.

Setting a Remote-First model is a complex endeavor since we need to ensure everyone has the necessary working conditions while keeping the business running smoothly. Looking backward on our past experience, we would like to share 5 tips that you can follow to implement such a model in your business:

1. Going to the office? Check-in on the attendance platform

Either our Imaginarees have a particular subject to take care of or just want to change their daily routine a bit, Imaginary Cloud's doors will always be open to welcome everyone. To ensure all the sanitary recommendations must be respected, we´ve implemented an office attendance management tool - Officely - to check in on the specific day and hour we will be at the office. This way, it’s possible to know how many people will be at the office and what places are still available.

2. Stay connected with your teammates online!

Losing daily contact with colleagues is still one of the areas people point out from remote working. We believe we are able to overcome this by always being in touch through an online chat platform - Slack. Truth be told, we were already using it as our official chat platform before the pandemic once it allowed us to speak with anyone in the company while bonding and working together.

3. Give guidance through recurring meetings.

Sometimes working remotely can increase the complexity of setting priorities through the team. To solve that, we have recurring meetings between coordinators and their teams that can happen daily or weekly. This allows us to course correct when needed while providing the guidance and the sense of team that can leverage each one’s potential and leads to greater results.

4. No parties? Do online internal events!

Before COVID-19, we had weekly get-togethers at our office where we could get to know each other over a drink. If you did it too and it’s something you miss, follow our lead and make them virtual! Every week, on Thursdays, we all get in line for our happy hour gathering, and despite the distance, there’s plenty of room to grab a drink and play some fun games (we are big Among Us fans!). Every other week, we have our Friday Tell sessions about a work-related topic, and the best part is that it always ends with an online lunch! We also run workshops where anyone can share what they love to do in their spare time, from coffee, bread, and beer making to recycling; we had many Imaginarees sharing their skills with the wider team.

5. Make it optional for everyone!

The main goal of the Remote-First working approach is to allow people to choose where they want to work from, making it an option for everyone. Nonetheless, this is not how many companies are implementing the hybrid model. Instead, they often impose some rules that require people to come to the office once from time to time, for instance, always going to the office on Mondays and Wednesdays. However, this can be perceived by employees as a bad and even unfair solution. Questions such as “why do some have to work at the office on Fridays and others not?” may arise and cause some tension among teams.

Therefore, one of our key recommendations is to give people the opportunity to choose what fits them best. Making it an option will conceive a flexible and inclusive work environment where anyone is free to make their choices according to their own needs.

Furthermore, we strongly advise all companies that follow a hybrid model to ensure efficient processes are developed beforehand. This will help to guarantee that everyone can work in perfect conditions. The process further considers the multiple needs of each department and ensures good communication across the company, which is key to provide a beneficial hybrid model.

All in all, despite the different existent ways to implement a hybrid model, it is crucial to have a well-thought-out process that is organized, efficient, and simultaneously gives employees the chance to choose. It is not easy, but we believe it definitely pays off when well conducted.

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