Comet under the shadow of Covid-19

Part-1: what happens when a remote-friendly company goes full remote?

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Now it’s time to start this new issue of Behind the Curtain. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Hi everybody!

click here if you don’t know the reference to The Anchorman movie

Since the 11th of March, the last edition of BTC, things escalated quite quickly.

More than 2 billion people are now under lockdown.

Unprecedented.

Today, I won’t focus on the Coronavirus crisis. You’ve probably read more things than necessary about it. Instead, I’ll focus on what a company like comet can do under wartime.

Indeed, as Emmanuel Macron told France a few days ago. We’re at war. A war against an invisible enemy, but still a war.

I’ve decided to talk about strategies companies are using during wartime periods for the next weeks. Starting with comet.

Until recently, we’ve experienced a long period of relative peace. More and more VC money flooding towards startups, and a steady bull market pushing consumption (therefore corporate profits) to extremely high levels. This Elon Musk’s tweet summed up the situation:

But…

No company, large or small, so this black swan coming.

Black Swan definition: A black swan is an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterized by their extreme rarity, their severe impact, and the widespread insistence they were obvious in hindsight.

Indeed, it was pretty obvious that this kind of event would crush, sooner or later, our economies… Bill knew it all along…

Anyway! We did not listen.

The crisis is here to stay, let’s see how to respond to it.


Part 1 - D+10 after lockdown. What happens when a remote-friendly company goes full remote.

As you probably already know, about 25% of the comet’s workforce was already full remote before the lockdown.

The only rules for working full remote for comet were:

  1. to have a job that allows full remote work (for instance it’s hard for our sales team, working with large key accounts, not to be in Paris) ;

  2. to be on the same time zone ;

  3. to come back to the headquarters 2 to 3 days once a month for our monthly Celebration Day. You can read more about remote work, during peacetime, at comet here.

But the Covid-19 crisis changed everything on the 12th of March when the French President Emmanuel Macron announced on live TV that every school would be closed indefinitely and that every company should work remotely whenever possible.

1/ Announcing to the team why and how we will work remotely.

13th of March

On the 13th of March morning, we held an exceptional all-hands meeting in order to explain to the team why it was important, based on scientific and hard facts, to close the HQ, and what we would do concretely to make it work.

Here’s the video of the meeting:

16th of March

On Monday the 16th of March 2020, things changed once again as Emmanuel Macron announced that all bars, restaurants, and non-necessary shops would have to close their doors. Therefore, we forbid the groups of 4 people working together that we allowed the previous Friday.

Key Takeaways:

1. Don't let rumors spread by communicating early and clearly. Transparency is key.
2. Explain in details the reasons behind important decisions.

2/ In a fast-moving crisis environment, communicate more often.

Our team routines were as follow before the Covid-19 crisis:

  1. One all-hands meeting on Monday morning to talk mainly business.

  2. One all-hands meeting on Friday afternoon to talk about any project a team member would like to present, to talk about our community, and to get some updates from Charles, comet’s co-founder & CEO.

Since the 16th, we’ve decided to add one more all-hands on Wednesday in order to update the team about the situation.

Key Takeaways:

1. The more uncertain the situation is the more often you should communicate with your team
2. Communication is the most important thing during a crisis.

3/ We’re not all equal in front of remote working and isolation. Take care of your culture.

We’re extremely lucky at comet to have been working on our culture almost from day 1 thanks to Corentin, our Chief of Staff.

Later, Virgile, our VP People helped Corentin to take it to the next level. If you read french, here’s an article detailing it in Maddyness.

Why am I saying this? Because our culture is not the culture of a remote-first company. Sure we’re remote-friendly with 25% of our workforce working far from Paris, but we still have 75% of employees enjoying working together with their colleagues in our office.

These employees will surely suffer from isolation.

Isolation not only from being separated from their colleagues, but also from being completely stuck at home.

Corentin and Virgile took some extra steps to adapt our culture of frequent gathering and friendship to a remote environment.

Discord

We kept slack for everything closely related to work, but we set up a Discord environment in order to recreate the coffee-machine and corridors encounters effects. Not sure if it’ll work but Discord is way better at managing multiple voice rooms/channels since it was designed for gamers.

#Topic_good_vibes

In this gigantic flow of bad news and stressful headlines, Olivier, our Head of Product, had the great idea to launch a Good-Vibes-only channel on Slack. It allows us to share funny and good news with the entire team.

New Routines to gather people virtually

23rd of March

Our chief of staff, Corentin, sent us this email on the 23rd of March, one week after the beginning of the lockdown (in french 🇫🇷 but the translation is below the screenshot).

Here’s the translation for English speakers (translated with deepL):

Sun in the sky, you know how I feel 
Breeze driftin' on by, you know how I feel 

Team, 
A special new week begins for all of us, 
You will have understood that, in these times of isolation and slowdown,
all means are good to find reasons to rejoice, to hold together. 
Together as a team, together as friends, 
because, and we're realizing this especially now,
we're not just a bunch of colleagues.
So here are a few measures to prevent badges, which enter into force this morning ☀️
Others will follow, if you have ideas, desires, you know where to find me. 

MUSIC IS THE ANSWER 🎶
Every evening at 6pm, we organise a Blind Test at Facettes, on Discord.
To avoid me winning all the games, and to highlight the immense musical culture of our HRD, we will alternate our roles as MCs and participants. Meet me tonight, at Facettes, at 6pm.

TIME FOR US 🍩
No longer 1, but 3 Donuts per week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday).
An opportunity to compare your containment setups, to show your teenager's room, or to share the best tips to pass the time. 

INTRODUCING: COMET MEMORIES 💌
Every day at 2pm, one of your most memorable comet adventure memories will be shared in #general 
I'll contact you the day before for the next day, to ask you to send me your souvenir in 200 words max. 1 souvenir per TM per day, it'll fit normally. Well I don't really know.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Therefore we introduced 3 more routines to increase cohesion and touchpoints within the team:

  • Blind test: We organize each day, a blind test in the discord channel called Facettes (Facettes is the name of a bar we used to go for our after-work drinks).

  • Random Meetings: we use our Slack app Donut more often. Donut is a Slack app allowing us to be matched randomly with another team member once a week. We’ve increased it to 3 times a week.

  • One memory a day: each day, Corentin shares with the team a memory from a team member related to comet.

Key Takeaways: 

1. Adapt your culture to remote work or adapt remote work to your culture, it depends if you are remote-first or remote-friendly. :)  
2. Communication, communication, communication...It's all about making sure that the information flows well within your company. 
3. Make sure that your team members are communicating together as well. Information should also flow horizontally.

Conclusion

We’re going through a huge storm, but we need to adapt in order to stay afloat. We need to adapt our business, we need to adapt our processes, and we need to adapt to how we work and communicate together as a team.

I won’t lie, it’s far from perfect. It’s really hard for some of us to be isolated. Especially when business is slowing down. Morale is not at its peak, but we’re going through this all together.

Next time I’ll write about how we adapt on the business side knowing that the activity will drastically decrease this year.

Thanks for reading!


Your turn!

You can answer one, some, or all of the following points. Also, Feedbacks are precious 💎so please tell me whatever goes through your head even if it’s not related to the following points.

  1. A friend of mine, Philippe Vella, and I would love to interview other companies about how they’re adapting to this crisis. Would you like to share some tips and methods with the 2,500 readers of BTC?

  2. What did you think of this edition?

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Stay safe. ❤️

Yoann