While it’s a *highly* overused adage, it is one that tends to ring very true, especially in the most trying of times. It has reminded me on several occasions to focus on the horizon, to not sweat the small stuff but also not veer off track when something goes extraordinarily well. But what we’ve realized over the last few years at Voiro is that it’s not just any marathon – it’s Boston. It’s Boston every single day. We put in months of effort, put something out into the world, close that big game-changing sale, and then we wake up the next day and it’s Boston all over again.
2020 and 2021 have been lessons that we never imagined we would learn, thanks to the pandemic.
Further Reading: Read about The Voiro Bubble: Hybrid Working Models Post-Pandemic
The first few months of dealing with working from home felt weird. Working remotely, wearing shorts, zero commute time, no expenses (or so I thought)! And the rapid normalisation of rising pandemic statistics that went from shocking to being just that – statistics. But at some point, the novelty and benefits of working remotely started to fade because we realized that it wasn’t actually fun nor easy and that this wasn’t remote work.
Anshumani Ruddra, a product leader whose writing our team follows keenly, recently wrote about the fact that the traditional definition of remote work still includes a social component that we cannot do without. Work started to expand with time, and not everyone has a friendly, private, and secluded work environment at home. And those who did realize didn’t actually like working in isolation. They yearned for a bustling office and missed that colleague two desks down, blaring embarrassing music that spilled out through their headphones.
The pandemic hit most companies really hard. We realised that we were spiraling into a crisis of mental wellness. Of happiness. Of drive. This was happening across the company, and this topic started taking centre stage in every founder huddle, with the added realisation that everyone had to carry all this on their backs and run Boston again the next day. Because startups are about that – be irrational, chase the impossible, walk into every project and every milestone with the hard requirement that someone in the room has to pull a miracle out of the bag, all while possibly fighting a battle that nobody in the room could easily see, especially on Zoom or Google Meet.
It so happened that I was on Twitter one weekend and the guys from Setu were holding a public webinar on mental wellness, and it was going to begin in about two minutes. We saw another company talking about the same battles and were quickly introduced to their mental wellness partner, Kaha Mind. We didn’t think twice. We’ve had Kaha Mind on board ever since and it’s a decision that has helped our entire organisation. Regular workshops, content, a dedicated slack channel, de-stigmatisation of mental health, and expert therapy for anyone who needs it at any time. One thing that helped is our founding team walked the talk, which was natural given Kavita’s focus right from year one on a conscious effort to build a positive and fun culture, and on our team’s wellness, both physical and mental. “If there’s no positive culture and no team, there’s no company”, she’s always said. I love that we were able to bring that back in focus.
As we enter 2022, we’re making a conscious effort to understand that the job is not done. It never is. We will face new challenges, our team is growing. We now have a temporary office called “Chief Fun Officer’‘, where folks rotate in and out of this role once a month and plan Friday events – everything from game nights to quizzes to treasure hunts, to fun facts about our team for the new folks. We’re experimenting with new ideas constantly, finding ones that stick and holding on to them for however long they do.
We’re not entirely sure what challenges 2022 will throw at us, but we’re doing two things – we won’t stop talking about mental wellness, and our focus is on having the right culture, every step of the way. We’re giving our employees the tools they need to evolve and succeed at more hybrid ways of working until we can all be together in one space again.