As at many startups, Gergana Srebkova-Kiranova, the Head of People and Culture in Tide’s Sofia, Bulgaria office, quickly found herself having to pivot when the COVID-19 pandemic first started. She went from leading Sofian people ops in a 100% in-person office culture to supporting a COVID-mandated remote working setup for all 600+ Tide employees.
“We’ve only had an office in Sofia for a year and a half,” shared Gergana, “So we are working mainly on developing the teams and setting all the processes and procedures that we didn’t have a year ago.”
Pre-COVID, Tide’s London office served as the company’s HQ.
Now a year into the pandemic (and a year into the remote-working experiment), The Tide team is looking to transition the Sofia office to not only a hybrid-office model but the largest office.
“Our main focus this year is to hire at least 150 people in Sofia in 2021,” says Gergana. “Currently, we’re working fully remote. So far, not many people are willing to come back to the office. We are working on a plan to make the office space more attractive so that we can bring people back onsite.”
With aggressive hiring and people operations goals, it didn’t help that Gergana’s processes and tools required hours of manual work and time-intensive tasks per week, per office.
In fact, to complete health checks and keep employees safe while in the office, the Tide people ops team relied on Google Forms, spending 30 minutes or more each day manually copying and pasting the form responses into Envoy, Slack, etc.
Gergana continued, “We were asking [team members] to sign up before coming to the office, and we were approving that manually. When someone wants to come, we see that in a Google Form, and we approach them manually through our Slack channel and say if they’re fine to go or not. So, we were checking every person, whether they feel fine, whether they were in contact with a COVID-positive person in the last ten days, and having enough capacity in the office. All that work was done manually.”
This manual process created the opportunity for human error; as Gergana added, “There was also always a risk of someone not filling out the Google Form, and you cannot track that. So it was more based on trust.”
How OfficeTogether Helped Tide Return to the Office
Tired of the back-and-forth communication and time-intensive manual work managing dozens of Google forms, the Tide team was desperate for a better solution for their Bulgaria office and their London HQ and India satellite offices.
“Now, when we are using OfficeTogether, all of the manual tasks are gone,” says Gergana. “We’re just making sure that people are taking their health checks before they arrive in the office. Plus, it’s much easier, and people love doing it. You don’t have to push them to do it. They just go into OfficeTogether, sign in, and enjoy seeing who else will be in the office, which was not visible in the form we were using.”
“So, it was a huge relief for us to implement OfficeTogether.”
Using clear communication and insightful data to inform business decisions
Internal communication is crucial for a growing company, and tools that provide audience segmentation capabilities are essential as we begin to navigate the post-COVID office return. The OfficeTogether software makes it easy to message only the people in the office on a given day.
“For example, recently, we had a case with a COVID positive person. Instead of digging into the Google Form, I just clicked on that specific date in OfficeTogether, and it allows you to send an email to every single person that was in the office that same day,” says Gergana. “It was very easy to inform everyone that they were in contact with a COVID-positive person. And, we managed to handle the situation very fast. We isolated all of them for a week. It’s helping us to keep the team safe and to avoid spreading infections among the team members.”
More so, Leigh Donegan, who is Office Facilities Manager in the London HQ, mentioned how easy it was to start using OfficeTogether and align it with Okta and their access control systems.
“The OfficeTogether integration and lift-off went off without a hitch,” says Leigh. “It’s also great to have the Slack channels; I like that little touch, so you can see in the Slack channel the people that are in your daily channel.”
The daily Slack channels make it easy for employees to see who is in the office on specific days and reduce the sense of loneliness many have experienced over the last year.
Aside from communication, the OfficeTogether platform provided critical insights into the evolving makeup and needs of the office environment.
Using the platform, the Tide team learned that more than 50% of employees would come in just one day a week after the pandemic and that Wednesdays and Fridays are the most popular day of the week for team members to be in the Sofia and London offices. Also of note, 49% of employees cited the main reason for working from the office was for collaboration with team members.
Freeing up time to work on strategic people ops initiatives
Without spending time wrangling Google Forms, both Gergana and Leigh can spend more time on strategic initiatives like building out their hybrid office team policies.
As COVID-19 vaccines become more widespread, Tide is planning on moving to a “Working Outside the Office” policy where employees can work from home 90% of the time and be in the office only a few days every month.
“Working from home stood the test of time with our employees, and it will be a hard task to try and entice them back,” says Leigh.
Now, they can easily track who is in the office at any given time, how many desks they need, and many employees are even self-organizing directly in OfficeTogether, reducing operational overhead.
“With OfficeTogether, people will see how many people are currently in the office if they want to come,” says Gergana. ”Is there enough space? Is there a room that they can use? Are my team members going to be in the office that day?”
“So basically, the system will allow us to organize our teams more efficiently and to be able to prioritize whether we are capable of coming to the office today or not.”