Over the last eight years, one universal truth has remained at the heart of everything we’ve done at Blend: we are nothing without our team members. There’s no way our company can be healthy unless our employees are truly healthy as well. Giving everyone the tools, resources, and support they need to bring their best selves to work (and life) each day is one of our top priorities.
And over the last six months, we’ve learned even more about how we can make that happen for our people. When COVID-19 disrupted daily life for workers across the world and tight-knit teams were forced to retreat to their homes almost overnight, we knew we had to adapt quickly to ensure our employees were supported. Circumstances change on a daily and even hourly basis, and we still don’t have all the answers, but we are pouring everything we have into making the best work from home environment possible for every member of our team. As we reflect on how the past half-year has changed the way we work at Blend, here’s an inside look at what we’ve done so far.
Assembling our task force
In February, right before many states started issuing stay-at-home orders that would change the way we all work, we created a cross-functional team tasked with developing our policies in response to the pandemic, including the decision to close our offices. Since then, they’ve also led the charge in developing our initiatives that identify and aim to solve the pain points of working from home.
As company-wide updates became more frequent, this team also organized a pandemic-response FAQ page and a mental health resource library that included information on therapy, telehealth and virtual doctor visits, and meditation and fitness classes.
“We heard from our employees that they needed information — and they wanted to know that it was current, responsive, and reflected our latest thinking as well as the conditions on the ground. We needed a forum to discuss all the possibilities, one that factored in what other companies were doing but was specific to our employees. We created a cross-functional team to make that happen.”
— Marc Greenberg, Head of Finance and People Ops
Maintaining connections with weekly company meetings
With so much change happening so quickly, including the sudden lack of physical connection, it became crucial for us to foster a virtual culture of connectedness and community. To share accurate and timely information with everyone and signal the direction we were taking to respond to our customers’ needs, our CEO Nima Ghamsari and President Tim Mayopoulos began holding a weekly All Hands meeting for all Blend employees.
After updates about the company and current events are shared, employees are encouraged to submit all their questions for discussion (through a dedicated Slack channel, anonymously through PollEverywhere, or live during the meeting.) This not only helps our team members to get their important questions answered, but it also helps Nima and Tim to keep a pulse on what matters most to our people and make sure that’s at the forefront of everything we’re doing right now to support them.
These All Hands meetings have also helped us to realize that our employees really miss connecting with their teams. We’ve prioritized organizing a crop of other virtual events to make that happen, such as lunch-and-learns, virtual happy hours, and employee resource group meetings.
“The suddenness with which we moved to working from home was pretty jarring for everyone. We knew that frequent, transparent communication from Nima and Tim would keep our employees feeling safe and informed, so we pivoted our monthly All-Hands to a weekly meeting and promised we’d keep them at that cadence as long as people wanted them. And I think they’ve become our new version of catching up over coffee in the kitchen — even though the meetings aren’t mandatory, week in and week out, we’re getting over 70 percent of the company on each call, and that shows that it’s making a difference.”
— Laney Erokan, Internal Communications
Optimizing our WFH setups
The transition to working from home also came with many physical hurdles that we’ve worked hard to eliminate, the biggest of which was making sure our teams were set up to work from home as comfortably as possible. We held a pressure-test day on which our employees were allowed to take their monitors and desk materials home, at Blend’s expense. And when it became clear that remote work would last much longer than a couple of weeks, we helped our employees get the business portion of their home internet costs covered as well as home office materials to keep them working comfortably.
Another Blend perk our team members told us they missed most was our in-office food and snack programs. And since we know that well-fed teams are happy teams, we began offering everyone a food per diem.
Supporting and trusting our teams
When we first began making the adjustments necessary to help our teams thrive no matter where they are, a big part of our focus was on our people managers. We’ve rolled out new ways to help managers care for their teams, such as encouraging them to support more flexible schedules or push out standard review periods where needed.
“During these unusual times, it is more important than ever to acknowledge the work-life continuum. Instead of trying to create strict time boundaries around work and life, my team has adapted to be more flexible, empathetic, and tolerant of others when they are in the same predicament. We realize that work-related Zoom sessions are often the only social interaction for many of the team members, so we make a deliberate effort to spend a few minutes every call to talk about non-work matters and connect.”
— Jyothi Potluri, Engineering Manager
We’ve also been reaching out to the employees who are perhaps most impacted by remote work: parents and caregivers. We are committed to supporting them as they juggle their work and home lives as best as they can, and we have encouraged them to work with their managers to create flexible schedules that help them care for themselves, their families, and their jobs in healthy and balanced ways.
Most of all, we’ve simply tried to listen to what our people need. We began by offering employees whose families are directly affected by the pandemic two weeks of paid leave and up to ten weeks of additional leave at two-thirds their standard pay rate. When we learned that people were not taking this leave because it put a financial strain on their families, we revised our policy so that employees who take the ten additional weeks offered will be fully compensated at 100% pay.
We fundamentally believe in protecting the health of our employees and have encouraged those who qualify to take this leave. We also recognize that just because you don’t test positive for coronavirus doesn’t mean you’re not affected by the pandemic — so to support our team’s emotional wellbeing, we’ve completely closed down our company for four mental health days thus far.
We’re all in this together: How our ongoing commitment to our employees continues to grow
The policies we’ve implemented to help our teams thrive aren’t going anywhere, and we’re not slowing down on figuring out new ways to support them either. We’re not perfect, but as we learn to adjust to the new reality of remote work, both as individuals and as part of a greater whole, we promise to stay dedicated to prioritizing our employees. Without them, we’d never be able to leverage our technology for good and help the world look forward to a stronger financial future — despite an uncertain present.