How has your organisation reacted to the COVID-19 crisis? Fortunately our team at iotum has performed well and adapted quickly to life under pandemic.
Now we are facing a new chapter as governments talk about re-opening, and many grapple with a ‘new normal’ that evolves by the day.
Iotum's primary office is based in central Canada in Toronto. Our province – Ontario – is implementing a phased approach to opening the economy after the COVID quarantine. Phase One, a limited re-opening of businesses and services, commenced on 19th May 2020.
This phase is not designed to return society to the practices and mode of operation that preceded the COVID crisis. It is designed to slowly restart the economy, restore employment, and find a new way for our communities to bond together again. The provincial government has warned it will return us to quarantine if COVID cases spike again.
Iotum, as a company that builds and provides remote collaboration and communication, is well- positioned to adapt to this new reality. When the quarantine hit, our two offices – Toronto and Los Angeles – reduced to one or two essential workers in each location. Our dozens of team members converted immediately to work-at-home. Despite the rapid change in work environment our productivity has remained strong during the quarantine.
When Ontario announced the beginning of the Phase One re-opening, we struggled to decide, like many other companies, whether it was worthwhile for us to participate.
Four-hundred kilometres away in Ottawa, Shopify made the decision to permanently retreat into a remote, WFH workforce. Near our Los Angeles office, Tesla took the opposite approach and defied California’s shelter-in-place order to reactivate its factory completely.
Most companies will probably fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
Why re-open at all? Even tentatively?
For us, there’s a balance of maintaining our corporate culture (which is harder to do with remote workers), providing safety to our people and engaging with the community.
Team communications tools like Slack and Callbridge do help maintain productivity. Yet the culture of a company grows when informal interactions occur grabbing coffee in the kitchen, blessing someone who sneezes, or quickly helping a colleague with a small problem. All these minor threads of interaction build a strong silken web. It’s less tangible online than in person.
Safety is paramount, so iotum’s Phase One strategy is voluntary to our workers. We will not have more than half our normal population in the office (though I imagine it will never get that high), people will practice two metre distancing, meeting rooms will be re-configured, extra sanitation will be done by individuals and throughout the office. iotum is supplying locally produced (Spirit of York – a Toronto Gin distiller)hand sanitizer, and locally sourced (Mi5 Medical – an Ontario printer) PPE masks.
We are adapting our workplace to be a sanitised, anti-contagion space.
Our Toronto office is on St Clair Avenue West, in a gentrifying part of Midtown. The LRT stops in front of our building, depositing students for the local school, and workers for the local supermarket, the bank, the pharmacies, solicitors and GPs, and the countless little restaurants of our neighbourhood. Across the street, construction proceeds on a new mid-rise building with a row of street-level retail. Our team members contribute to this micro-economy every day. We’re the largest single employer on our block. Without us there’s a hit to the small business owners of St Clair West that filters down to everyone local. We’ve got a responsibility to contribute – safely – to the livelihoods of those around us.
Even though many of our neighbours don’t use our products, we want to buy espresso at Lion Coffee, pistachios at the Dollar Club, visit our brilliant local MPP Jill Andrew, bank at the TD Canada Trust, and buy tonight’s dinner at Luciano’s No Frills grocery.
Iotum, as a company that brings people together virtually, also cares about people coming together ‘non-virtually.’
None of us know what the future will bring, but we’re trying to adapt to our present. Like other businesses, we will be adapting as the situation emerges.
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