Stewart Butterfield+ Your Authors @stewart Slack boss • Flickr co-founder • Thought loser • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ • I'm trying my hardest! Mar. 11, 2020 4 min read + Your Authors

Monday was the first day of our new (temporary) existence as an all-remote company. 2,000+ people from 18 offices across 10 countries suddenly working from home. It’s a big change many are making but I haven’t seen much detail giving a ‘behind the scenes’ view. [Thread]

Foremost for us is the health of our employees, customers, and the broader community. Among our executive team there’s a wealth of experience to draw on, but we were still in uncharted waters along with everyone else. A lot happened in a short period of time:

The first in-depth conversations about policy/response began Friday, Feb 28. A few external events had been cancelled and we contemplated postponing/reworking major internal events. Over the weekend it became clear that the situation was worse than it first appeared.

Over the week starting Mon, Mar 2, we made a gradual series of escalating decisions —curtailing travel, canceling events, making WFH optional, etc. This accelerated as the situation started to evolve more quickly. That day a spike in new reports put the US total at 100 infected.

We had already closed our Tokyo and Osaka offices when Japanese schools shut down. Japan is our second biggest market and has been growing very quickly, so this was something we paid close attention to and it ended up serving as a bit of early warning for what was to come.

Mid-week a San Francisco-based employee informed us they’d been notified by the CDC of potential exposure. Thankfully, their quarantine period has now passed with no symptoms, but at the time we took sensible precautions, including closing the office for deep cleaning.

By Thursday PM, policies were evolving so fast it was hard to stay ahead. On Friday afternoon, March 6, we made the call to strongly encourage all employees globally to WFH for the rest of the month. We began to dig into the operational ramifications right away.

Fri night/Sat morning multiple teams spun up channels and were swarming to handle the big changes. Hundreds of already-scheduled in-person interviews would need to be moved to Zoom. Events cancelled/postponed. Our normally bustling Executive Briefing Centers needed to be closed.

Business continuity plans we had established for events like this were implemented and we began communicating those to our large enterprise and government customers. As some of them started to make their own teams remote, we wanted them confident we’d be there for them.

Internal communications programs began immediately, starting with senior leaders, then people managers around the world. By the afternoon of Sat, March 7, a bit more than 24 hours after making the call, it was communicated company-wide in our global announcements channel.

Monday morning, our first day of global remote work, reported cases inside the US jumped to over 700. Since the initial decision (based principally on the now-familiar ‘social distancing as a means of flattening the epidemic curve’) 23,000+ new cases have been reported worldwide.

Despite everyone’s personal concerns and it already being a busy time for the company (right between a board meeting & earnings announcement) there was a surge in energy among employees. We were in a unique position to help and everyone was eager to step up and provide that help.

We’re a tool for organizational transformation and suddenly there were a lot of organizations looking to transform. Teams inside corporations, governments, schools, SMBs and huge enterprises were trying to figure out how to continue operations in a completely different way.

Self-serve help resources quickly went up at  http://slack.com/remote . Our Customer Success & Experience teams lit up: new training webinars & 1:1 consultations were made available to anyone — a massive bottoms-up effort to offer personalized assistance at unprecedented scale.

In some ways, we were built for this. We strive to be a deeply human (and humane) software company; this was a moment to practice that at a whole new level. Since we’ve always had a free product/unlimited trial, helping train/equip teams was the best way for us to help.

Around the world, HR, legal, finance, security, comms, operations and other teams are scrambling to make it work right now. Decisions need to get made quickly, people need to stay aligned — the bar for organizational agility has gone up quickly.

Taking the experience that we’ve synthesized after hundreds of thousands of interactions with customers over the last few years and tailoring it to a given organization’s specific needs means we’re able to help relieve a significant part of the burden for many.

Last, we’ve also taken this as an opportunity to re-examine our own practices around communication, decision making, how projects are managed and meetings are run. All moments of massive change are opportunities to make improvements that might otherwise be much harder.

Passionate discussions have been happening everywhere. We believe there is an enormous opportunity to level up — not because distributed work is inherently better, but because we have to profoundly *change* the way we are working together no matter what.

Of course, what matters most right now is that, hopefully, we make the right choices at a policy level to manage and mitigate impact on vulnerable individuals, our healthcare & other related systems, and maintain resilience in an environment of increasing demands on all of us.

If we can help, we’re here (cc @slackhq).  http://slack.com/remote  is a good starting point but if you want to jump right to scheduling a free live help session, we’ve tried to make that easy:  https://calendly.com/slack-customer-experience/remote-consult?month=2020-03 

We’re all in this together. Please take care and stay safe.


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