Have a plan B, C, D, and E

p 1 pandemic plan

Earlier than the pandemic, I barely ever labored remotely; my staff at Okta all the time thrived on workplace power and connecting in individual. And whereas I believed I’d grown accustomed to seeing individuals solely on Zoom or in Slack channels (I’m an engineer by commerce and are typically introverted), I spotted how a lot I missed in-person collaboration after seeing a few staff members (masked up, outdoors, and put up damaging COVID-19 checks) throughout the filming of a documentary tied to our annual “Oktane” event a few weeks in the past.

It was the very best feeling to reunite, and that day collectively acquired me considering extra about what we’ll be able to deliver again and what we’ve discovered about find out how to work. We’re now on the one-year mark of a shift to distant work throughout a pandemic that’s modified our private and skilled lives for good. Right here’s what I’m taking with me even after workplaces reopen. 

Embracing a “we’re on this collectively” mindset 

This previous 12 months, I’ve needed to lean on different leaders greater than ever. You may solely get via a disaster by turning to friends for collaboration on widespread points and assist. Because the begin of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve stored in frequent contact with different CEOs via a shared Slack channel to cowl distant work challenges and find out how to talk crucial updates to workers. I anticipate this channel will turn into much more energetic as we navigate return-to-office plans and life post-vaccine.

I search extra recommendation now, however I additionally carve out ample time to share it after I can and reply workers’ questions. It helps that we already had a longtime cadence of all-hands conferences and a discussion board for submission of nameless worker suggestions earlier than the pandemic hit. In case you can, create that weekly rhythm to offer ample alternative for workers to deliver points to the forefront early. It’s additionally crucial to open avenues for casual discourse on vital points. Final 12 months, we hosted an Ask Me Something session in March to deliver the corporate and our stakeholders collectively and focus on work-from-home insurance policies and considerations, and we organized a listening tour in June to debate Okta’s assist for Black Lives Matter with workers.

Sustaining an agility-first method

With out an openness to alter, we by no means would have made it via this previous 12 months. For instance, we discovered pivoting in-person occasions to profitable digital ones is feasible—we made it work for each of our main 2020 occasions (and in lower than 30 days for our first go!)—however solely by staying agile and not letting the setbacks get us down.

Main as much as our annual Oktane occasion in April 2020, we didn’t solely create one backup plan; we had a plan B, C, D, and E, and with continuously shifting plans, we made it to plan E. However via it, we found sudden advantages. We noticed a broader, world viewers attain at each of our occasions and walked away with extra reusable and translatable content material. I all the time speak in regards to the energy of inertia in conserving us at the established order, and final 12 months really disrupted the whole lot we’ve recognized about doing enterprise. By getting comfy with change and staying agile via obstacles this 12 months, it’s possible you’ll uncover extra environment friendly methods to work.

Anticipating challenges 

Most leaders prefer to suppose they’ve this distant work factor found out, however they don’t (and neither do I). It will get tougher, particularly because the vaccine permits workers to return to bodily workplaces and we study the ropes of a hybrid surroundings. Issues can typically take a very long time to bubble up and turn into large enough points for the management staff to note and repair, and band-aid approaches to distant work points are not any exception. 

The 12 months 2020 taught us that we are able to’t look ahead to the enterprise outcomes to point out issues; we have to get to the middle of them shortly. Take into consideration attacking elements of the issue proactively slightly than fixing for the whole lot without delay. Shifting to a hybrid surroundings can be a main logistical problem for a lot of corporations, so take it in small steps, predict and put together for setbacks, and overcommunicate together with your staff. I’ve additionally informed my staff to attempt embracing a “development mindset” this 12 months—we all know we’ll face extra challenges, so don’t simply keep open to them; study to thrive on them.

Conserving tabs on altering staff wants 

COVID-19 turned conventional worker wants the wrong way up as we reconsidered what it takes to maintain groups productive and related at residence. To cater to particular person worker wants, contemplate rebuilding advantages packages that not solely align with distant work wants however with a dynamic, hybrid future too. Commuter advantages and in-office meals don’t work anymore, so what does? We created an worker expertise market so our staff can self-select remote-friendly advantages that align with their existence—with an emphasis on find out how to assist dad and mom navigate e-learning and childcare. 


A part of investing in altering staff wants additionally means making the appropriate hires to assist workers. We lately hired a head of dynamic work to rethink workplace design, tech, employment insurance policies, and how we are able to greatest assist asynchronous work types. Keep open to hiring for different nontraditional roles too. Together with a chief to navigate the brand new hybrid workforce, it could even be sensible to think about a rent centered solely on worker expertise, in addition to somebody to deal with sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG)—particularly as many corporations rethink workplace area with environmental affect high of thoughts.

Displaying gratitude

Earlier than the pandemic, considered one of my new 12 months’s resolutions was to point out extra gratitude. This was arduous throughout a 12 months of fixed disaster, however it taught me the significance of staying grateful for probably the most crucial issues—household, well being, our staff’s well-being—and is one thing I’ll proceed to apply this 12 months. We will’t predict what’s going to occur, however we are able to keep grateful for a way far we’ve come and the teachings discovered to this point alongside the way in which.