Eva Pascoe | Digital Retailer

Work From Home for Rapid Response Squads

Black swan event happened on our watch and crisis tool kit is emerging as necessity is indeed the mother of all inventions.

New weapons for comms

In less than 2 weeks we have moved our teams from comfy physical offices to remote working set ups at home. The deteriorating economy forced us to then turn those teams into Rapid Crisis Respond Squads, fighting disappearing customer demand and the collapse of our lovingly put together supply chains.

Customers have stopped buying everything except food, but even grocers are completely out of their depths, with the only item left in my local supermarket being brussel sprouts.

Thanks to @judilla for sending

As the demand for quick and creative response ramped up, we had to step up on our comms tools. Free Plan for Zoom Videoconferencing is just not sufficient due to the 45 minute cut-off and lack of access to the default mute function.

Zoom Webinar allows for unlimited time, but more importantly, it has Mute as a Default Mode for attendees. Yasss. This feature alone has sold me on the upgrade, thankfully now I can avoid another week of gesticulating to my teammates ‘you are ON MUTE’. 

Pro-Tip: Note that there are quirks on the Zoom Webinar too – if the attendee Mutes herself and then the Host tries to unmute her centrally, it often does not work. So best not to touch Mute icon as an attendee and just let the Host control the show.

Divide to conquer

Big crisis requires big thinking. That means running all-hands meetings for major announcements, for example, if you have to close thousands of stores and warehouses as many retailers had to last week on zero notice. 

No obvious tech solution exists for large scale interactive meetings. After trying a few different formats (Microsoft Teams and Google Hangout Meet), we decided to divide to conquer and scale up, so settled again on Zoom Webinar but divided the groups into 40-45 each. 

We already had a core squad of battle-hardened Zoom Hosts, so we let them deliver the message and lead feedback session within their groups. After the message was delivered within each group and the feedback taken in each Zoom room (just about possible in groups under 50), we brought the Hosts together for the final all-hands feedback gathering on C- Team Zoom. Answers to teams’ questions were then published on F&Qs email to all teams, giving transparency to every staff member.

Feed the nation 

As grocers struggled with panicked nations, merchandisers were caught short on basics and after a couple of weeks of lock-down, the shelves are still re-stocked very randomly and not clearly focused on providing staple goods. A great tool to use to be more responsive to stock crisis Phocas which allows a quick extraction of daily or even hourly stock data and a cloud-based, easy dashboard visibility of stock levels allowing a faster response. The problem was a spike of demand before the announcements as people prepared for 2 weeks of in-house cooking. Female crisis response skills were demonstrated on this Epsilon graph showing women buying before the announcement, while men were buying food and crisis supplies more commonly after the lockdown had officially started. The Robinson Crusoe of modern times is clearly a She. Trying to manage a spike in supply, Costco tried to stop the more enthusiastic toilet paper hoarders with the new Returns policy.

White is the new black

As the disaster in grocers have deepened, the concept of scarcity has been changing rapidly.

Nobody wants Prada dresses or Dior perfumes if they’re not going out. These luxury brands have had to adapt with some now having moved to manufacturing hand sanitisers and PPE masks and protective clothing.

Demand has also soared for toilet paper with some enterprising jewellery designers releasing a new range of pearl earrings in the loo paper shape. We can see a brisk business here.

Social distancing app

We still need to exercise to stay sane during our WFH confinement, but we need to do it safely. Is tech going to help? Taiwan and South Korea rolled out apps that track those infected and make sure they don’t leave their quarantine zone.

It is a heavy surveillance burden but if it cuts down the time to lift the lockdown, we may have to take it on the chin (hope that only temporarily). The apps rely on geolocation sensors in-build in every phone, maps of local area and database of affected people from the national health services.

Thanks to @wildebees for sending

UK is nowhere near this level of sophistication (yet), still following the strategy of ‘herd immunity’ but the locals have taken the matters in their own hands. Runners on the popular canal path in East London can now verify visually what is the correct distance to keep to achieve correct social distancing. Low tech but effective.

Where words fail, music speaks

Lack of shared experiences can loosen team bonds, so to rebuild it you can get your team to listen to music together despite being in remote locations, at least during Friday evening Virtual Pub sessions. JQBX – good choice for teams that use of lot of different devices, iPhone, Android, Mac or PC.

Pronounced JukeBox, this multi-platform service is available for iOS, macOS, Android and even web app. You sign in to JQBX, make a private listening room and invite teammates to enjoy the music together. 

Pro-tip: All of you need to have Spotify Premium but it is well worth it for creating some good social glue and opportunity to cheer or boo the songs you hear.

Pro-tip: to break up the constant feed of ceilings and kitchen cupboards as Zoom background, ask your team to wear something fun for your Friday Virtual Pub session. Hats are good – here inspo from our Shopify Angels from We Make Websites.

Bonus tip:For those parents that have extra task of home schooling their kids during Covid-19 crisis – note VR platforms can do magic as a teacher delivers maths lesson in Half Life. Just take my money.

Stay safe and email me your tips for remote working for teams to eva@never.com

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