April 14, 2020
Like most companies around the world, Vecna Robotics has had to adapt quickly to the “new normal” of social distancing and self-quarantine measures recommended by the CDC. To bolster spirits, maintain productivity, and support one another during these unusual and uncertain times, we’ve found a number of ways to come together while apart.
Recognizing that most employees didn’t have a home-office prior to the self-quarantine measures, Vecna Robotics established the COVID-19 Productivity Reimbursement program. Under this program, all employees working remotely are eligible for a $1,000 stipend to procure equipment like desks, monitors, monitor mounts, docking stations, and ergonomic chairs, as well as childcare services. Through this program, a number of creative home offices have appeared over video chat – in attics and basements, in the midst of home renovation projects, in 3-season porches, and, more commonly, bedrooms.
While most are working from home, team members in Manufacturing and Customer Support who are essential to supporting our customers are still reporting to the office. To ensure safe distancing and healthy environment, we’ve created a staggered schedule and established a Hygiene Protocol for anyone who enters the building, along with specific facility sanitation procedures. We encourage anyone who does not feel well to stay home.
More important than maintaining productivity is finding ways to care for families at home, including creating a supportive environment for childcare. The team has come together to offer colleagues with small children staggered hours. Flextime allows moms and dads to login early, late, on weekends, etc., so they can stay present and care for their school-aged kids during the day. We have also implemented an interactive online educational childcare program, including virtual children’s yoga offered by Tracy Affonso of Artemis Yoga in Watertown, MA, Magic/Puppet Show sessions hosted by Froggle Party Time, and Storytime with youth educator and actress Samantha Cyzmbor-Smith.
Recognizing the impact of social distancing on mental health, the Vecna Robotics team is reaching out to ensure team members feel connected. This week, we teamed up with Berkshire Natural to deliver a care package of healthy(-ish!) snacks to all employees and contractors. Treats included cocoa dusted almonds, granola bars, pistachios, organic tortilla chips and peanut butter cups.
Wednesdays are also now deemed Wellness Wednesdays! At 4:30pm, members of the team join online for a virtual yoga class taught by Vecna Robotics Marketing Director, Amanda Baier. Housemates, partners, and families roll out their mats and jump in on the half-hour class for some deep breathing and a good stretch.
Employee-led clubs are central to Vecna Robotics’ culture and community. Under social distancing measures, clubs have gone virtual. Members of Running Club share images of their fitness routines, including outdoor all-weather trail runs, indoor Peloton workouts, and Zumba classes. Sharing these experiences helps team members stay active and inspired to meet their fitness goals while gyms are closed.
Board Game Club is battling it out on a weekly basis through the website Board Game Arena (sadly no tabletop flips in this simulator!). Gardening Club has also gone virtual, sharing tips on building raised beds for veggies and planting native wildflowers for pollinators.
In the absence of a shared lunchroom, and an actual, physical water cooler, a new way to share snippets of daily, personal life has emerged. The team now has a virtual “watercooler” channel on their messaging platform. Employees are encouraged to share vignettes of daily life. Images of backyard chicken coops with buckets of eggs, yawning newborns, and kitchen cooking adventures have populated the thread. Prompts, asking “What are you grateful for today?” and polls asking whether everyone is watching Tiger King help to keep the spirits up. Additionally, the Business Development team happy hour is in full swing, with the calendar invite stating, “This is a camera-on event. BYOB”.
During this time, it seems the Vecna Robotics team has become more a community than a company, swapping stories, offering support, and providing a helping hand to those in needs.