It’s December 2019. A mysterious virus has surfaced in a Chinese seafood and poultry market. Even though the media is reporting dozens of infections in Wuhan, a province of China with more than 11 million citizens, Europe seems safe at this point, so does Romania (where we are located). We prepare for Christmas and enjoy one of the last parties at the office, not knowing that in 2020 the new virus will generate a pandemic, upending life and derailing the global economy, changing everything for companies from securing production to HR strategies.
As the nations were racing to secure vaccines, leaders worldwide were grasping the notion that this new virus is here to stay for a lot longer than some anticipated or hoped for. The virus, which we refer now to as COVID-19, has tested our limits, forcing us to rely on new processes and business strategies in order to navigate the health and financial crisis it generated.
It was a time of trial and error for governments and leaders, with rules that put many companies out of work and limited the activity for many others. If we think of the economy as this ocean and imagine all companies as different types of boats navigating the vast space, it is easy to see how some struggled more than others. It happened so because some companies were at the front of the massive waves that brought new rules and recommendations. Also, some boats already had holes in them, before the turbulence even started. So, especially for them, it was hard to keep steady in such times of testing.
But what about us, an independent custom software development company from Sibiu, Romania? Where were we in this ocean and what have we learned that we can share for the benefit of others?
As an agile company, with a strong and diversified team and a long-term technological partner for our clients, adapting was always part of our DNA. Even so, a pandemic brought challenges like no other and very soon we realized we needed a new series of processes to keep our team engaged, productive and ease the progression to a new norm for work hours. The first months weren’t so much about what software solutions to use, but rather about managing to align to the fast changing requirements of an unpredictable world.
Flexible schedule – checked
We cultivated a flexible work schedule way before the pandemic, and that has helped our team immensely. When the 1st wave of this pandemic hit, we switched fairly easily to a fully work from home program, so we could focus more on promoting the security and protection of our teams.
The virus that killed more than 1.6 million and sickening more than 76 million in just one year, made it clear for us we need our own people monitoring the news, communicating them briefly and clearly to all our teams and promoting safety, before everything else. In January 2020 we updated our procedures, taking into account the new context, and those became mandatory starting the 15th of March.
During those times that brought the hardest restrictions and bound us to our homes, our development strategy came to a halt. As soon as the hardest times passed, our focus and grid was back in full force, and growing our business became the priority. We were able to recuperate and finish 2020 with a better sales figure than 2019, and a growing list of new clients and personnel.
Staying true to our “people first” rule
We master Cloud, Big Data, Web, Mobile, and DevOps technologies to build commercially efficient software. But how do we manage balancing work and personal life, more so in households where homes become offices, schools and playgrounds all at once?
This was one of our struggles in the pandemic times. In order to help our teams settle and feel engaged, we scheduled weekly online meetings in small groups (no more than 10 people). These meetings were attended by senior managers at Ropardo that checked on the well-being of everyone, identified issues, tackled special needs and spotted struggles. We never talked about projects or clients in these kinds of meetings, keeping IT simple and still fun.
Never stop learning – more so during a pandemic
As part of Ropardo, more than 90% of our members completed their certifications with one or more of the following: Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, ISTQB, ITIL. So, yes, training is a big step in our company culture. The pandemic didn’t stop us from giving our team members the opportunity to make the most of their skills and abilities.
In order for us to keep learning and growing as a team, we moved all our training online and also organized technical courses, public speaking training, courses for remote work and communication from a distance. We didn’t grow apart, but took advantage of the cutting-edge technology we have access to and molded it to fit our particular needs.
What is our final take on navigating a pandemic with a team intact?
Even before the pandemic, depression, anxiety, and attention-related disorders were already high in our society. As were chronic stress and burnout cases. The pandemic just made it even clear we should prioritize the well-being of our teams, really putting people first.
A work environment that allows you to feel comfortable and enjoy what you are doing is what we strive for at Ropardo and that has helped immensely in navigating this pandemic with our team unscattered.
Forward is the only way to go has been our mentality during these times.
It is clear that digitalizing the internal processes can help efficiently manage teams worldwide. The physical space may seem like a barrier between us, but coming together online has never been easier and more supported. In the months post pandemic, our take is we shouldn’t try to get back to what it all was before, but bravely keep searching for solutions for this bright era of progression.