Working from home: Remembering an unforgettable year

3 ServiceNow employees look back on a year of working from home.

March 11, 2020. Does that date ring a bell? For many, it won’t soon be forgotten. It’s the day when many companies across the globe closed their doors to keep workers safe from the pandemic.

ServiceNow employees were told, “Be safe and go home.” This marked the official beginning of our work-from-home experience, one that turned our work lives—and many personal lives—upside down.

Valerie B., director of research and scientific programs, vividly remembers getting the news. “I thought, ‘This will be great. My kids will be at home. I’m going to take it easy. We’ll be back in the office in a couple weeks,’” she recalls.

Senior Support Manager Claudia N. echoes those sentiments. She believed the work-from-home mandate would last a couple of months at most. “At the time, I hadn’t quite wrapped my head around the magnitude of the pandemic,” she says. “Never did I imagine how life was about to change.”

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As some offices begin to welcome back employees, and others remain unable to open, we spoke with a few ServiceNow team members about their year away from colleagues. They shared what they missed most, how they adapted to the support they received, and what they’re looking forward to when they return to the office.

In-person interactions build team chemistry

Employees agree: Zoom can be amazing. Still, there’s no substitute for face-to-face collaboration.

Toni M., senior director of product content, believes in-person interactions create a dynamic, intangible “shared energy.” She compares the phenomenon to watching some of her favorite musical artists perform digitally versus attending a concert.

“When you’re around a group of people who all share the same passion, there’s a vibrancy that simply cannot be replicated online,” she says. “I think it’s the same thing with an office environment.”

Valerie adds that it’s often impossible to “read between the lines” and gauge body language through a screen.

"Each week, we had some kind of call, whether it was to discuss business, answer my questions, or even just to see how I was doing. This was great reassurance for me," said Claudia N., ServiceNow senior support manager, about working from home.

Support can make all the difference

Regular digital meetings seemed to be the most important tool for helping employees get through the tough transition.

As a new employee, Claudia says she had “continuous touchpoints” with her manager. “Each week, we had some kind of call, whether it was to discuss business, answer my questions, or even just to see how I was doing,” she says. “This was great reassurance for me.”

Reassurances from senior management were also beneficial.

“[CEO] Bill McDermott’s announcement in the very beginning of the pandemic that there would be no layoffs was huge,” Toni says. “That was a major weight taken off everyone’s mind—especially as the year progressed.”

Another form of support came from the perk allowance given to full-time employees. Although the amount varied by region, the perk allowed for extra money to be spent on overall health and wellness—for anything from online fitness classes or tutoring to new exercise equipment. In Toni’s case, it came in the form of a new balance board, which allows her to exercise while working at her standing desk.

Benefits of returning to the office

Although COVID-19 continues run rampant in some parts of the world, vaccinations are rapidly improving the outlook in other parts, allowing more offices to open.

“Getting that team energy back is important—but just getting a regular change of scenery is also huge,” Valerie says. “We have beautiful offices here in Montreal. Being able to move from your office to another’s to the cafeteria to the café will be a welcome change of scenery.”

“For me, returning to the office will be about the camaraderie we build through personal interactions,” Claudia says. “I’ve been here over a year and have yet to meet my team in person. We are in regular contact through Zoom, but people generally don’t contact you that way just to say hello and engage in small talk. Plus, I’ve heard that I’ve missed out on a bunch of good food, coffee, and team-building activities.”

Lessons learned along the way

Employees rallied together to take care of each other, deliver results and, ultimately, learn some positive lessons.

One such lesson is that remote meetings can be effective, Valerie says. “This means less business travel, a decrease in our environmental footprint, and increase in family time.”

Toni says mass working from home has helped us all understand the flexibility required for engaging with people in other time zones, countries, and continents.

“We’ve made great strides in the past year in remote working, but there’s still room for improvement,” she says. “If we can take what we’ve learned and apply it as we go back into the office, we will become more effective remote collaborators.”

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