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I would consider myself a very social person, an extrovert if you will. I’m a visual learner and a collaborative thinker; I’m in marketing after all. With these things in mind, I’ve always wondered how I’d fare working remotely. Enter the current worldwide crisis, COVID-19. Like most businesses in Chicago, and nationwide, Paro implemented a mandatory work from home policy once it became evident that the health and safety of our employees were at risk due to the pandemic.

The Transition

From my point of view, Paro’s transition to complete remote work was seamless. I sat down with our CEO, Michael Burdick, to discuss his strategy when developing the work from home model that had to be implemented almost immediately. Our conversation focused on the following: complete transparency and over communication, health and safety of staff is first and foremost, and educate, not alarm.

From the beginning, it was very important to Michael that he stay on top of, and read all credible data that was being released about this pandemic. As a self-proclaimed ‘data nerd’, he educated himself with information coming out of China as well as data being released from epidemiologists and scientists out of Washington State.

The first communication the Paro Home Team received in regards to this crisis affecting our day to day work was on March 6th: There’s been a lot of buzz in the media about coronavirus. Wanted to share what we know and what we’re doing… This email, along with the ones proceeding it, contained up-to-date factual information about COVID-19, precautions we should be taking, and what Paro was planning on for “business as usual.”

With the help of the Paro Leadership Team, a COVID-19 contingency plan and work from home task force were created and implemented. The task force consisted of the following teams: Collaboration and Productivity Tools Mental Health & WFH Productivity Hiring, Onboarding, and Ongoing Training WFH Expectations. By EOD on March 16th, tier 4 of the contingency plan was set in motion: mandatory work from home until further notice. Because of the ‘very strong and nimble task force’, all Paro Home Team members were set up for success when transitioning to work completely remote.

I think of any company I’ve worked for, Paro was already set up for success in a remote work environment. Remote is our bread and butter as a business, but on top of that, we’ve always “practiced what we preached” and allowed our employees the same flexibility. Kaiti Xouris, Digital Marketing Manager, Paro

Managing The Change

As someone who thrives off of human interaction, I am lucky that I live with my boyfriend and dog (also known as my two new coworkers). We’ve set up a makeshift office on the dining room table and bounce ideas off of each other, just as if we were in our respective offices. I feel like I am one of the lucky ones. The uncertainty of isolation and not being able to have face-to-face interactions with people because you live alone, could be unsettling.

Kaiti Xouris, Digital Marketing Manager at Paro, lives alone and is a self-classified extrovert.

“In general, not being around people for extended periods makes me very sad. During the first week, I was as low as I’ve been in recent memory. Having moved to Chicago for the job I have now, my coworkers are my family. Not seeing them put me in near total isolation.

That said, Kaiti does believe that with all of the technology out there, now is the ideal time to be forced into a remote work situation.

“We’re so connected and able to communicate with each other, that didn’t exist 10 years ago.”

Mike Graham, Senior Recruiter at Paro, lives with his wife and two dogs.

“It’s been a good transition. My wife and I both have our own workspaces. I don’t have any complaints. However, I think I talk too loud sometimes. Now my workspace is in the basement.”

Whether you live alone, live with roommates or a significant other, your mental health is most important. The shift to complete remote work is a drastic one. 

Tips And Tricks

When transitioning to complete remote work, adaptation can be hard. For me, maintaining my morning routine and taking normal lunch breaks has been very important.

For Kaiti, keeping a good headspace is critical: “I’ve been taking walks and listening to podcasts, and jumping on calls with my work friends to catch up and just complain about how miserable being totally alone is. This is a global pandemic and it is way bigger than any of us can fully comprehend, but we’re all still impacted emotionally and need to talk about it.

Jared Blitz, Financial Consultant at Paro, shared this advice: “When you wake up, work through the same routine you normally would, shower, making coffee, breakfast, and also get dressed like you would for work (rather than putting on some sweatpants).  Definitely keeps me in routine.

As Kaiti stated, this is a global pandemic, “literally, everyone on the planet is experiencing this at the same time.”

Since we are ‘all in this together’, I asked the Paro Home Team to send me tips or tricks they recommend when adapting to complete remote work:

  1. Structure, structure, structure
  2. Lots and lots and lots of over-communication
  3. Be sure to take breaks at least every three hours
  4. Go for midday walks
  5. Set up a workspace
  6. If you do not have one, build a makeshift standing desk
  7. Keep your morning routine
  8. Set daily goals

Because of Paro’s remote-first model, our new ‘business as usual’ has been an easy transition, but it’s not so easy for every organization. For more resources on effective remote work, click here.