As Covid-19 swept across the globe, mobile payment and merchant services company Square made a proactive move in early March to ensure the health of its employees and business. All employees were encouraged to work from home and all scheduled group events would be canceled for the foreseeable future.
“The Australia team appreciated that we were making their welfare our first and foremost priority,” says Caitlin Walsh, communications and policy manager for Square’s Australia team.
A key component of the company’s shift to remote work: Slack. Existing Slack channels—where team members can share messages, tools and files in a Slack workspace—evolved, while new ones popped up to provide important information and updates, as well as much-needed connection and levity.
Building empathy and alignment across the globe with Slack
Square team members across offices in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland quickly adapted to daily stand-ups in Slack and remote meetings via Google Hangouts. Each team in each office also has their own Slack channel for department-specific discussions. These dedicated channels ensure that everyone can asynchronously catch up, no matter where their office is located.
“I can post what’s happening on my end, and then when I wake up, my colleagues in Dublin or the U.K. have answered,” says Walsh. “With Slack, we can get up to speed without filtering through a stacked inbox. It’s more immediate communication, which is so important at this time.”
“With Slack, we can get up to speed without filtering through a stacked inbox. It’s more immediate communication, which is so important at this time.”
#local-leads channel for example, managers across the different functional areas in Australia can sync at a higher level and stay connected to ensure executives in the U.S., and around the world, have a holistic understanding of what’s happening in the local market.
“We can jump into a channel, share docs and say hi to everyone,” says Walsh. “It’s useful for us to align on both day-to-day matters and strategy. Slack has really helped level the playing field as teams make a conscientious effort to keep everyone in the know no matter where they are in the world.”
Square also uses Slack shared channels, a feature that connects two independent organizations in the same Slack workspace, to maintain daily communications with outside vendors and stakeholders, while Square employees are turning to Slack integrations such as Jira to streamline workflows.
Square adopts best practices with its remote workforce in Slack
Walsh and other senior leaders in Square’s Australia team are prioritizing how to use Slack to “alleviate pain points and ensure people have access to social channels and counseling as needed.”
Square’s newest Slack channels include:
#coronavirus-questionsfor employees to review well-informed answers about travel, self-quarantine advice and local guidance
#questionsfor global employee inquiries during Square’s now fully remote all-hands meetings and presentations
#jackama, where CEO Jack Dorsey is always open to questions, many of which now concern Covid-19, the future of Square and how Dorsey is thinking about the business more globally
#wfh-matesfor pictures and updates about teammates’ pets—the new office mates.
#wfh-lunchfor teammates to take midday breaks and share recipes, new snacks and nutritious pantry hacks
Walsh also stresses the need to set work parameters and encourages teammates to adopt a “virtual commute” so employees can ramp up in the morning and disconnect in the evening.
“You’re reducing commute time by working remotely, so people can jump online earlier or later throughout the day as needed,” Walsh says.
As a team lead, Walsh recognizes that keeping people connected during the coronavirus pandemic is paramount to Square’s success and, more importantly, team morale.
“Being a globally distributed workforce, a lot of us know how to work remotely but we all still crave a connected and socially engaged workplace, and Slack really helps with this,” says Walsh. “We’re still humans, just living and working together in a different way.”