WFH in the Digital Age: Tips from Veta Health’s Remote-First Culture

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed daily life for many of us, catalyzing a work-from-home culture that may become the future of how we live and work. Prior to the new status-quo, Veta Health embraced a “remote-first” culture, which co-founder Tanvi V. Abbhi discusses below.

Written by Tanvi V. Abbhi

We made a conscious decision to embrace remote work about 18 months ago. As a start-up, finding and nurturing a talented team has been a top priority. This led us to prioritize bringing on the brightest and most driven team members, irrespective of their geographic location. By doing this, we would have to re-write the rules for our organization to ensure we remained as productive and motivated as teams operating in traditional office-based models.

We are extremely fortunate to be in a position to do so, being a startup and a technology company where most of what we do day-to-day can exist in the cloud. This is not a position we take lightly, and we are doing what we can to contribute to battling the pandemic by providing resources to chronically-ill patients to help them better manage their conditions from home. You can read more about Veta Health’s efforts here.

What “remote-first” means to us

While “remote-first” can mean various things to different folks, I’d like to share what it means to our team at Veta Health.

1. Virtual… (Almost) Everything

While we have a small office located in Johnson & Johnson’s Innovation Labs (JLABS) in New York City, our team mostly works remotely. When we made this shift, we became super users of tools that we were already leveraging including Asana, Jira, Slack, and G-Suite. We also count ourselves among the 10 million users of Zoom pre-coronavirus (the number is now 200 million+). For us, these tools are not “nice to have”, but a “must have.”

We actively manage projects on Asana and screen share during our check-in calls, which are ALWAYS done face-to-face. In some ways, it creates an even more “present” culture than traditional meetings, as there is no room to drift. Our team knows to check each of these tools for the latest on any client or project.

For us, active use of these digital tools has promoted a culture of transparency. While virtual works very well, we also recognize the importance of team bonding. That’s why every quarter we get everyone together in-person for what we call “Refresh Week”, which is 2-3 days of workshops, deep dives, and quality time.

2. Culture of Accountability

We have always sought to build a team of mission-driven, go getters and have never been a team that is focused on the amount of time someone spends in the office. With that said, we knew it would be important to give folks the tools to succeed in their roles. 

To be successful is to deeply understand your objectives relative to the company mission and to be empowered to achieve those objectives. Teamwork is crucial to this, so we implemented “user manuals”, which are short, 10 slide documents that outline our individual working styles and preferences (template here). They highlight what we value in our work (and private life) and what others can expect from us. Each new team member at Veta Health creates one and shares it with the team during their first week. This allows us to share more about ourselves and hold one another accountable.

In addition, we adopted and adapted a tracking system called Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to define and measure our quarterly and annual goals. We individually and collectively track our progress against our quarterly objectives using Asana, allowing us to work better together, remotely. 

3. Creating Space 

As remote work has become a reality in the last few weeks, the concept of creating space for oneself and one’s work is something that millions of people around the world are now contemplating. Having worked remotely over the past 18 months and as a business owner, I have learned how deeply important it is to create a space for work life and for home life. The two already blend together so much that at times, I have found myself in a grey space between the two, doing neither justice. It took me a while to get to a mentality of being intentional about creating space. It doesn’t always mean physical space, but it means head space, expectation management and a routine.

Every morning, I get up, tend to my kids, take a shower (and put on real clothes) and only dig into my emails and/or Slack messages once I am ready to “start” my workday. This allows me to be present with my family during family time and my colleagues during work time (though it’s not always linear). While having our entire family at home during quarantine has been a unique situation (admittedly, I have taken conference calls from the closet and had my nearly 3 year old son wander into video calls with clients), it has made me realize that creating the mental space for work life and home life is more important now than ever before so that I can feel that I am doing justice to both.

While remote work/work from home is not for everyone, we have seen that with the right tools, it can be a tremendous success. The most important thing is to be intentional about creating new models of work, collaboration, and accountability.

To learn more about our Covid-19 efforts, click here.


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