How a Small Tech Company Has Adjusted to the Hybrid Work Environment: Insights from 2021

How a Small Tech Company Has Adjusted to the Hybrid Work Environment: Insights from 2021

2021 brought a lot of challenges to tech companies and many have concerns leading into 2022. Along with the typical hurdles a small tech company will face, at Azavea we have learned to work in a hybrid environment, experienced some staff turnover, and onboarded new hires remotely. Considering how much we learned from 2021, as the year came to a close we gathered learnings from our colleagues to help us work effectively in 2022. We wanted to share some of these tips and plans for this upcoming year as a way to support our friends in the tech-for-good community. 

Alana Hill
Marketing Lead
Jillian Long
Business Development Associate

Zoë Cohen
VP of Business Development

2021 Learnings

After conducting an internal survey to gather learnings from 2021, we compiled five key insights that apply to anyone navigating this new work environment:

  1. Use the right communication channels at the right time. Whether it be a Slack call or Huddle, Google Meet, email, or a GitHub issue, it’s important to consider the best way to communicate your message.”
  2. Good speaking order matters when it comes to the flow of a meeting. Agendas also help, but having a “schedule of speakers” in even a small or regular meeting helps it go smoothly. 
  3. “Meeting people where they’re at is important at all levels of the company. Giving people the space to let you know what they need in order to be successful and productive is critical in a remote/hybrid setting.”
  4. “I’m not a manager, but I set up a monthly one-on-one call with everyone on my team. It’s a way to get some of the good parts of running into a coworker in the kitchen, even if you are in different locations. When you only see someone in meetings, there are certain details that don’t come up but are still important.” 
  5. Laughter is important in maintaining a human connection in a virtual world.”

At Azavea the option to work remotely is here to stay. We will not return to the typical workday we had prior to March 2020. The tips above have been vital to maintaining the culture that makes Azavea unique. Also, we know that some people enjoy the advantages of remote work, while others miss the sense of community that came from working in an office. To accommodate all these preferences, we have learned to be flexible in order to provide the optimal work experience. We appreciate our team for applying the above practices to not only keep Azaveans productive but happy.


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Anticipated Challenges for 2022

As we kick off 2022, we anticipate our main challenges being: 

  1. Attracting and hiring technical talent
  2. Fostering an appealing hybrid work environment

We have always prioritized creating an appealing environment for current and prospective employees. However, COVID has resulted in major impacts in the market for technical talent and changed our expectations or work. We have put plans in place so we can adapt effectively.


Plans for 2022

Hiring

We are embarking on some serious hiring efforts this year and the market for technical talent is more competitive than ever. We’re expanding our Operations Engineering team, User Experience (UX) team, hiring more software engineers across teams, and bringing technical talent onto our Executive team by seeking a VP of Engineering. (See our careers page for more details.) Our hiring process is already unique as we lead with a focus on mission alignment to the work we do. We know this will be tough, so we have plans in place to ease the strain on our hiring teams:

  1. Use multiple avenues to find talent including diverse job boards, internal recruiting, and working with an external recruiting firm specialized in mission-oriented organizations.
  2. Continue to iterate on our structured interviews process, giving us a clear way to evaluate candidates fairly and efficiently.
  3. Create hiring teams that include colleagues from a variety of roles across Azavea, with our People Ops team leading the process.

Work Environment

We aim to create an environment that is engaging and accommodating of varying preferences. We are looking to take on projects that are exciting to our colleagues. We also are providing options to foster a flexible environment so employees have the freedom to navigate how they are most productive. Here are our commitments for 2022:

  1. Going forward, we are choosing new projects strategically in line with our colleagues’ interests. 
  2. We aim for software engineers to work on an average of 2 projects per sprint. (A 2-week timeframe as part of agile methodology, an iterative approach to project management that enables us to build better, more useful tools for our clients.) 
  3. Provide time in the workday for team members to connect through “Donuts”, team lunches, and celebrations.
  4. We expect people to be online for meetings during our core hours – 10am to 2pm ET. Outside of those hours, our colleagues have the freedom and flexibility to tailor their remaining work hours to fit their ideal schedule and time zone. 
  5. Provide in-person and online options for major gatherings, i.e. our annual meeting, happy hours, and game nights. 
  6. Teams can decide whether they want to be colocated in 1 city – for some of our teams, this is important, for others it isn’t. Some Azaveans have used this opportunity to travel and explore new cities, without work hindering them.
  7. We encourage teams that work remotely to find a time to regularly meet in person at a frequency that works best for the respective team. 

If we have learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that each year is unpredictable. 2022 will bring its own challenges. However, we have put our best foot forward in confronting the challenges we anticipate (and are prepared to face the ones we don’t). We look forward to expanding our organization in 2022 and fostering a healthy work environment for current and future employees. Happy New Year to all in the tech-for-good community!