Working in 2020 – The new normal is a hoax

I don’t believe in “the new normal”. There, I’ve said it. Normal implies stagnation. And if the last 10 years have taught me anything, it’s that business – and life for that matter – are anything but stagnant.

We’ve been agile throughout. When we started, scaled our company, developed our solution, looked for people, investors. Each one of the past 3650 days brought about a new challenge, a new element that disrupted the previous day. And that’s a good thing. It brought about a can-do mindset and hands-on work/life balance that works for us. Because agility is in our DNA.

On March 14th, Belgium had to stay indoors. We were all working from home on the 12th already. Homeworking has always been a part of our company culture. We just had to find a new balance for the sheer scale of it.

We chose inclusion over seclusion. Acceptation over isolation. An agile crossover towards the 1,5m community. Over the last couple of weeks, we found a new balance. As people, as a company. Time to share.

Bram Verniest

Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist

@ CHILI publish

We took a stand early on. Whatever business risks we may have taken in the past, we never venture the safety and health of our people. Homeworking was the way to go until advisory boards and regulations recommended otherwise.

But like it or not, we're in the business of selling. Products, solutions, relationships, but also trust, credibility, and reliability. And with nonverbal, tactile communication making up for about 60-80% of all business communication, how can you establish closeness when it's intangible?

First things first, we get practical.

On the importance of comfort in everyday homeworking life

For our team

IT. Information Technology - providing our team with the technological means to an information end. Operating worldwide, navigating through different time zones, serving clients all hours of the day, we're no strangers to homeworking. But having all of them working remotely at the same time? We had to up our ante. (major props to our IT engineer!)

  • Expand our internet line capacity. - Our framework needed bandwidth; he took care of it.
  • Beef up our VPN - You can resort to split tunneling as a temp solution, but we really recommend expanding your license. It is worth it.
  • Teams/Zoom/Slack/… - Name it, we've tried it. Now we use mostly Teams and Zoom, depending on the conversation, focus, or goal of the online meeting. And with your own personalized background, you'll be the light of any online party. Trial, error. Comfort, success.
  • Courier service - We had a new colleague joining our team the day Corona said, "not today." We shipped all his equipment over and did a Teams onboarding session. He's still with us. We can't thank the delivery guys and girls enough.

For our customers

E-commerce is booming. That calls for good web shops that are preferably set up by someone who knows what (s)he's doing. (Not doubting your relatives here, but you catch our drift)

  • Our work happens in the browser, but it always called for API integration. Our customers asked we complied. Sito presto - CHILI publisher Online.
  • All the online editing features - As a SaaS. Web2printers can now abide comfortably by current demand. They can choose to expand their application range to find new business.
  • Creativity - We've even seen cases where they cooperate with local artists to boost local shopping. Small changes make big differences.

As far as we know, our team and customers are working as comfortably as we as an employer/provider can secure for them.

At the Office

Meanwhile, in Belgium, measures are relaxing to facilitate the office return.

For those in dire need of a change of scenery, our office manager (aka miracle worker) prepped the office:

  • Hand sanitizer in bulk, face masks on stock
  • Partitions to safeguard the 1,5m rule - clear signage on the do’s and don’ts
  • Stocked up on coffee beans

No in-house designer?

Create your own signage using the handy templates KAN design is offering everyone. Free of charge, powered by yours truly.

Why balance should be the new comfort zone

We all know magic happens outside the comfort zone, but for people to work comfortably from home, they need to have balance within their home.

Never ever before has work so coercively penetrated our homes. Exceptions aside, most people only work from home one day per week. They may or may not have a dedicated workspace. And the lucky ones who do, still have to make arrangements with kids and life partners to have some quiet worktime without interruptions.

Truth be told, I think we can now all relate to this professor’s ordeal some years back

So, whether you are single, living together with a partner and or child(ren), you must safeguard your own sanity for your work-life balance to be sanitary.

How? Do something for your mind, your body, and your soul.

Nineties kids will remember these lyrics

We asked our team how they find balance. Here’s what they say.

1. Free your mind…

No worries, we’re not suggesting holistic yoga or anything, unless that is your thing. But the abrupt silencing of life outdoors has gotten people to factor in some much-needed me-time to deal with the loud musings in their own mind.

We may be team players, but we’re individuals first. So, do what it takes to have some time to yourself and find some peace of mind. Here’s how we quiet down and keep our thoughts from bouncing off the walls:

  • Take a nap - Even a power one. Many people go sleep-deprived during a crisis. Don’t resort to pills. Acknowledge your mind’s attempt to rewire and take the time you need.
  • Listen to some music - The music challenge on Facebook (list the 10 records that defined you) makes for a perfect combo with that Spotify Premium subscription. Rediscover old loves find some new ones. Let your brain focus on something else for a change.
  • Green love - Take care of your garden or bring some flowers or plants in the house. It will clear the air in more than one way. You'll be surprised as to how it may affect everyone's mood.
  • Keep a journal - No, not a “dear diary” moment, but a #threegoodthings journal. At the end of every day, write down 3 good things that made your day, lifted your spirits, put a smile on your face. Business or pleasure - doesn't matter.
  • Free up your own bandwidth - What is it that you must do/ could do/ should do/ want to do? Think of it as Mary Kondo for business - does it spark joy? Yes, keep. No, drop.

2. The body achieves what the mind believes

Some people take great pleasure in intense workouts. We get it - while suffering, the mind forgets about the other daily aggravations. But not everyone had a routine before Corona, and they’re not sure how to get started. Here’s what our people are doing to make sure their body remains a temple. (Hey - even ruins were temples once)

  • Drink water - Start with a cup of coffee, but try to drink at least 1,5l throughout your day.
  • Eat healthy food - Are the fridge and hidden cookie stack really calling your name, or are you dodging deadline bullets?
  • Take supplements - As in vitamins. Up to 5 grams of natural vitamin C every single day will help build your immune system. Make sure the active ingredient is labeled as L-ascorbic acid, any other form is most likely an artificial variant or less potent. Not sure? Ask your doctor or health practitioner.
  • Laugh - Free those endorphins. Smile at least 5 times, laugh out loud at least once a day.
  • Nag - That’s right. Have at it. Call your best friend, join Houseparty, tell people who care what’s bothering you. Works wonders for the stressed mind too, mind you.
  • Work out - Some minor stretching will relieve the pain in the neck (nope, not the kids we’re referring to here). Join an online class of whatever body exercise you always wanted to try.
  • Go for a walk - Explore your hometown by going on a long walk. (Our Strava profiles are getting more hits than ever). Go for a bike ride, even on rolls in your living room.
  • Play with your kids/cat/dog - Fake wrestling, tickle sessions, hide and seek around the house. Sticking to your work ethic is excellent, but your kids will remember that your breaks were spent on their wellbeing. And your pets, well… you know pets.
  • Have fun - We host a weekly e-peritive. Every Friday, we join a Zoom session. No work or shop talk, just jokes, funny stabs, some weird costumes on occasion, and kids dropping in to say hi to everyone. It keeps us close, even from afar.

3. And what about the soul?

Soul-searching is not our field of expertise, but we are seeing that people are holding onto our core values for dear life. Now even more so than before. OTF.
Not a font, but short for:

  • Ownership
  • Team spirit
  • Flexibility

What we hold dear in life, reflects on the work we put out there. As COO and as a person, I am proud to see how every one of our people stepped up in his/her own way. To make the most of the worst possible scenario.

Responsibility educates

What I have experienced lately, brings me to my closing thought of this blog.

As I contemplate the last seven weeks, responsibility pops up most in my mind. And the realization that we are all both the cause and the solution of the matter.

Our team dealt with the challenge and opportunity of doing things differently. We rolled out a fully operational SaaS solution at record speed, from the work-invaded privacy of our homes.

We manage to make each other laugh daily, outdoing one another with Zoom costume parties (check our Instagram) and background quirkiness. And we look out for one another, supporting those when and where they need it.

The same goes for our partners and customers - deploying their knowledge and expertise to help take care of those taking care of us.

It’s one thing to preach community, but another one to feel it.
This one goes out to everyone - keep taking good care of one another.

Bear in mind - even The Force gets disturbed every now and then. That doesn't make it any less forceful.





Bram Verniest

Apr 6, 2020

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