What We’ve Learned a Year Into Covid-19

A year ago, we closed down the 25madison office in response to Covid-19. At the time, we had no idea how long it would be before we saw each other again. The last year has brought challenges, learnings, and unexpected benefits that impact our team and the businesses we help build. We’ve shared some of our learnings below.

By Grant Silow

1. Culture Matters

When we put together our first betting pool on return-to-office dates, nobody had a prediction further out than Memorial Day 2020. Even that two and a half month stretch seemed like it would pose serious risks to our cohesion and productivity. But, we were wrong.

A year later, we’re moving faster than ever. I attribute this to our culture. While our leadership generally relies on employee initiative to move our business forward, we snapped into a new routine when we went remote. After initially over-correcting with daily standups, we settled on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday routine in which everyone reports on top priorities and flags any “blockers” they’re experiencing. We’ve had ad hoc happy hours, continued the tradition of our Long Island retreat (outdoors and distanced), and initiated a weekly trivia game via Slack. By staying present in each other’s daily routines, we’ve overcome physical distance and become closer as a team.

2. Overcommunicate

Using our regular standups and ad hoc team meetings, we are very communicative about ongoing projects, challenges and priorities. As a result, I feel more attuned to what colleagues are working on more than I ever did pre-Covid, and we’re more engaged in each other’s work as a result.

Sharing learnings builds institutional knowledge and helps newer employees climb the learning curve faster, even when some of us haven’t met in person yet.

3. Enforce Rest

Over the summer, our leadership realized that nobody was taking days for themselves. In response, they announced a mandatory week off for the whole team. It was an unexpected and awesome benefit, and everyone was even more pleased when they announced another week off over the holidays. Each time, people came back well-rested and ready to charge ahead.

4. Adapting Systems is Key

As a company that builds companies, we rely heavily on creative thinking. When we have water cooler talks, walks to lunch in Union Square, and after-work drinks, it’s natural to brainstorm and kick ideas around. In a remote setting, we had to upgrade our systems to make those interactions feel natural.

We upgraded from Teams to Slack, went head-first into Zoom, and began using an online collaboration tool called Miro for brainstorming sessions. I see more of my colleagues now than I did previously, and our creativity hasn’t slowed down a bit.

5. Make Lemonade

This past year handed the world a proverbial pile of lemons. As serial entrepreneurs, it’s in our nature to make lemonade out of those lemons. We saw Covid-19 driving people out of nursing homes, so we launched Ruby to help seniors age safely and independently at home. The pandemic, coupled with recent natural disasters like the California wildfires, highlighted the need for disaster preparedness. In response, we created harbor, the app that makes disaster planning simple for families and businesses.

Opportunity is everywhere, and sometimes it’s hard to identify. But every challenge comes with a number of potential solutions, and innovative teams need to create them.

25madison is an NYC-based venture studio, incubating companies from the ground up and investing in early-stage companies. Learn more at 25madison.com.

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