How We Went Virtual & Lived to Tell About It

August 1, 2019

‘Men work together,’ I told him from the heart
‘Whether they work together or apart.
 —Robert Frost

Indium started 2019 by taking a huge leap – as a company and a team – by taking our business completely virtual.

Our lease on our office space was up in December: We could renew or find a new location. While we knew we didn’t want to stay in our current spot, we weren’t quite sure where to go instead. We already had three virtual employees, so I began considering a virtual work environment.

A virtual insurance team? It didn’t sound easy.

 

To go virtual or not to go virtual...

When we announced the potential move to the team, we had a few skeptics, and even more questions to answer.

  • Will our culture erode if we go virtual?
  • How will “teamwork” happen to do our jobs well?
  • How will we hold one another accountable?
  • How will we onboard new associates?
  • How will we formally meet with our agents, carriers, and internal teams?
  • Don’t we need a physical street address?

There were plenty of obstacles, but there were also plenty of companies who run a successful virtual business every day.

 

We surveyed the team.

When we announced the potential move to the team, many were skeptical at first. We only had a few fully remote employees at the time, and the rest of us had little experience working virtually.

  • 87% were highly interested in working virtually.
  • 93% said they had a quiet, distraction-free place to work at home.
  • 47% supported creating a culture committee to keep our culture strong.
  • 70% said they would still need access to meeting space of some kind. 

Though we had some skeptics, the team was on board.

 

We did a lot of research.

Many of our teammates attribute our successful transition to the extensive planning done by our Virtual Task Force. The Task Force researched virtual work environments, planned and hosted technology training sessions, sold and donated office furniture, set up a new online phone system, and the list goes on.

“I think the transition was easy because we were prepared,” said Marc on our commercial insurance team.

The virtual taskforce was divided into five small, but important, research groups:

  • Company Guidelines, Culture, and Rituals
  • Client and Carrier Communications
  • Physical Address and Team Meetups
  • Storage and Moving
  • Training and Technology

 

We maintain company culture -- intentionally. 

Culture is the most important part of the Indium work environment, and it was our biggest concern as we prepared to go virtual. Culture is non-negotiable for our team.

It turns out that company culture has everything to do with those leading it and those enforcing it – essentially, everyone in the company. Hiring employees who naturally represent our culture

“Admittedly we are not perfect, but we put in the work ahead of time and know it’s a constant learning process,” said Ashley, controller at Indium.

 

We set up our employees for success.

“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.”

The hard work done by our Virtual Task Force teammates allowed us to set ourselves up for success. Everyone had the proper equipment and supplies to use at their home offices, and when we set up our home offices we shared photos with the whole team. Taking all our equipment to replicate our offices at home was important.

Technology – and training employees how to use it – is key to efficient communication and coworking!

As we prepared to move out of our office space, we hosted a series of team trainings to ensure everyone was comfortable using it and communicating with it. But first we had to decide on which business collaboration software we would use.

We set up and tested new software from our home offices for a “test week.”

Then we went virtual without a hitch.


We still see each other often.

We video chat with our teammates on a daily basis as if we’re in an office together.

According to NASDAQ, “Embracing technology can help make a remote team feel ‘closer.’ While team management tools like Slack or Asana are great for chatting and keeping organized, phone and video conference calls cannot be replaced. The tone of a voice reveals a lot.”

In addition to fully embracing video calls, we have company meetings in person once a month and weekly among coworkers as needed. We like to try new meeting locations around the city and then spend an hour together at happy hour afterward. Our out-of-state employees fly in to our Columbus, Ohio, HQ at least once a year so we can spend a week collaborating in person.

After 6 months of working remotely, all the skeptics had turned into fans of the virtual work environment.

If you’re considering going virtual, a great first step is to survey your staff to gauge their interest and comfortability. If you’re not yet ready to take your company fully remote, you can test the waters by allowing employees to work from home one day a week or one day a month.

 

Some of our favorite parts about working virtually:

“It provides a better work/life balance not having to deal with commuting and traffic.” -Brenna

“I’m able to work at my own pace, I don’t have to get mixed up in traffic woes, and I’m still able to converse with my teammates daily.” -Nancy

“Not driving to and from work, the flexibility and the convenience of not getting dressed up if I don’t want to.” -Melissa

“The best part is being in a comfortable space/environment. The dogs do appreciate having their human at home to boss around as well.” -Tammy

“Flexibility – I can structure my day in a way that’s the most efficient for me. I don’t feel rushed in the morning or have to deal with an unpredictable commute.” -Ashley

“Flexibility, and having access to a kitchen to prepare meals instead of eating out.” -Rose

“I am able to get more done on most days by eliminating drive time to and from work.” -Marc

“No commute!” -Courtney

“It’s forced me to be more disciplined about how I structure my day, to be more productive and to stay connected with everyone.” -Chad

 

More Resources:

Stay tuned for the next blog in our Going Virtual Series!