Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Working in a Post-COVID World

Squaremouth

No. 4 Small | Insurance/Non-Health Care | St. Petersburg

Rethinking its Office Needs

As a software development company, Squaremouth is comfortable in the virtual world.

Before the pandemic, the company’s Indiana office was already working a hybrid schedule — in the office some days and working remotely other days. The company’s call center went completely remote in 2018. “We already had the pieces in place to go to a remote work environment,” says Megan Moncrief, chief marketing officer.

Events over the past year and a half have forced the company even further down that path.

Before the pandemic, the organization purchased a former church with 23,000 square feet of space. The intention was to convert it into a cool office space, Silicon Valley-style.

“We had ideas for a spa, a treehouse, a gym — tons of quirky things,” Moncrief says.

Now Squaremouth is selling the property.

The company has decided working remotely is a good fit and won’t renew its lease on its St. Petersburg office when it expires in December. “I don’t think we’ll ever go back to a 100% in-office environment,” she says.

The company uses digital collaboration tools, such as Slack, Google Meet and Zoom, to stay connected on a day-to-day basis. After December, when face-to-face meetings and get-to-gethers are required, they plan to look for a smaller office or use co-working spaces.

“We really just don’t need space 24/7.”

 

Gehring Group

No. 2 Midsized | Health Care Insurance/Services | Palm Beach Gardens

Reopening in Stages

COO Kate Grangard says the Gehring Group is “built on relationships inside and outside the office,” so having face-to-face time is important. As the world starts opening back up, the company has settled on a staged approach to reopening its offices. In June, the Gehring Group started having mandatory meetings and get-to-gethers at the office. The company plans to return to the office full time after Labor Day.

Reopening Plans: “We had a return-to-work committee that really helped develop policy. There were about 20 people on the committee, and anyone in our organization could volunteer to serve on it.”

Timeline: “We wanted to allow people with children time to make arrangements for child care and get back into a routine.”

Changes as a Result of COVID: “We have made Friday a standard telecommute day through December. We now have equipment in all our employees’ homes, so people who did not get to telecommute in the past will have that opportunity. Moving to a hybrid world is something that might be extended. We’ll see how it goes.”

Biggest Adjustments for Employees: “During COVID, we moved into a new office if you can imagine. It is like you go away to college and when you come back, your parents have sold your home. We hope our interim mandatory meetings will help employees get acclimated to the new space before returning full time.”

Possibility of Full-Time Remote Work: “We are very clear in our identity. We are not a remote company. We’re in the hallways; we’re bantering off of each other. Sometimes, you just have to be in the room.”

 

KnowBe4

No. 8 Large | Technology | Clearwater

Since KnowBe4 has offices internationally, it started hearing about border closings due to COVID-19 early. It began sending employees home sooner than most companies in the U.S.

“We made the decision, and 48 hours later, everybody was working from home,” says Erika Lance, senior vice president of people operations.

Throughout the pandemic, some employees have requested to return to the office with safety precautions in place like social distancing, mask requirements, temperature checks and on-site testing.

Most employees, however, have grown accustomed to working from home and like it. Going forward, KnowBe4 will offer the option of remote work when job duties allow it, and employees will be able to choose whether they work entirely remotely or whether they work in the office some days and at home other days.

Challenges to Flexible Work Locations: “Making sure your managers are trained on how to manage a remote team. It is important to stay in contact with your employees, so they continue to grow. What you don’t want is an ‘out of sight out of mind’ thing.”

Percentage of Employees Working Remotely: “I think we are going to see about 50% work from home and about 45% doing some version of hybrid. About 5% will be in the office.”

Permanent Changes? “Things change, and you have to be willing to pivot. I can tell you what the next couple of months is going to look like, but from there, we are just going to keep looking at it.”

Jill S. Schwartz & Associates

No. 3 Small | Legal | Winter Park

Fun with Flexibility

As an essential business, Jill S. Schwartz & Associates never officially closed during the pandemic, but office traffic was reduced 50% through rotating schedules, allowing employees to do remote client consultations, mediations and depositions.

Since work performance has remained high, Managing Partner Jill Schwartz says the company’s future work environment will be more flexible.

She asked her staff to submit their schedule preferences going forward. Most prefer a combination of working from home and commuting to the office.

“The clients have been very happy, and the work is being done at a high level, so if I can provide some flexibility, I’m happy to do that.”

Schwartz is making creative use of Zoom for office functions. During the 2020 holiday season, she had an office party via Zoom.

“Instead of going to a restaurant, I sent food baskets to everybody, so they could have snacks during the party.”

Instead of gifts, Schwartz made a donation to the employees’ charity of choice. Plans for future virtual team-building sessions include a dinner party and a scavenger hunt.

“We’re trying to be flexible,” Schwartz says. “And it’s been a lot of fun.”

 

Citizens Property Insurance

No. 10 Large | Government Entity/Insurance | Tallahassee

Emphasis on Coaching

Though Citizens Property’s three Florida offices are open, most employees have been working remotely for more than a year. Citizens is now working on plans to create a hybrid work environment, says Violet Bloom, chief human resources officer.

“Our employees have demonstrated over the last 15-plus months that the business operations can get done with the majority working remotely,” she says.

The company plans to increase in-person operations in September, and managers are still working on what that looks like.

“We will have more in-office operations, but it will be focused on intentional opportunities to gather together in person. In other words, there will be a purpose and a benefit for coming into the office.”

When most of a company’s employees work remotely, the biggest challenge is staying connected, Bloom says.

Beginning in 2020, quarterly check-ins replaced midyear and annual performance reviews with an emphasis on coaching and professional development. The more frequent check-ins allow regular opportunities to clarify goals and expectations as well as ensure that employees have the resources, training and support they need.

The company has been using virtual chats and leadership development events to provide training and tips on managing in a hybrid work environment.

 

Worksite

No. 4 Midsized | Employee Leasing Services | North Port

Creative Team BuildingClassified as an essential business, Worksite did not close its office during the pandemic, but it did send everyone home who could work from home.

“We thinned the herds,” says Chief Administration Officer Keith Weyher.

Today, between 17 and 20 full-time employees work from home, which will allow the company to hire needed staff without relocating to a larger facility.

“We’re growing, and we have to hire,” Weyher says.

Working in a hybrid world presents some challenges, however, for a company that likes to “spoil our employees.”

“We do monthly massages. We feed them every Monday. We do fun activities.”

Having some employees at home and some in the office, however, means getting creative with team building and other job perks. In addition to meetings, Worksite employees use Zoom and Microsoft Teams to play virtual games, such as bingo. Plus, when employees in the office participate in a teambuilding activity, the same materials are sent to remote workers, so they can also participate.

For example, on Earth Day, employees at the North Port office planted seeds to take home with them. Management sent the same seed kits to the homes of remote workers, so they could join the fun via live feed.

“Happy employees equal happy clients.”