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Life at Fastly: taking care of our team amid a global pandemic

Even as millions of people go online to work, learn, and access essential services, our research tells us the internet is up for the challenge. But we know firsthand that the health of the web isn’t just about code and infrastructure. It’s about making sure the people who build it — and build on top of it — are healthy. 

As a provider of essential services to so many digital companies, taking care of our people is a direct path to ensuring that our customers can help people read the latest news, find the information and things they need, and connect with each other. It’s also the right thing to do. On a more personal note, for many of us, there’s been both a deep desire to help others and an overwhelming loss of control at the same time. Building programs and providing resources to help our people feel safe and supported has been tremendously meaningful. 

It’s worth saying: we know we are in a privileged position to even write this post. We are able to work remotely, we are employed, and we work for a company that leads with its values. We want to share some of the ways that we’re supporting our team right now in hopes that it gives you some insight into our culture, or perhaps even, gives you some ideas on how you might support yours. And we know there’s more we can be doing. Please reach out to us on Twitter if you have ideas or resources to share. 

Laying the foundation to support our teams

On March 2, Fastly became a fully remote company overnight. As Joshua, our CEO, shared, our experience as a partially distributed team made it easier for our IT, HR, Infrastructure, and Workplaces teams to quickly activate the essentials: ensuring people had secure access to the tools they needed to do their jobs, providing information and resources for those new to working remotely, introducing temporary emergency sick leave in the United States, and publishing guidelines for working during a pandemic. But bigger questions quickly followed: How do we take care of people when they get sick? How do we address and assuage fears? How can we account for each employees’ differing circumstances and needs? How do we protect our employees’ mental health?

Although this is uncharted territory, there has been a great deal of resource sharing happening both inside of Fastly and across the HR community. Over the past nine weeks, we’ve activated a number of programs to address these bigger questions and adjusted for what we’ve learned along the way. Here are some of the tenets we’re following and how we’re fulfilling them. 

Ask employees what they need

Early on, we launched the employee Emergency Response Survey via CultureAmp in order to get a deeper understanding of what our employees were experiencing and to inform our priorities. As much as we can rely on our experience and best practices, this is not a scenario any of us have been through before. We wanted to surface important themes that we could address through programs, get more specific information on individual needs, and check for blind spots. As we continue to navigate the changing conditions of the pandemic, we’ll be measuring sentiment and understanding the impact of the situation on our employees over time through a periodic employee pulse survey

Over communicate

One of our earliest realizations was that our teams needed more communication across the board, in volume, frequency, and variety. In addition to ramping up executive communications (Joshua sends weekly emails, hosts drop-in office hours, and runs recurring AMAs where employees can ask questions anonymously via POPin), we’re regularly updating an internal Confluence page with relevant information and answers to frequently asked questions. We also realized that at a time when people are overwhelmed and feeling anxious, going in search of resources can add additional stress. We started surfacing reminders about ongoing programs and resources that could be useful during this time, like our Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Telehealth resources, Donut meetups, and LinkedIn Learning

Recognize that people managers face new challenges

Leading and managing people during a global pandemic creates additional complexity. It felt important to support our managers with additional resources and, importantly, permission to lead with compassion and empathy. We created a Manager’s Guide with practical resources on what to know and do in the event that an employee comes down with COVID-19. Our Learning & Development and Inclusion & Diversity leaders are running a series of manager workshops on leading and supporting remote teams during a global pandemic. They’ve also published best practices around spoken and written communication, exercising flexibility around work schedules, maintaining connection, and showing care for individual situations.

Help people adapt to remote work

Our news feeds are flooded with advice on how to adjust to working remotely, but the sheer volume can make it difficult to figure out what to do and how to adapt the advice to your personal situation. For the more than half of Fastlyans who were primarily accustomed to working from our offices, we published a guide that included best practices and practical advice with a slant specific to Fastly’s culture. It included advice ranging from adapting communication and setting boundaries to obtaining equipment from IT — and even thoughts on the best noise machine. We also wanted to share knowledge from our long-time remote employees, so we began a series of internal blogs. 

Normalize and encourage mental health and wellness

This is a disruptive time. The world as we knew it changed rather drastically over a matter of weeks, introducing new challenges and exposing gaps. We are physically cut off from our regular support systems (family, friends, coworkers). We are experiencing prolonged stress, anxiety, and fear. We are living through three crises: a global pandemic, economic fallout, and the impact on mental health.  

The current situation is exacerbating mental health and substance use issues and we don’t yet know the longer-term effects. Like many employers, we need to acknowledge the effects of social isolation and recognize that people will struggle. It’s now more important than ever to encourage dialogue around mental health in the workplace. We are creating intentional spaces and resources, while promoting awareness, in order to normalize and destigmatize mental health in the workplace. Our efforts so far have included the creation of Confluence articles on mental health, Facilitated Employee Support groups for employee caregivers & people living alone, and hosting a psychologist as guest speaker to give employee talks on ‘Social Isolation & Your Well-Being’. We’ve also migrated our ongoing yoga and meditation programs online and started an internal storytelling series called the Caregiver Chronicles.

What comes next? 

As countries around the world begin rolling out phased plans for reopening their economies, we are also actively seeking to understand and plan for the way differing approaches around the world and within the U.S. will affect our global team. While we don’t know exactly what comes next we do know this: providing safety and support for our individual and collective well being is an integral part of building a healthy and successful team. This remarkable challenge has presented us with an opportunity to build a culture of acceptance and we’re committed to continuing its growth and evolution.

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Erica Perkins
VP, People

Erica Perkins is the Vice President of People at Fastly, where she helps scale company culture and trust across Fastly’s locations around the globe.

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