COVID-19: Working through the new normal

COVID-19: Working through the new normal

Amrita on April 20, 2020

Given that COVID-19 is on everyone’s minds right now, especially our extended Magoosh family —our prospective candidates, students, employees— we wanted to share how Magoosh has responded from an operations perspective during this crisis. We have been lucky enough to be in a financial position to weather this storm and support our communities as we work to get through it.

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Update as of 9/10/2020:

We’re taking an additional paid week off as a company (rotating by team) in the month of September and early October! We are naming this time off “Fall Leaves”, because 1) they’re days off in Fall and 2) we’re leaving work! Given the stress of the pandemic and 2020 craziness has continued, folks have continued to take on a lot and we want to make sure folks have time to recharge and avoid burnout.

Update as of 4/28/2020:

We’re taking one paid week off as a company (rotating by team) in the month of May! Peter, our VP of Operations, proposed a company week off, aptly named “May Days,” because 1) they’re days off in May and 2) that’s the message you send out when you need help! Given that everyone is working in addition to balancing the stress of the pandemic, taking care of their health, and supporting their loved ones, folks have been taking on a lot and we wanted to give everyone some time to breathe.

Here are some of the other ways Magoosh is supporting our employees and extended community during this uncertain time:

Strong leadership through the times of COVID

One of the keys for supporting our team has been to ensure that there is centralized messaging and clear communication. Our leadership team has been vocal and unified in providing Magooshers with a sense of direction during this time.

  • One of the first messages about COVID after shelter in place began in the Bay Area was from our CEO, Bhavin Parikh. He shared how the expectations were that everyone would be at a reduced capacity—whether due to childcare needs or taking care of their mental health, and that was not only OK but also encouraged
  • Additionally, Peter started an internal weekly COVID newsletter to share how the business is doing, new policy information, and updates to our office and remote work situation. This has provided our team with a level of consistency during an otherwise very uncertain time.
  • Finally, while we would normally have a monthly meeting to discuss the specifics of our work, Bhavin used our last meeting to instead to provide reassurance to our employees, to share how Magoosh as a business may or may not be impacted by this crisis, and as a townhall to answer any questions folks might have and to alleviate concerns.

Adapting our sense of community to a remote world

One of the reasons I have worked at Magoosh as long as I have (currently 6 going on 7 years!) is because of the sense of community and camaraderie that we have. We’ve worked together to translate that sense of kinship to an all-remote setting and facilitate that feeling of togetherness during these otherwise isolating times.

  • We set up additional communication channels such as a COVID specific slack channel to provide folks a space to get updates, ask questions, and share advice and learnings with one another.
  • Morgan, our amazing associate office/operations manager, has planned some incredible social events from a kids talent show to virtual pet happy hour to matching folks for 1:1 coffee chats.
  • We have a watercooler Google Meet link where folks can hang out and just chit chat as they would have in a normal office environment.
  • We’ve provided calendly links to our HR to make it easier for folks to get in touch.

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Providing accessibility and security to our employees

Making sure people have what they need—from time off to flexibility—has been critical to ensuring folks can focus what bandwidth they have on the work at hand instead of spending their precious mindspace on worrying about logistics.

  • Iris, our Senior HR Manager, has gone above and beyond to set up our processes for remote work, such as creating a remote onboarding process for our incoming new teammates.
  • Our Operations team has made trips to the Berkeley office to grab equipment folks might need and drop it off at their homes.
  • We immediately provided additional sick days for anyone who needs the time during this period as well as the HR support to facilitate that.
  • We’ve provided additional flexibility and enabled folks to take advantage of, and encouraged, more time off and reduced schedules.
  • We’ve created exceptions to our policies such as enabling folks to reschedule their sabbaticals if they were interrupted due to COVID.
  • We’ve sent out resources—for both mental and physical health—to help folks cope with the anxiety and stress, as well as any physical ailments during this time.

Delivering on our values of Passion and Wow

Ultimately, one of the ways in which Magoosh has been so lucky with this crisis is not only due to our business but also due to our amazing, driven workforce. They have gone above and beyond to support one another, and have found ways to work more creatively and strategically during this time.

  • Most video calls I’ve recently had have involved at least one parent in the meeting having a child with them or interrupting at some point. This is the norm and is not to be apologized for. It is incredible to see parents balancing their additional childcare responsibilities with passion for their work.
  • Folks have been more strategic in their prioritization of projects and found ways to structure their time so that they are able to make the most of the limited time that they do have devoted to work
  • We’ve had employees going above and beyond for one another—whether dropping off groceries or equipment, or providing a listening ear and links to resources. It’s been incredible to see Magooshers stepping up in support of one another.
  • Morgan added some surpise and delight to our weeks by getting everyone some incredibly cozy slippers to add some comfiness to our new WFH normal.

 

Image credit: GoodStudio (licensed via Shutterstock)

Helping our students and our communities

Ultimately, our mission is to make the world more accessible which means not only supporting those who work for us but going beyond that and providing support to our students and our communities during these difficult times.

  • Our Students: Magooshers have found ways to go out of their way to help our students. From tireless efforts to test out the experience of remote exams to providing webinars on how to deal with studying during such an uncertain and unstructured time, from blog posts with advice on how to handle test cancellations to proactively providing product extensions—I’ve been blown away by how all of our teams have quickly focused on ways to be there for our students.
  • Our Community: Magoosh has had a large presence in the Berkeley community for over ten years and as such has donated $50,000 to the Berkeley Relief fund. Iris found masks that we had from the fires and donated those along with our office hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. Morgan donated the money we would have spent on a team dinner this month to a charity helping fund meals for essential employees working to save lives right now.

When times are tough, a real spotlight shines on how companies and individuals react. My hope is that we as a company can look back on this response and feel good about the responsibility that we took and the togetherness and sense of safety that we were able to foster. It is times like these that I feel most proud to work at Magoosh.