Like most businesses, Arlene was impacted by COVID-19. From canceled in-person client meetings to delayed sales events, we have been forced to adjust our day-to-day activities with third parties.
Fortunately, Arlene has been a remote-first company since our inception. It’s ingrained into our DNA. While this form of working presents its own challenges, we see a number of advantages.
An advantage of moving the entire team and client base to remote-only is an increase in productivity. There are no more long commutes, unnecessary distractions, or valueless events and meetings that suck up time. We streamline our interactions and operations towards results and growth. The conversation is no longer whether employees put in long hours; instead, it’s whether they add value and efficiently accomplish tasks.
Our employees work on their own schedules. Arlene is not a 9–5 culture. We have employees that start working at 5am and stop by midday. Others work late at night or between other projects. Transparency and communication are essential in maintaining a strong team rapport, especially as employees are working asynchronously thousands of miles apart.
A remote-first team has forced us to improve our communication internally and externally. Working from home has allowed our team to be flexible with schedules. Several team members have families and young children, so Arlene recognizes that life happens and schedules change. This means irregular communication at times and requires clear instructions and details for all tasks. Slack, Trello, WhatsApp, and G Suite have been essential communication tools for our team.
Beyond internal initiatives, crisp communication is also required with clients in order to reduce back and forth and succinctly communicate our value proposition. Proposals must be visual and outline all campaign specifics in a digestible manner. Many clients haven’t dealt with AR/3D before, so this is also an educational process.
Product & Vision
The consumer experience has changed during COVID-19 as shoppers shift from a mix of online and in-person purchases to predominantly online. This shift from physical retail to eCommerce has opened new product opportunities for Arlene with the increased need for at-home immersive shopping experiences.
Consumers are visual shoppers and want the ability to preview products that they would normally evaluate in-store, anywhere in 3D from their mobile device. Better shopping experiences lead to higher purchase conversion rates.
This shift has accelerated the development of our virtual try-on products as well as 3D product previews within client websites. We expect this shift to continue as shoppers grow accustomed to using AR as part of the buying experience.
Raising funds during a pandemic is not an easy task, but our cost structure has gone from a “nice to have” to a “strategic advantage” for investors. While Arlene maintains a distributed workforce, our management team remains centralized and in constant communication.
With a distributed global team, we account for various currencies, time zones, and language differences, which has implications for our management philosophy, payroll, and potential investors. Due to our structure, we’ve raised strategic investments that may not have happened before.
COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of eCommerce, video chat, and immersive experiences such as AR/VR. Arlene’s products sit at the intersection of these industries. However, as COVID-19 decreases and somewhat normal life resumes, Arlene’s products add value in a way that keeps them defensible and relevant.
Organizing Human Resources
Pre-COVID-19 we hired on a rolling basis without a fundamentally sound onboarding process. While Arlene has been a remote-first company, employees frequently had the opportunity to meet up in New York and/or Medellin. The pandemic changed this, particularly for new hires. Interviews and onboarding all occurred virtually and it required developing a better employee onboarding process. This includes clear management ladders, daily scrums, and weekly 1:1s.
As quarantine restrictions ease, Arlene plans to offer more team meet-ups, happy hours, outdoor events, and other activities for the team to bond and connect outside of Slack and daily meetings.
If you’ve seen other advantages of working remotely, please send us a message as we would love to hear your thoughts!