Lockdown and other revelations

At the start of 2020, my aspirations looked very different. In January 2020, I was geared up to go to the gym three times a week. The year was looking bright and I was ready to step things up. Now, I just want to get the battery on my watch fixed.

My watch stopped as lockdown started. It’s been a strange three months, as I’ve been shielding with my partner, who has a kidney transplant. Time moves fast and slow, as each day rolls into the next; a state of infinite nowness. We’ve all had to rapidly adapt to life in our own little bubbles and we’ve seen businesses swiftly pivot to new ways of operating. 

We’ve all had to rapidly change how we work together while staying apart. At Claimer, we’ve all been reflecting on how the lockdown has shaped how we work and how we think about the nature of work moving forward. 

Here are a couple of our lockdown revelations:

Less is more

Name: Marco Azzurini

Role: Front End developer 

Status Quo: I’ve never been afraid of hard work, and for years I tried to work 7 days a week for up to 16 hours a day. I believed that if I put more hours in, I would achieve more and develop faster. However by working very hard, I found that my performance suffered when I got tired.

Lockdown revelation: In lockdown it’s too easy to lose track of time, especially when you live alone, and before you know it you’ve been working several hours past your usual finish time. I got really tired and began to make mistakes, spending hours trying to fix something that I could solve in 5 mins with fresh eyes in the morning. 

For me, it became very clear that to be better at my job, I rather counterintuitively needed to work less. I realised that I was more focused and productive working fewer hours - quality over quantity. The tricky part is that in order to work less you need to work more efficiently, and in order to work more efficiently you need to work less!

Impact: I’ve introduced strict boundaries in my work schedule and learnt to not to feel bad about taking the time to relax and work-out. I also introduced activities that could be defined as “productivity hygiene”, such as scheduling time to hang out with family and friends, and meditating.

Talk to your customers

Name: Adam McCann

Role: CEO

Status quo: I was focusing on Claimer’s growth, survival, and general operations. While I was so busy doing this, I was making lots of assumptions about what Claimer’s users actually wanted and how I could build something to meet their needs.

Lockdown revelation: Through all the madness, time was flying by. I realised it had been months since we had properly spoken to our users - the only real way to know if you’re on the right track with your startup. What are their joys, pains, and frustrations? It was time to get my head out of the operational weeds.

Impact: I immediately set a plan in place to begin talking to customers and getting feedback, and the impact has been huge. Not only did it help me steer Claimer’s sales and marketing plan, but it acted as the seed to a potentially industry-changing product idea.

Set good boundaries

Name: Ben Adams

Role: R&D Claims Director

Status Quo: Life in startups is very pressured. Every time I got an email or slack message at any time of day, I would look to make sure it wasn't urgent. This constant checking meant I struggled to relax, especially in the evenings, and I got steadily less efficient at my work.

Lockdown revelation: I needed to set better work/life boundaries, but still ensure I was contactable for anything truly urgent. I agreed with Adam to pause all my notifications and not look at emails and slack messages after hours - and if something was urgent, I could be contacted over WhatsApp.

Impact: This simple change reinvigorated me. By knowing that I could control when I looked at something, I felt free to enjoy my off hours and this resulted in me working more efficiently when I actually was working.

In addition to some individual revelations, we’ve made some revelations as a team as well:

Should we keep our office?

Status Quo: The Claimer team before lockdown spent most of their working time together in an office. We felt this was the best way to share ideas and collaborate with each other. During this time it was accepted that people might work from home occasionally, but the thought of doing this permanently was not considered viable.

Lockdown revelation: In March, like so many other teams, we switched to fully remote. Surprisingly, our productively actually increased overall. We realised that working remotely could actually work!

Impact: Being remote has had a massive impact on our hiring process. We’re now able to hire people who live outside a commutable distance from London. This opens up the opportunity to employ a more diverse workforce. 

We’ve also cut down on the environmental impact of the team and saved money due to decreasing communing and lunch costs. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve been able to spend more time with our direct families.

On the negative side, we have at times got into long Slack conversations, when a simple video call would have been far more efficient. Also when we first started, it was easy to not interact with someone in the team for days, which was not ideal for sharing information. However, over the past couple of months we addressed these issues, with regular virtual socials and trying to make a conscious effort to book in meetings when conversations begin to get complicated.

We’ve now decided to continue this in the long term and although we hope to work in the same room together at some point in the future, I cannot see a scenario where the team returns to the status-quo of working together in an office five days a week. We’ve heard that many other startups are heading in a similar direction - some even deciding to ditch the office altogether, with an entirely remote team.

This has proven to be a difficult and trying year for everyone so far, but we’re hopeful that we’ll see a net positive change and an improvement in workplace flexibility, productivity, and innovation for years to come.