This is the 2nd of three interviews with Chad Lafferty, Managing Director of Wahl+Case and Board Director of EQIQ talking about their journey of going 100% remote.
Watch the full interview here or read the interview script below.
BRAD: Hi this is Brad from Coffee for Closers. Today my guest is Chad Lafferty, Managing Director of Wahl + Case, and Board Director at EQIQ. Chad, thanks for joining us today and making time.
CHAD: Thank you very much for having us.
BRAD: How have you guys changed your business model and your style of business during the COVID times?
CHAD: Yeah, it’s been pretty amazing and pretty…I want to say drastic but it’s just kind of… In some ways it felt like it kind of happened to us but we were lucky in that we were prepared.
So remote was something that I was personally… I was like “Yeah, it would be nice but there’s all these challenges and it’s going to be really hard.”
So, last year we started doing these kind of experiments where we’d have a remote day for the entire company. And we had some fun with it. We would experiment and see where people were and what people were doing.
It was interesting. The idea of implementing some sort of remote system into what we do has been there for a while. And then everything happened this year with COVID. And in March, a couple weeks before the lockdown… or the emergency I guess I should say technically, we made the decision to close our office and go 100% remote.
Well, the timing was kind of perfect because we had just gotten a…a remote dialing system dial pad. We’ve been Slack users for a long time.
We all have laptops. And so, there was really no barriers for us to go remote… except for the mental ones that I had, that I was like “oh my god, this is going to fail!”.
And an amazing thing happened. March was a record month for us for new placements. Although we haven’t quite kept that amazing level, we’ve done well. And so, the transition, while not seamless…
Certainly, the way the way that we ran our business and the progressive attitude that we’ve had for years helped us a lot because we already had built in systems we already had a lot of trust and accountability amongst the people.
And so that mental shift wasn’t nearly as difficult as what I was expecting. And people really rose to the occasion. And so from our point of view it was such a success that we’ve decided to completely change our policy and we’re going to be a blended work environment from now on, where people can choose to work remotely 100% of the time if they choose to do so. All of our meetings will be held by video first.
So we’re kind of approaching a lot of things from a remote first mentality. But we’re going to keep the office space. We’re going to probably redesign it so that it’s a little bit more… functional for what we want it to be now.
Rather than a traditional office space, it’s more going to be a gathering space. It’s going to be a place where people can come together for the social relationship parts of their motivators, which is generally pretty high in our company. I think salespeople and recruiters tend to be quite social people and so, having that element is very important for us I think.
So, it’s had a pretty drastic effect. But it’s been a positive effect overall.
BRAD: Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, obviously, every company has had to make changes, right? But it sounds like…you made changes pretty much already in line with what you had started. And it was an easy progression. But it’s also interesting to know that, as you were saying, it is the new business model from here on out. I was kind of interested to get your input into… because you’re working with startup companies, right?
Are you finding that they’re having the same problems? Or is it easy for them to pivot because they’re still in the startup mode or…you know, some of the older more established companies, I think they are finding it quite difficult to pivot, obviously, because of cost logistics, policies and everything. What’s your take on that? Either some of your existing clients or just what you’ve seen in the market?
CHAD: I think one of the bigger challenges that every company is going to run into at some point is…I mentioned the mental aspect, so you have, of course, the physical aspect of working remotely. You know, there’s challenges around that like making sure that employees have good Wi-Fi, but also, physical location, you know.
Apartments in Japan can be quite small. Do you have a comfortable place to work? Those are questions that…not everyone has answered yet. So, over the longer term those kinds of questions have to be answered by companies and by startups that are providing, or at least are asking people to work from home more often.
The other side is the mental side. And this is something that we’ve noticed, and I’ve personally noticed. You’re much more susceptible to burnout because you’re always like ten feet away from your home office, right?
And so, you know I’ve had to change the way that I think. The first three months, like after the first month and a half or so, right up before golden week, we really noticed that people were starting to like…you know, the stress levels were going up and… burnout seemed like a real thing.
And there’s so many factors that are contributing to that. I mean, number one: during that emergency period you weren’t even supposed to go out and so, people were staying at home mostly which… I think has…I don’t want to say trauma but… for some people it probably is traumatic. But it’s certainly disconcerting for people to be that isolated and alone. And I think that, again, the work hours when you’re working remotely tend to be pretty fuzzy because, again, you roll out of bed, you don’t have… When you take a train there’s like these markers in your day and it’s like “I’m working” “I’m not working”.
And when you’re working from home those things tend to blend together.
And for me personally, it started to really bleed into like… my evenings, my weekend… And so, I’ve had to be a lot more strict with myself about, like “Okay, when am I on and when am I off?” And how do I manage that?
And we’re trying to communicate that to people within the business as well. Other things like holidays, Nobody is taking holidays. Where are they going to go? But people need holidays. This is a tough job. People need to relax. They need to destress. They need to do something else. They need to get away.
And sick days as well, I’ve noticed in the last few months there’s just almost no sick days being taken. Because, again, you roll out of bed, you might not feel your best… If you had to get on a train you’d be like “nahhh, not doing it.” “It’s not worth it.” But now, you roll out of bed and you’re like “I’ll power through it.” But then your productivity is going to be terrible. And so, we’re trying to get people… mentally, to understand that they still have to approach working from home in a similar fashion that if you’re not up for it if you’re not feeling well, if you’re not at your best then take a day off. Take a holiday so that you can refresh. And I think that that’s something that is going to take longer for people to adjust to. And I think that’s going to be one of the bigger challenges over the long run, rather than just the logistics of how do you get everyone laptops? or how do you get everyone communicating online? The mental side of it is going to be as significant when you look at six months, a year, two years down the line.
BRAD: Yeah, definitely, there has been quite a lot more articles and chatter about that, right? We label it as kind of mental health, but it is. It really is burnout. Even for me, I’ve been working remote and kind of independently for a long time but I find that I… I can’t take a whole day off but you can take a couple hours off. That makes a lot more difference than like “Okay, I’m going to take 3 days off.” I don’t think I’ve ever taken 3 days off but it is important take a few hours off.
I mean, no one is really watching the clock, right?
CHAD: Exactly Definitely, interesting And that’s one of the things that we’ve shifted as well. We had flextime before but now… I think it was like April, we just started communicating to people like “Just do your job”, At the end of the week, at the end of the month… at the end of the quarter, we all have things that we’re accountable for.
And whether you do 8 hours in a row or whether it’s 4 and a 2 or 3 hour break, it doesn’t matter. And so, that’s something that we have to adjust to as well in terms of how we talk, how we manage people, All of those things are very closely related.
BRAD: Great. Well, hey thanks again for your time today and all your insights. And definitely for any viewers out there that are interested feel free to reach out to Chad directly or the people at Wahl + Case. And again, thanks for watching. Chad, thanks for joining us.
BRAD: Great. Well, hey thanks again for your time today and all your insights. And definitely for any viewers out there that are interested feel free to reach out to Chad directly or the people at Wahl + Case. And again, thanks for watching. Chad, thanks for joining us
CHAD: Brad, thank you very much. It was great.
BRAD: So, thanks for watching and stay tuned for more great content from Coffee for Closers. Take care.