Maintaining a unique workplace culture during a socially distancing pandemic while growing fast is a huge challenge. We spoke with our Dublin site team to learn how they did it
At Wix, we were always proud of the friendly and open atmosphere we have in our offices around the world. While this is true for Wix offices in every country, one of them - our Dublin site - always had an extra vibe to it. Our employees described it as a home and referred to their colleagues as family members, and even a year into the pandemic that has forced us to change the way we live and work, that special vibe hasn’t changed.
To find out how to maintain (and even strengthen) a unique culture in an uncertain environment, and why our employees in Dublin feel a strong sense of belonging although many of them have never met each other physically - we spoke with a few of them.
Lorna McGahan, Head of Operations and Workplace Experience at Wix's Dublin site, explains that our Dublin team is unique because many of our employees have multicultural backgrounds. In the last couple of decades many international tech companies opened offices in the city - making it a magnet for people from all over the world. Many of them made the big move by themselves and found themselves all alone in a new country. Naturally, their workplaces became central to their lives even more than in other places.
“Just before the Coronavirus, we had about 130 employees with 20 different nationalities, which means that many of them were far from home”, Lorna recalls. “We always had this open door/come-to-us-with-any-problem policy, and we were there for them, to the extent that many employees called me ‘mom’”, she shares. “It was a small site, so we knew everybody by name, had great events and Happy Hours and there was always something going on at the office”.
Sara Smith, Head of Customer Care - EMEA and Dublin site lead, agrees. "When we opened the Dublin site in September 2018, we really wanted to focus on building a culture that mirrored that of our other offices and that was really representative of the Wix way, but we also felt it was important to do that locally. Almost all of our employees here were hired in Dublin, but due to the nature of the 10 languages we are supporting here, we were able to create a very multicultural environment. This really allowed Wix Dublin to create its own identity within Wix, and we owe it all to this wonderful group of people sharing their insights, own cultures, and amazing personalities”.
Sara Tejeda Lopez joined Wix in 2018 as a Spanish language Customer Care Expert. She was the 11th employee at Wix Dublin. “We all sat in one room and you could hear people speaking Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and French around you. Many of us came here alone, so personal connections were always strong. We had a unique Dublin spirit and each Friday had a Happy Hour. After work we used to go to the pub all together. Everybody was new, so the culture was created as we went along”.
This intimate culture faced a double challenge during 2020. The first one was universal - the pandemic forced the world to WFH. The second was local - Wix’s Dublin site grew very fast. “Since lockdown happened, we’ve grown in less than a year by 198% to almost 400 employees, so a lot of people who have been hired have never been to the office and didn’t know the Wix culture”, Lorna says.
How did you approach these challenges?
“Initially we found it difficult. We think that in Dublin we got the culture right, so we wanted to engage people online as much as we could in order to preserve it. Very soon we’ve added people to my team and started to produce really good content over all available platforms like Slack or email. They could be just little things: on Monday mornings we’d post something like ‘Monday Motivation: It’s Not January Anymore’, or a favorite song or some kind of quiz. Just something to get people chatting.”, Lorna adds.
“We also launched the Dublin News - a newsletter in which we named new hires and told people what was going on at the Dublin site at any moment. It included a ‘Good News’ section where we congratulated people who had babies or bought a new house, and later we put a poll in it to engage people even more. All of those things got people to talk with each other and they happened quite naturally.
“When we started to hire a lot more people, we told ourselves that we should put something more solid in place because so many of our employees have never been to the office and don’t know how Wix is, so we came up with two more initiatives. The first of them was called ‘We Are’. We went to all our teams here, who all have funny names (The Wix Pistols and Sour Krauts are just two of them), and they all posted pictures of their team members with a short text about what they do professionally and also something personal about them, so you could get to know everybody without actually meeting.
“Another thing we’ve done are Coffee Mornings. We took veteran employees and matched them with four new team members, so that they could ask them anything and feel more comfortable. On top of that, before Covid we had lots of team activities so we encouraged teams to continue them virtually. We used to have a team retreat in which we went out of the office, took a day off and did team building activities like a barbeque and drinks. We moved all that online and had a full day of well being, fun, games and finished with a big house party. We made sure that every two months each team gets a budget to do something together like making pizza on Zoom - and share it with the rest of the site. In Christmas, in which people in Ireland run through 12 pubs and drink in them, we’ve sent people 12 backgrounds of pubs and pretended to be in them. Things like that”, she laughs.
In January, when Dublin was back on lockdown, Lorna and her team initiated a whole week of activities to help people cope. “We had a mental health talk with no sugar coating whatsoever, and people loved it. We had a financial talk which people really enjoyed. At the end of the week we made face masks from stuff you have at home, and we also sent people small gifts to make them happier. The feedback we’ve received was insane. We’ve never seen anything like it”.
We Keep On Inventing Things to Do
Maintaining that vibe while not seeing each other, and at the same time growing fast, was definitely a challenge, Sara Tejeda Lopez says. “We initiated lots of things to keep people engaged and motivated. Apart from everything that was done by Lorna and the Operations team, we organized team meetings and Happy Hours. In my team, they haven’t met in person but they know each other really well now. We start everyday by having a team meeting to organize the work, but also to talk about life and how things are going. You know, this is a difficult time and sometimes we don’t wake up with the best of moods and don’t feel energized, but seeing other people is good for you and it’s also contagious. I’m grateful for all my team members who help me to help them, and that’s why we keep on inventing things to do to keep people engaged. My team is a group of friends, not just people working together. People have told me that they're grateful that there’s work because they’re interacting with other people. It works”.
Daryl Fagan started working at Wix as a Customer Care Expert in May 2020. “To be fair, it was terrifying. Starting working at a company at this size and as spread out and trying to learn a new product while sitting in my room is quite weird, but it worked. We had A LOT of Zoom meetings and we’re constantly on Slack, so to be fair I probably had more communication in this job than in some jobs in which I sat close to people. Wix is very big on communication and everyone is always chatting and it’s not just business. People have a laugh. We even have a channel for people to go in and ask silly questions like if people keep their ketchup in the cupboard or in the fridge - little things that get people talking. The people on our Operations team are fantastic. ‘Coffee Mornings’ are great and they let you take a break and just talk to people. There are always opportunities for communication within Wix, whether it’s in or out of your daily routine. Another cool thing is that they can pair you with someone from another part of the company and that can be really interesting”.
So do you feel that you know the people in your team now?
“I’m suspicious that some of them don’t have anything more than a head and shoulders but I do feel that I know them. A while ago I heard a song while I was cooking and it reminded me of a girl from my team and then I realized that I’ve never met her in person. A couple of weeks later she told me that another song reminded her of me and that means that those little things spark interest and you tend to find people to connect with. I feel that by now I know the people from work just as well as the three people I live with”.
Another one of Dublin’s new hires is Nagisa Keenan who joined Wix in July 2020 as the site’s first Japanese language Customer Care Expert. “When I started I was on my own. I didn’t have any team mates, and consulting with other Japanese speaking Customer Care Experts in Wix wasn’t easy because they were in the U.S. My team leader became my buddy for every question that I had. He also organized meetings with other groups, which really helped me to meet Wix. Only then I realized how many new people there are and that it’s okay. I couldn’t join Happy Hours because of my kids, but seeing all these emails was mentally helpful. Even knowing that these channels were open for me helped me”.
Lauren Rodriguez started working at Wix in August as a Customer Care Expert, just between two Dublin lockdowns. “I’ve never started a new job virtually and I’ve never worked virtually but the onboarding process made me feel comfortable within the first week because of the resources that were provided and the schedule and the routine”, she says. “Afterwards, we were kept engaged through all kinds of events - like the virtual retreat which was amazing and team-meeting-team events every two weeks”.
What kind of relationships have developed within your team?
“I’ve met only one of them in person but I feel that I don’t only know them - they’re friends! I think that worked out because people bond with each other when they’re studying. When we were training together we got emphasis on the fact that anyone is there for us for support - work related or non-work related - and I think that created an environment in which you feel that everybody is in the same boat as you are. Another nice thing is that I got to meet our employees from other parts of the world. I’ve never thought in a million years that I’d be making friends with people living in Miami during a pandemic, but that has been great and it's also a part of this great support system”.
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