The Importance of Workplace Culture in the Age of COVID-19: Perspectives from a New xPert
I can’t say I’ve ever joined an organization during an ongoing global health crisis. But in July 2020, a few months into the pandemic that would seep into nearly every facet of our lives, I signed onto an eight-month internship as a QA developer here at xMatters.
This was an exciting and nerve-wracking opportunity for me—while I had done a bachelor’s degree in computer science some years ago, I continued on to a master’s degree in health care and had never before formally worked in the software industry. I was embarking into new territory on two fronts: initiating a new career path and starting in a role that would be 100% remote. Hello software, my old friend.
Fortunately, xMatters has the type of culture that made it relatively simple for me as an intern to feel comfortable on my team and the company at large… all while never leaving my basement. I have no doubt that, without the company’s constant and deliberate fostering of its existing culture during the pandemic, I would not feel the same connection to my peers and my employer. How a company supports its employees during the most challenging times says a lot about its integrity and values, and that really matters—especially to someone brand new to an organization.
Here are just a few of the ways xMatters has gone above and beyond to maintain a culture that prioritizes the holistic well-being of its employees in the era of remote work and COVID-19.
From the outset, I couldn’t have felt more welcomed by the organization. Before my official start date, the xMatters elves sent me a care package filled to the brim with xMatters swag. Among other things, this included an xMatters travel mug, T-shirts and one of the comfiest fleece hoodies you’ll ever wear.
I was also encouraged to build my work-from-home setup exactly as I wanted it, with xMatters providing any equipment I needed to work efficiently and comfortably. I’ll admit that the most challenging aspect of this process was poring over product reviews from every obscure corner of the internet to choose the best equipment that would work for me and not necessarily the equipment that was least expensive. It’s the type of challenge you really want to have. Within a few days, everything was shipped directly to my apartment. The process couldn’t have been easier.
The way xMatters (and in this instance, particularly HR) handled the onboarding process even before I had officially started set the tone for what I might expect from the company going forward. Indeed, in the weeks that followed I had managers and VPs checking in on me via Slack and Zoom and was encouraged to come forward with any onboarding hiccups so that xMatters could address them for future incoming remote workers.
So even though I was hired as a temporary intern, I felt that company leadership genuinely cared about how I was doing and how they could streamline the onboarding process. This, in turn, made me feel comfortable going directly to my team lead and the leadership with any concerns—no small feat for an intern in a new organization!
Speaking of leadership, in a turbulent year I was heartened to see consistent communication from xMatters CEO Troy McAlpin. Among other things, the past year has seen massive social justice movements, a disruption to the peaceful transition of US presidential power, and of course, the ravages of COVID-19. Throughout, our CEO has both acknowledged the gravity of these events and provided reassurance, demonstrating that he’s attuned to the wellbeing of his employees and how our lives are impacted by factors outside the workplace. To this end, we were also encouraged to prioritize our psychological wellness, using sick days as needed for both physical and mental well-being.
Also worth mentioning is the new hire culture training that Troy leads, where he walks all new xPerts through the company’s mission, vision, values, and more. It’s a welcome oddity for such a large company and further reinforces his commitment to the team.
Even though the bulk of our days are now spent at our home offices, the leadership at xMatters has made efforts to maintain some form of work-life balance with engaging events. Whether it’s a virtual fitness class, live cooking demos or a mindfulness & meditation seminar, there’s something for everyone.
It’s been refreshing to work for an organization that recognizes how drastically our daily lives have shifted in the pandemic; we can no longer do many of the things we would normally do to enjoy ourselves or decompress. Currently, I’m involved in a group fitness challenge and I’m excited to see what else is lined up in the coming weeks and months.
Even for a software company, pivoting all staff to working 100% remotely isn’t trivial and requires a lot of flexibility to adapt—especially for a company that values its culture. While in the ‘before times’ where the xMatters office pantries were stocked with snacks aplenty and the proverbial cookie jar was always full, the engineering department now provides a monthly budget for snacks at home.
I can now safely say I’ve tried every available variety of Triscuit, and objectively the best flavor is Rosemary & Olive Oil (side note: this blog post is not sponsored by Nabisco). Occasions that normally would have been celebrated with a lunch out with your team are now marked by expensing lunch to our own homes using food delivery services. And, we’re encouraged to support local businesses, which is particularly important when many smaller restaurants are shutting their doors due to the pandemic.
In addition to snacks, xMatters now allows employees to expense home internet bills. This new benefit allowed me to upgrade my bandwidth from a dizzyingly laggy 15 Mbps plan (so slow that it’s no longer offered) to a much more sensible 150 Mbps. If not for xMatters offering this perk, I might still be living in the scary Bandwidth Stone Age.
Over the past six months, I’ve found that xMatters has gone to great lengths to maintain its culture—despite remote work and varying degrees of stay-at-home orders. Much of what I’ve already described speaks to the type of workplace culture xMatters strives for, but it’s impossible to cover everything in a single blog post. Whether it’s getting together for virtual beers and games on Fridays, allowing us to expense a festive holiday meal for our loved ones in December, or sending care packages to mark the passing holidays, the common thread here is that xMatters wants its employees to love where they work, regardless of where they work.
For an intern at a new organization, this carefully curated culture made all the difference to me. While it’s in no way an organization’s responsibility to ensure their employees find balance between their work and personal lives, it’s clearly a top priority at xMatters.
So, in a year that’s been crazier and more chaotic than most, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to join an organization that works just as hard for me as I do for it. There’s been a consistency and comfort in how xMatters has taken care of its own through these unprecedented times. It’s why I ultimately accepted a full-time position as a Junior QA Developer, and it’s why I’ve written this blog post. I can’t wait to see what my future with the company holds.
If you want to experience the welcoming joys of being a new hire at xMatters, make sure to check out our Careers page and see if we’re hiring for a role that sparks your interest. You never know—maybe you’ll be the author of a xMatters blog.