When the pandemic upended the way of work in March 2020, the hardest adjustment for most companies was navigating the isms of remote work.
Your physical deskmates were now your roommates or family members. Arriving at the office meant opening your laptop and making sure your Slack status read “Active.” Staring at yourself during a Zoom conference was unavoidable, as were the inexplicable jumps and stomps from your upstairs neighbor or the snowplow whirring up your driveway.
But for QuestionPro, that wasn’t the hardest adjustment.
“We already had hundreds of people working in multiple global locations before COVID-19 hit, so it’s not like we woke up one day and said, ‘How do we do this?’” Vivek Bhaskaran, QuestionPro’s CEO, said. “We did wake up one day and say, ‘How do we do COVID?’”
Pre-COVID, most of the company’s focus groups were done in-person in rooms with two-way mirrors, which wasn’t possible for the bulk of 2020, and their web surveys were done without video. That posed a challenge. How would QuestionPro, which builds survey software to power research, insights and experiences, adjust the user experience and its other products to fit this unprecedented time?
They would start from scratch.
“We built new features into our survey platform that would allow for focus groups to be done remotely via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Similarly, with the proliferation of Zoom and FaceTime, we enabled video questions in our basic survey platforms,” Bhaskaran said.
“In both cases, we not only created a digital replacement for a traditional service, but we also innovated these services and made them better.”
Built In Austin spoke with Bhaskaran to learn more about how QuestionPro adapted during the pandemic, including its new work-from-anywhere policy.
How has the company responded to the pandemic?
We’ve invested a lot over the years into living our core brand values of “hustle” and “obsessing over the customer.” When these values are your North Star, and you’ve hired the right people, COVID-19 is just another obstacle that needs to be overcome. That’s not to say it was easy, but dealing with change, staying nimble and being innovative is in our DNA, and these attributes gave me and the whole team the confidence that we’d get through this, even if we didn’t have a roadmap or playbook.
When these values are your North Star, and you’ve hired the right people, COVID-19 is just another obstacle that needs to be overcome.’’
How has QuestionPro supported its employees throughout the pandemic?
We’ve made sure that our employees know that if something happens, worrying about PTO or job security should be the last thing on their minds. We approved 30 days off, with no questions asked. We’ve also implemented company COVID-19 holidays just to give everyone a mental break.
Why was it decided to adopt a work-from-anywhere policy?
I’ve always believed that the most important aspect for an employee is performance. Can they get the job done? If they can do it working remotely, that’s fine. If they prefer an office, great. So, while COVID-19 forced our hand a bit, it wasn’t a big ideological or psychological leap for me to embrace a work-from-anywhere policy.
I think COVID-19 changed the business landscape. Going forward, it’s going to be a critical, if not a baseline expectation for employees, especially top performers, for your company to be remote-friendly. It’s going to be hard to compete with a rival company that offers work-from-anywhere or telecommuting if you don’t. You simply won’t attract or retain top performers.
What does an HQ in Austin look like post-COVID?
There’s such a good energy and vibe here in Austin. I’ve heard that people “Come for the low taxes, but stay for the culture,” and I think that’s true for so many. When I was originally looking for a new HQ, I wanted to find a place where I could attract the best and the brightest, but I didn’t want the high cost of running my business that I had in San Francisco. I knew I could access a rich tech talent base in Austin, recruit from all over the country and the world, and reinvest those wasted dollars I was paying in San Francisco back into the business to enable faster growth.
I’ve always believed that the most important aspect for an employee is performance. Can they get the job done? If they can do it working remotely, that’s fine.’’
Post-pandemic, our HQ in Austin will be there for employees who want to live and work in Austin, as well as a hub for critical leadership gatherings such as planning sessions, ongoing collaboration and other events where we can all benefit from being in the same room. With the number of nonstop flights increasing to Austin, I know our president of CX can get here from Hawaii and our UK general manager can come in from London.