- Adam Cheshier
Carta: Interview with Margana Suendermann Nord, Head of Real Estate and Workplace Services
Carta, a software company with ten locations worldwide, has thrived during the COVID period. What has been the key to the company’s success? When we spoke with Margana Suendermann Nord, Head of Real Estate and Workplace Services at Carta, she let us in on some secrets – the tools that they’ve used to keep employees connected from a distance, how teams have taken on new roles, and what Carta’s return-to-office plan currently looks like.
How COVID Affected Specific Carta Teams
When COVID hit, Carta’s teams were forced to take on new roles and responsibilities. The Real Estate Team, for example, had its day to day “totally flipped on its head.” In our conversation, Margana stated, “When everyone was in-office, our purpose was to support the people on a one-on-one, face-to-face basis, but everything is now virtual. So, we had to redefine our team’s purpose and how we thought about impact.” The Real Estate and Workplace team has been focusing on the employee experience and connecting with employees through virtual events, questions of the day, branded merchandise packages, and small touch points throughout the week to keep everyone engaged.”
The way that Carta communicates internally has also shifted. Prior to COVID, Carta did “...weekly ‘Town Halls’ where [the team] gathered in the all-hands areas across offices. With COVID, [the company] had to redefine what those looked like in a virtual world. The ‘Company Days’ that employees engaged in prior to COVID unfortunately stopped. ‘Company Days,’ which [were] a big celebration where [employees] all got together and did something really fun in-office, which normally involved treats, had to be reimagined.”
Margana shared, “My team had to fully redefine how we connected with our employees, how to celebrate our culture, and how to make an impact. In October, we hosted our first ever virtual Company Day that included a presentation from our CEO, Henry Ward, a virtual magic show, Carta’s first ever Carta’s Got Talent show, trivia, and virtual escape rooms. It was a major success and people are still talking about it! We are currently planning Q2’s Company Day with the team and have some cool ideas up our sleeve to engage our employees across the globe.”
Useful Cloud-Based Services During COVID
Carta has found new ways to communicate as a temporary, remote workforce. On this subject, Margana shared, “During COVID, we have to be more intentional about how we collaborate. There are no impromptu chats, there’s nowhere to casually communicate in the physical space like we had in the past. For example, we used to have our digital signage throughout our offices to share company updates like birthdays and holidays. We now have to be extra intentional with how we get the word out about things, knowing that our employee base is spread across the world at home.”
During the pandemic, Carta started using a platform called Threads. About this, Margana stated, “Threads is now our main company announcement platform while we are in a work-from-home. We use it to track updates, whether it’s team updates, company decisions, or COVID updates. Whatever updates are made, we use Threads to memorialize them.”
“Along with Threads, the company uses other communication and project management tools such as Zoom, Guru, Asana, and Slack to keep everyone connected.”
Carta’s 4-Phase Re-Entry Plan
Carta has developed a plan for safely bringing its employees back into the workplace. The 4-phases are set up to ensure safety and flexibility, so that everyone feels comfortable with the return. Initially, the company was hesitant about sharing their “will-not-return-before" date with employees since restrictions were different for each region and changing over time. Through surveying, however, Carta found that employees wanted a date to plan their lives around, so the company tentatively set a date last summer and let employees know they would not be returning to the offices before March 31, 2021. With the end of March approaching, the company has shifted their approach - beyond March 31, Carta will give a 90 day notice before employees are expected to fully return to the offices.
The 4-phase return to the office allows employees to come back in waves to reduce exposure and ensure safety.
Phase 1: Necessity
This phase allows those employees who cannot work from home due to psychological, emotional, or physical reasons to return to the office, so long as local guidance allows for this.
Phase 2: Voluntary
This phase allows anyone who prefers to work from the office to do so, so long as a predetermined capacity is not exceeded.
Phase 3: Encouraged
In this phase, executives return to the office in an effort to encourage others to do the same. Folks who are high risk or live with those who are high risk are not encouraged to return to work during this phase.
Phase 4: Full Normalcy
Each office will move through each phase independently and will have its own Phase 4 start date. The company will give a 90 day notice before employees are expected to fully return to the offices. Carta was an early adopter of sending everyone home at the beginning of the pandemic, and the company will continue to put the safety of their employees first by only returning to full in-office operations when it is safe to do so.
“Do whatever it takes to safely get our people back into the workplace.”
Carta knows that its employees will eventually return to office, but is unsure of when this will happen. In our conversation, Margana explained, “Our goal is to do whatever it takes to safely get our people back into the workplace. The question has become when will it be safe? We are eager and excited for our eventual return to the offices, so we can resume and continue to develop our in-person culture. The vaccine roll out has given us a light at the end of the tunnel and we are hopeful that we will have in-office operations at some point during 2021.”
Want to keep learning how other companies are adjusting their strategy and workplace methodologies in response to COVID? Check out our previous conversations with:
● Tom Suro MCRw, a global real estate expert specializing in workplace strategy, facilities management, design and construction.
● Assal Yavari, LEED AP Senior Director of Global Workplace Management at Okta, Inc.