#Sedo @ Home : #Domain industry operations in the era of the #Coronavirus

Three weeks ago, Sedo moved its staff from offices to 100% home-based operations.

Planning began as early as in January, and the popular domain industry company who is also our sponsor, has been reaping the results of its careful planning every since.

This unprecedented transition to 100% home office activities required careful planning and execution by everyone at Sedo. The end-result delivers efficient and secure operations that provide peace of mind to the Sedo staff, and serves as a paradigm for the future.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Christian Voss, CMO of Sedo, and asked questions about the approach, methodology, and execution of this great transition at Sedo.

What led Sedo’s Management Team to decide such an unprecedented transition to a 100% home-based network?

In mid-January, the Coronavirus first started ramping up its global activity, and we began getting organized. Although we followed the reports on the virus spreading very closely, we didn‘t set a specific date of implementing any changes to our work flows or processes. It wasn’t until the end of February that virus cases were reported in Germany and in Boston where our US offices are located. During that timespan, we decided to order additional hardware in order to be prepared.

When was it decided to go forward with moving all of Sedo operations to home offices?

In early March, we took into consideration the advice being relayed by government entities and scientists involved in the pandemic and decided to take the necessary steps to transition all of our employees to working from home.

Which Sedo departments were the easiest, and which were more difficult to transition?

From a technical standpoint, there were no departments that were easier to transition than others, and all of our teams have been preparing to work remotely since mid-February.

Working from a home office is more of a personal adjustment than anything else. Sedo has been in operation for 20 years and many of our employees have been with us more than 10 years. Friendship and marriages have resulted from this long tenure, and as you can imagine some teams have developed quite a strong bond over time.

But we do have employees at Sedo who already work remotely from Idaho, Texas, Canada, Italy and other locations, so home office capabilities are already in our corporate DNA.
There are industries still conducting business with more analog methods than digital. For example, we still get physical mail from the banking and the legal sectors. As such, someone is regularly checking our office mail box.

How is the entire Sedo team communicating? What type of tools, software, teleconferencing equipment is being utilized?

Our software tools include JIRA, Mattermost, Skype for Business, Google Meet, email and the good old telephone, so we have plenty of ways to communicate which are working well for us.

Being an agile, cross-functional team, we are already used to communicating effectively through various platforms. We still value face-to-face interactions among our teams, but in light of the current circumstances, technology is very useful to keep us all in touch.

From a personal perspective, has it been hard to have self-discipline and adapt to a morning routine that requires zero commute time?

Actually, no—the morning routine has been pretty seamless. Each individual has to develop their own morning routine that works best for them.
Most of the data on working from home suggests there should be a separation from home and work time by establishing a daily routine and always changing out of your pajamas!

But in the last few weeks, we have also had to adapt to schools and daycare facilities closing down. That required all of our employees who are parents to rearrange their work schedules, so that they accommodate their children being home. You can now routinely expect to hear kids in the background during internal conference calls, etc. We had anticipated this when almost everything is locked down, and it truly makes things authentic.

Do the Sedo teams feel more productive, and are there routine meetings to substitute that physical interaction that’s now missing?

All of the Sedo teams have their daily and weekly routines, which is true when we‘re in the offices, so the same approach continues today from our home offices.
However, it’s certainly an adjustment not being able to just walk next door or across the hall and discuss things with coworkers directly. Most team members prefer to speak to each other in person as it certainly assists with developing good working relationships with those around you.

While it’s easy for us to conduct our usual meetings and calls to keep us on track, without having lunches together, passing each other in the hallways or sitting beside coworkers, we aren’t discussing directly as much of what’s in progress with other teams.

Our colleagues are looking forward to getting this personal interaction back once this situation has subsided. At Sedo we pride ourselves on having a very close-knit team with staff members that genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

Sedo @ Home – Marketing Team members during a conference call (Hellen, Paul, Semra, Christian)

Telecommuting can sometimes be a challenging routine. What do the Sedo team members do on their breaks?

Even with all of us working from home, it is still vital to make time for regular work breaks. As previously mentioned, some of us have to tend to our kids or household tasks during these times. So these folks might not have a true “down time” except on the weekends!
But for example, employees can try eating lunch or having a snack at their balconies or in their gardens to get some fresh air and relax a bit.

In Germany and now in the US almost all stores, restaurants and bars are closed. Going grocery shopping is the only thing you can do besides taking a walk or a bike ride. Or you can just resort to digital entertainment by watching movies, listening to podcasts, or learning from webinars in order to relax and unwind.

From this transition at Sedo, what is the biggest challenge for a home-based, team-centric work environment?

Some of the challenges that we face include maintaining the necessary work routines, all while encouraging a positive team spirit and connectivity.

For example, in our Cologne office every Friday we usually have an “unofficial” TGIF beer happy hour after work. Now that has transitioned to a Google Hangout meetup, where about 60 people are sitting at home, having a virtual chat and drinking beers or sodas “together” to keep the tradition alive and well!

Also, Sedo is known for its diverse, international culture within its working environment. We are used to hearing Spanish, Chinese, French and so many other languages from our sales team talking to their clients, and this is definitely missing for now. It has also been difficult for everyone to be available at the same time for meetings due to having to care for kids, or because their partner also needs to handle their own daily work tasks.

In a nutshell, while conducting smaller group meetings to get everyone on the same page takes more effort, we still stay informed thanks to our excellent internal communication platform and structure already in place.

An important operational aspect of any company is data security and data privacy. How are these monitored and enforced in a fully home based office environment?

No other country takes data security and privacy more seriously than Germany!
Our Security and Compliance team, alongside our Legal department have prepared us long before the Coronavirus pandemic. We are already familiar with the processes of how to best handle and secure sensitive data and company information such as job applications, client data, financial information and more.

We strictly forbid logging into an insecure and open Wi-Fi connection and we use trusty VPN services throughout the Sedo @ Home network.

And now, for the future: Once the Coronavirus threat is over, would Sedo keep part of its operations in a home-based structure?

Certainly—as we did before—home office has always been an option for our employees. We are also still actively hiring for open positions within several departments.
We’re very fortunate to possess the technology and have implemented the necessary infrastructure, enabling our employees to keep working, and providing our customers with the highest level of uninterrupted service.

All of us at Sedo pride ourselves on having little to no disruptions to our product offerings during this critical time and you will continue to see us rolling out new product launches and initiatives.

At Sedo, our lights are still on, they’re just spread out these days!

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