Work from home environment with david garcia

There is more to setting up a physical work environment to be productive from home, and david garcia, ceo of scout logic and expert in fully working remote, tells us some of his secrets to remain productive.

His main tip: setup a remote work culture, and work constantly on improving it. Leadership can make a huge difference by taking in consideration collaborators culture! Watch the videocast, listen to the podcast, or read the transcript below to know more, and let us know in comments what are your own tips on setting a great work from home environment for your workforce.

David garcia is the ceo of scoutlogic, a pre-employment background check company. His company has been entirely remote since they were founded in 2017.
David garcia is the ceo of scoutlogic, a pre-employment background check company. His company has been entirely remote since they were founded in 2017.

Watch the videocast

Work from home environment videocast transcript

Hello and welcome to this podcast international computing podcast my guest today is david garcia. Hello david!

Oh thanks for having me on today.

Pleasure, can you tell tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you located, what is your overall experience?

#1 introduction and presentation

Absolutely my name is david garcia i'm the ceo of  ScoutLogic   we're a us-based pre-employment background check company i personally live about 45 minutes northwest of chicago but our company even outside made a deliberate decision several years ago to operate in a virtual environment.

So we've got employees literally working around the globe for us and it's been a wonderful opportunity to both build our business on this kind of foundational talent acquisition strategy.

So how many employees?

Actually we have 30 employees and so when we started the business we we believe really strongly that talent makes the difference you know obviously great product is built by great people great service comes from great people and so for us particularly in the united states where again pre covet and even now to a certain degree the war for talent is intense and so when you thought about starting a business we live you know i lived north west of chicago.

If we had opened a physical office here and it had really concentrated our hiring just to this small geographic area there are a lot of great people in my community but there weren't gonna be the few hundred world-class people we needed to really win in our competitive industry.

So we had made a decision to open up really globally our our hiring profile and it just really allows as allowed us to access a lot of great talent to work on our business.

So do you have similar locations? 

So we have we have one very small office that's literally a 10 by 10 room that we have for business and security purposes but otherwise everyone works from home currently we have 30 employees all of them have a setup at home we've got lots of lessons learned which i know we'll talk about as we go throughout our our interview today but that's just been a great model for for not only the business but also for our employees as well.

No hubs at all isn't that amazing? We've got people from the upper east side of manhattan to florida to rural louisiana to manila in the philippines and everywhere in between.

Well do you manage a different types of them of course you mention philippine i mean that can be difficult to manage them. 

Certainly can so in one of the decisions we made for our work that's in different time zones is we look for people who operate essentially within us business hours there are lots of folks for whom the trade-off of working at home makes that an easy decision.

And so from a sourcing and acquisition perspective even with that kind of time zone requirement we have not had an issue both acquiring great talent but also making sure they're productive and most importantly they're happy in the work that they're doing every day.

Ok that's um that sounds great so you you have a lot of experience with a we working from home right? 

We have and when you think about it obviously you know has driven many companies whether they like it or not to that work from home environment but we really did this deliberately as a strategy and i think coming out of covid 19 i sit on a couple boards what people are finding as well people are just as productive if not more than when they were in the office to expenses or less right.

We don't have expensive office space and class a office space and global cities around the world to pay for and then lastly people are just happier you know obviously there's a socialization benefit that obviously comes from working with others which is why it can be a great a modified strategy but you know many people would rather have the ability to quickly access their personal life.

Well have anything if we're not today at work without having this sit on a train car for a forty-five minutes each way or the saving on the commuting time exactly.

#2 what is work from home environment and why do we need it?

I got you i didn't interrupt it oh please please no no so so what is the environment and why do folks need it you know the work from home environment?

I think we've seen a few different strategies right we've had some people who have an office and you can kind of go in and out based on you know your employees personal choice or a reservation system again it's scout logic we made a decision to be entirely virtual because it gave us such a better access to talent.

And that's really really worked out well for us over the past three years did you doesn't know about myself also.

I have a question yeah do you see a difference for your employees between work from home working remotely today walking does it all mean the same do you know where they're located are they are they moving around? 

Oh that is such a great question and so like i said we've been doing this for three years so let's set covid aside for the moment one of the challenges we had was people working in a cafe for example or like a starbucks nam versus working from home.

That quickly we realized became a problem for us for two things two reasons one is the noise and distraction became a real issue for people's productivity even on doing a zoom call like this one of the things we found and one we'll talk about tips later is video calls are really important right because you pick up so many social interactions and clues.

But then the other is security so at scout logic obviously we deal with some sensitive personal formation data when we're doing background checks on people having our folks connect to an open wi-fi network you're not the most secure environment for us which is why we really require if you're gonna be working from scout logic you need to do it in that at home environment you know a vpn in and in a quiet place you know without hopefully the dog and the kids and everything running around although that happens sometimes too and you just have to be willing to roll with it.

So are you using a vpn?

Oh i'm so sorry what's that are you using a vpn no are you securing your connection we do and if i am not the it guy but we all do use a vpn service to to plug in armies to do our network versus using public wi-fi networks okay how do you get on these background checks to make sure that the employees will actually already set this protocol set up i'm sorry you broke up there just for a second how do you make sure you mention what you do is cleaning before recruiting employees correct okay.

So our our company does pre-employment background checks so before people to hire us so that before they hire an employee we review any criminal records based on where they've lived as well as verifying their employment and education so we have a number of databases and sources that we use for that but also as part of that we gather candidates date of birth social security numbers all information that a bad actor could certainly use to try and steal identities.

Which was why we take security so very seriously it's got logic and and hulk do you recognize it because you have from the intel he's remote key so no sofer that's great so you talk about our employees or the work we do in the company so for armed employees we've had great success using zoom as a video interview tool for us so it's a really interesting question because i would say those first five hires you know we're making just based on what you know we've verified about people's background and the kind of interaction and vibe we get through a zoom call.

But once you get to be as a really great work from home environment and everything that goes into that we've had people coming to us at least within our industry you know word gets around do i want to sit in a cubicle all day you know knocking out background checks or working at home dog right next to me you know being able to see my family and so what's that dynamic starts to happen.

It's really it's really a kind of a great flywheel is now the people typically who come to us have worked with other people and our company before and and all of a sudden you're taking much less of a gamble on people while interviewing them in a virtual environment do you ensure that they will work from home and not rather do you recoil this from you employees that is a another great question so we use a tool called active track.

Better manage your employees - activtrak workforce productivity and analytics software for teams

What active track does is it really helps us monitor obviously people's location ip address location but then also what they're surfing all day so that's one of the tools that we certainly utilize you know and i can certainly share some more about that as we go through the interview today.

Okay i never heard about this such a software.

So yeah active track is it's a really great tool you know and again there's a fine line right because we trust our people and this is one of the things you have to really think about as you set up a work from home environment is culture and trust however at the same time knowing some of the information sources we're utilizing the tool active track that we use is literally screen captures all of an employee's online activity and it categorizes the websites that they're at.

So you know for example let's say we've got an employee who decides they want to be on facebook 3 hours a day we know that we get proactive alerts for that and and now you can really start to see hey this is where people are spending our time but that that's the punitive end where we've really seen a benefit though is being able to understand how our foot will to do their work and what tools they use most of all and how we can help them be more productive.

And that's where work from home i think is going to get really interesting is when we move beyond our people working where they're supposed to be working and how can we help them be more successful in that environment.

#3 how to set up work from home?

Actually this is a great connection to the so especially with your free years experience and several employees of filty at the moment how to set up such an environment do you have any policy how do you and for them and what really matters?

So i'll kind of break it down in a few buckets one is kind of strategy and culture technology set up and then then what's really critical is communication so on culture and strategy you have to decide that work from home is it's not only part of your talent acquisition strategy but part of how you're gonna operate in doing business because there are all kinds of downstream implications like.

So for example we get a lot of inbound customer service calls right there's no blending in an office environment how do we make sure calls get routed appropriately things like that so you have to make a strategic decision for the company that you're going to commit to this and work it all downstream and then as part of it you also need to have a culture of trust like hey we trust that our employees are going to be productive but as part of that what we did in terms of building up that trust and also getting ourselves comfortable with it.

I'm a metric nerd and everybody in our company has some sort of activity-based metric that they utilize right so for example our salespeople it's you know number of outbound activities in a day for our researchers it's the number of searches that they complete in a day so if we can see within a tolerance range people's activity levels we have a pretty good sense if they're putting in a full day or not.

And part of the cool thing about that with our folks is hey if you're more productive from 5:00 a.m. to to 10:00 a.m. work then that's okay with us as long as you're getting it done and you're happy so that's kind of the strategy and culture piece um then there's the technical setup which is no small fee.

So for example wi-fi speeds you always need to make sure everybody's got strong wi-fi wherever they are as soon as you know takes up a lot of bandwidth and that's going to be a part of your communication protocol you got to make sure everyone has that but then all the other technical setups that go with it you know we had lots of lessons learned early on but we were like hey we're gonna send you x amount of dollars you go to the store and get your own technical kit and you know some people got the big monitor.

They're really happy! Other people got like the little chromebook and they're trying to do work all day and it's just not productive right so we really had to do some standardization across the tools that our people were using every day and then last and most important from a setup piece is all-around communication.

Look you know we we work in a fast-paced environment like most companies there's gonna be conflict sometimes right and that's a good thing we all know conflict is a good thing for teams but if you're just on the phone or just on email or just on slack and there's conflict the slightest thing can set someone up spiraling off and it can be completely unintended so what we have kind of a couple of unspoken rules in our set up one is if you've got more than three emails or three chats going back and forth you need to jump on a zoom or pick up the phone to see what's going on.

And if you in any way feel uncomfortably like did i not read that right or that really bothered me we encourage all of our folks and we demonstrate this from a leadership perspective get on a zoom cost so you can see and talk to each other that resolves things you know 99% of the time.

But if you don't you don't have that as part of the strategy of your setup and establish that early on and that's really hard to build in after the fact true bullshit.

So you have actually a set of rules written? 

Oh we do we have a work from home written policy and we continue to add to it but it's really those cultural norms that you have to drive a new your company so one of the things we do to keep everyone can did is we do an all company call twice a month with everyone from all departments and i need to call primarily and we start out talking about culture at every call and in our work from home cultures as i said it's a strategic part of how we operate our business.

And so people sharing their lessons learn from this work from home scenario is is probably more important than the work from home policy that says between the hours of 9:00 and 5:00 you must be available and it must be within this ip address range.

Okay so culturally you have a everything set up and you work on it and and also physically do you provide your employees with equipment or do you we what works?

They can choose so we tend to give her a range we have a budget amount and then a range of equipment for our us employees we use best fire amazon which are two retailers so this was even pre co but instead of having to go to a store we literally have everything shipped to your house we keep a pretty simple set up all the tools that folks in our company primarily use to do their job our sas base which is great.

So it makes the setup much easier and they get that kid on their welcome day you know as part of this we've also utilized a tool called learn upon which is an online health learning management system tool which has been fantastic for us to help with culture and onboarding.

So again you know i can't sit in a conference room for two weeks with my nana jur going through an onboarding so kind of building up everything from you know how do i use hub spot to report service tickets through to our culture and doing this all in a virtual learning environment has been a big help as well.

We probably done 80% of the core content and then obviously will augment it with some you know best practices topics like communication or their handling a challenging customer service situation but one of the expectations on our managers again is hey we're trying to scale our company very quickly in a work from home online learning and implementing in lms is absolutely critical to be able to do that at scale.

#4 how to increase productivity with work from home?

Okay very interesting and now with all these cultural these are cultural tips but also this physical this physical setup so how do you increase productivity?

So how do we make sure that but you keep increasing productivity yeah it's a it's a great question so again when we started there there wasn't a lot of people doing work from home you know or certainly they hadn't committed to their whole company doing work from home.

I talked about it this tool active track that that we use to start and again at first we did it just from a security purposes right to kind of keep an eye on people make sure they were in the location they needed to be but but what it quickly evolved into is we were able to as an example see how our researchers spend their time what sites they're going on which ones take them longer.

So for example our researchers right they are going through criminal records all day long on potential candidates and and what we need to help them do for their own personal happiness but also for our businesses how do we make them more efficient right?

How do we help them do more reports a better quality level and a shorter shorter amount of time and so you know the old way is everyone would get around the table after you know a quarter to and talk about hey this is what's working for me this is not what we're working for me now our chief operating officer can say actually those of you who are more productive spend you know thirty percent more time on online training within a month and i can see this from your hat contract.

Stats versus those of you who don't let's try to get everybody to that you know thirty percent of their time range because it's going to help you be more productive going on that's something we probably wouldn't have done in an office environment but that work from home environment kind of forced us to do that on the flip side of that in terms of helping people be productive every day.

We don't want them to burn so one of the cultural values we recruit for is we want people who background checks is more than a job for right when you think about the role of a background check obviously there is a hey did someone do what they say they did from a career in education perspective but also particularly for the workplace or places of volunteer or you know jobs to interact with children the the criminal element becomes incredibly important.

And we recruit people for who they see this as a social mission like hey you know i do not want someone who shouldn't be around children working in a school so our people have a lot of passion for what they do every day we recruit for it but the challenge can be is hey i have this passion i'm gonna do it twelve hours a day which as a manager personally hey this is great like you know we don't pay by the hour so they're working extra hard right.

You know what it can do though is it can hurt quality and it can hurt productivity over time and it can hurt burnout and when there's no physical separation between me leaving my office getting on the train and going home you know my commute to the kitchen here is much shorter and so we work with people on making sure they have set office hours.

Making sure like literally we talk to each other hey did you go out of the house today well we have one employee who literally when she starts her day right she'll have breakfast she'll go outside walk around the block and then come back to her home office work when she's done she will go outside walk around the block and come back and she's done but oh we laughed but it really helps her with that separation and it keeps her productive during her working hours it also keeps her happy employee happiness is such a big part of why we did work from home.

For so many reasons one is it's the right thing to do two is when your employees are happy they're doing a better job for your clients which is how we differentiate and win and lastly most importantly if you have someone you're working with who's happy they're not going to want to leave a visa we provide compensation but the end of the day and an incredibly competitive job market where you get personal satisfaction and happiness is most important and and providing a great work from home environment has helped us do that well.

#5 actionable work from home tips

It's a lot of thing together so actually that bring us again to the next topic which is trying to together some actionable work from home tips so you mentioned for example are going for work in the morning personally i also start be one hour work everyday before before checking my emails.

You have to write you have to do something to clear your head so we've got to work around the block tip the second one and this is part of an a pre hire process is literally when you're interviewing someone go have them go to google on their home commuter computer and test the download speed if the download speed is really slow you know you're gonna need to do something to help get them successful there it's a wi-fi booster or some other tool.

It sounds so basic but you know we have employees where we didn't do that they started that slow internet we were like why are there great you know they're super smart they're totally engaged in our training why are they behind everybody else and it's because they're afraid to speak up that their wi-fi as well well that that's something we can fix really easily.

So you know we include that in all of our assessment processes in an ongoing basis as well you know other tips that have worked well for us are one obviously having that document policy which i'm sure everyone is building today.

But again that that at least once to twice a month to check in with people in terms of culturally how is this working it's not only for votes who have been with us for a long time it's really for those who were new you know that way are kind of more tenured employees are teaching our new employees what are the cultural norms and behaviors of scotland it comes to working in a work from home environment.

And along with that we always assign up buddies to each other right so you know the old environment when i saw it out i started working at a big ad agency out of university in chicago we all work together i had a buddy you know who is he had been two years in his career we go out to lunch once a month and you know i would get all kinds of great cultural learning from him.

Well we can't do that when i've got an employee  in New York   and an employee in ohio but we can do it virtually so we will buddy people up we will encourage them to have lunch together on a zoom or a coffee or talk like this and you have to force it in the beginning eventually it will develop a natural cadence on its own but you have to always push a little harder with communication in these work from home environments just so people kind of get over their comfort level.

When i think that the other practical tips to keep an eye on as part of work from home is you know are your employees naturally extroverts or introverts right extroverts right they sometimes they struggle it they can feel very isolated so we've got a seller of no surprise a massive extrovert right you know as a leadership team we go out of our way to make sure that we are reaching out to him and he has an outlet right because that's how he gets energy from other people and he's in a room like this by himself all day that doesn't happen now.

On the flip side you know being we have a reach our researchers tend to be more introverted obviously they're people like looking through records in solitude all day that's not good either so you need to make sure and our introverts will naturally stay introverted you know the entire week and they need socialization too so kind of keeping an eye on the personal styles of team members and making sure their managers recognize that and engage with them are really important that's a lot of very insightful tips great actually not so complicated to put in place anybody can do it.

So it's not so complicated to set up a work from home environment even working with people that are remotely in different time zones absolutely it's just not i mean i think five years ago might have been but the availability of high-speed internet tools like you know rocketry sas application that's been built in the last you know five years you know it's just amazing i mean we could never have done this before and now you can't and so it's not about the technology anymore it's all about communication and people when they can't physically be in the same room with each other.

You know when we have people who work internationally in different company countries and cultures obviously there are you have to even be more cognizant of that which is why company culture becomes so critical and cultural nums norms are so critical so for example i said we do have employees we're based in manila yeah obviously english is a second language they tend to be more shy so more shy on top of you know no interpersonal communication in the same room and create a problem so again over-communicating being proactive reaching out those are the things that we really need to focus on boosting people's wi-fi speed.

That's the easy part these days and that's a real change over the past several years so actually the the physical setup like having a  comfortable chair   with  a laptop   with internet connection and a vpn to secure your your network traffic is the easy part.

Exactly so the one on which companies good work more is the control but without a doubt right you know taking care of equipment i mean those are clicks on a keyboard or order it from a vendor but human behavior is always the trickiest thing and and really humans feeling engaged and empowered in their work is what we at scala logic need for us to move our business forward and create a great environment and it's how do you best support that in a way when people aren't physically in the same room and you have to use the technologies and enabler to do that but you have to consistently demonstrate throughout the company at all levels.

And starting with me as the ceo good communication skills and good communication behaviors so we are all embracing this and we're all making sure everyone feels valued.

So do you do it in your you mentioned a weekly core meeting? 

So we so as a company we do all company at least twice a month and then our our researcher teams do a video call every day with each other and our sales team two to three days a week and i will join those as its ceo i will join those at various times sometimes when i'm in the room it can be distracting right and i want people to feel relaxed.

I know i'm a laid-back fun guy but you know if i'm sitting you know 5 which i have i haven't met most of our employees in person which is wild right small company i don't ever want to be a disturbance either but what i will frequently do is when we i can see conflict going on in an email or a slap chat i will frequently jump in at that point say hey look you guys need to get on a zoom to resolve that or i do that but with people as well folks need to know that that's okay to do that and actually we encourage it.

That'ss very interesting and a very new a point of view actually to the component walk from home environment which is usually focused on the technical side the physical setup.

#6 wrap-up

So before before we finish maybe you want to tell us a little bit more again about your company which kind of service?

Absolutely they know thank you for asking so escalated we're a pre-employment background check company so we serve several hundred companies here in the united states as part of their onboarding and recruiting process about half of our clients are employment staffing agencies the others are traditional employers.

It's a crowded market i've had you know 1 competitors every day and think about it in our world data as a commodity a court record as a court record when it comes to technology our recruiter doesn't want to be hanging out in there background check applicational.

They write they want to be going out and finding great talent so we believe strongly that service is the differentiator right 80 % of background checks have no issues it's all about the 20% where someone had a record or i cannon has a question or you have to follow up and that 20% can only be addressed by people and we believe strongly that if we have the best people in the industry we will have happier clients.

And then it's worked really well for us we've doubled every year since we started the company three years ago but work from home is our secret sauce that's what our leadership seems like why are you gonna go and talk about our secret sauce because like i don't need to worry about finding great researchers within a ten-mile radius of where i live in the suburbs of chicago i have the whole world to look for awesome people and and that that is a really great way to run a company you know all the technical stuff is out there to make that happen but if you can get kind of the cultural and through dynamics right man your company can really have a differentiator far beyond what we're going through right now.

Okay with that that's a very interesting business!

Michel Pinson
About the author - Michel Pinson
Michel Pinson is a Travel enthusiast and Content Creator. Merging passion for education and exploration, he iscommitted to sharing knowledge and inspiring others through captivating educational content. Bringing the world closer together by empowering individuals with global expertise and a sense of wanderlust.

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