- Infragistics used to offer free food, but the pandemic stopped that.
- The company instead gave out $10,000 in staff care packages and held virtual parties.
- Its CEO explained how the company tries to create a sense of belonging even as staff work from home.
Dean Guida’s company used to spend around $50,000 a year buying candy for its offices so that staff could have snacks while they worked.
Now the vast majority of Infragistics’ 250 employees are working from home, and free food is off the menu.
Infragistics, which builds software for professional developers, found it “really easy” to switch to remote working when the pandemic hit, CEO Dean Guida told Insider. The company already had work-from-home policies in place for staff in its six offices in the US, the UK, Japan, Uruguay, Bulgaria, and India.
But when staff stopped coming into the office, it was hard to keep staff feeling connected, Guida said.
“Everyone really is missing and longing for social and physical interaction,” he said.
Read more: Europe’s startups are managing the shift to hybrid work with employee surveys, mandated days, and mental-health training
‘COVID kinda messed up a lot of things’
Guida said that before the pandemic hit, the company had worked hard to make “a physical environment [with] really cool places to work,” coupled with a culture where staff felt comfortable expressing ideas, asking for help, and collaborating with colleagues.
At one point, the company was spending around $50,000 a year buying candy for its offices, but stopped in 2018 after “HR got really angry with us because we weren’t promoting healthy living,” Guida said.
It switched to free fruit and drinks, and had a subsidized cafeteria for staff with “really great food,” he added. “But COVID kinda messed up a lot of things.”
Guida said the market for tech talent had been tight during the pandemic and he wanted to make sure Infragistics still had a sense of culture and belonging, so he switched up the company’s perks.
“In the tech space pre-COVID, there was a lot of poaching going on. Post-COVID, it got even worse,” Guida said. “The intensity of headhunters is just been crazy.”
Infragistics spent around $10,000 on care packages for staff with items like coasters, blankets, and socks, Guida said, and bought software called Precitate to recreate office parties online.
“It’s like an online experience where you’re like this bubble floating around in a room, and when you get close to somebody, you can hear them talk,” he said. “So it kind of stimulates a party atmosphere.”
Guida also said that many of the teams had personal check-ins where staff could discuss topics like family and weekend plans.
“It’s created this great connection, which actually helps business,” he said. “It helps the whole team just trust everyone more and just feel more connected to each other.”
Perks like the care packages “weren’t meant to be a replacement for catered meals and snacks for 250 people, five days a week,” Guida said. But the company did make a “major investment” by setting up the Infragistics Innovation Fund and Lab, which gives employees the opportunity to develop their own business ideas, he said.
Only around 30% of Infragistics staff want to return to the office either full- or part-time, Guida said.
Two of Infragistics’ offices – those in Uruguay and Bulgaria – are open, Guida said. Around a third of their staff are going in for collaborative work, though most for just one or two days a week, he said.
Infragistics had planned to reopen its US office in Cranberry, New Jersey, in September, but has postponed this due to the spread of the Delta variant, Guida said. The reopening is set for early October.
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