Episode 40: Nurturing an All-Remote Workplace at Vital Farms
In this podcast, Odill Rodrigues, the director of digital integration and infrastructure at Vital Farms, discusses how the company made the transition to remote work during the pandemic. Vital Farms is an Austin-based egg company that prioritizes ethical food practices and supports a commitment to conscious capitalism. The company works with about 200 small family farms across the United States and is the industrial leader of pasture-raised eggs in the US.
Rodrigues explains the decision to move to remote work was methodical and made with the intention of prioritizing the safety and well-being of the company's crew members. Vital Farms achieved this by conducting surveys and having one-on-one check-ins with crew members. Empathy is one of the company's core values, and they believe that putting their crew members first is essential to the success of the organization.
Rodrigues also discusses the company's IT infrastructure and how they were prepared to make the switch to remote work. Interestingly, Microsoft 365 was already on the company's 2020 roadmap before the pandemic hit. The company uses Microsoft Teams for communication and collaboration and has found that this platform has helped them to stay connected and support productivity while working remotely.
Rodrigues goes on to discuss the importance of putting people first, and how empathy can help organizations navigate the transition to hybrid work. When crafting a hybrid or remote working environment, there is also a need to be inclusive to provide the best working environment for everyone. Working together to create a future state of work embracing everyone in every department is critical. She also delves into the benefits and challenges of remote work, and how the use of digital tools can help support collaboration and communication between team members. One example was creating a collaborative workspace and using Microsoft 365 tools like Teams to facilitate communication and collaboration. This led to better co-authoring and seamless collaboration, which is a significant change for organizations looking to embrace hybrid work.
Rodrigues also dispels the stereotype that Microsoft is not cool and only for senior people. Most people who try it are pleasantly surprised by its collaboration capabilities. Rodrigues explains how her company, Vital Farms, embraced Microsoft 365's various tools, such as Teams, Power BI, Planner, Power Automate, Flow, OneDrive, and MyAnalytics, and is using them to their full potential. The speaker mentions that they are exploring building mini apps for their farm using Power Automate and Power Apps. The ease of taking all the modules within Microsoft 365 and stitching together creates an ecosystem where workers can spend their entire workday on one platform and have everything they need, such as Microsoft Teams. However, without proper training and a strategic plan, introducing Microsoft 365 to an organization can be overwhelming.
Rodrigues also shares the initiative her organization is undergoing right now to standardize a company-wide intranet on SharePoint. The project is being driven by the need for a centralized employee-focused intranet, which will serve as a one-stop-shop for all crew members to access feeds, tools, and resources. The intranet is being set up in a hub-and-spoke model, with the main company website and departmental subsites. A pilot is currently underway, and the beta version will be released in a few months. The implementation is being approached with caution, with a focus on ensuring that the project offers value to the organization and its employees.
Vital Farms is also researching Viva Connections and how it can be incorporated into their SharePoint architecture. Rodrigues is doing this with an eye toward ensuring any new tools and technologies do not negatively affect day-to-day work and are only implemented if they offer value to employees. The organization is growing at an incredible pace, and the project is seen to give crews a one-stop-shop to access tools and resources, rather than having to remember multiple bookmarks.
Rodrigues ends with discussing the current conversations around returning to work. She recommends not making a top-down decision, but rather listening to the opinions of all stakeholders and co-creating the future concept of what the office needs to be.