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Working From Home Was a Big Shift Even for the Companies Making the Gear We’re Using to Work From Home

5 minute read

Like so many of us, Massimo Rapparini, chief information officer at Logitech, had no choice but to learn how to work from home. “I think the biggest adjustment was, how do you really think about structuring the day so it doesn’t just spill over into one big continuum of either meetings or just talking to your kids?” says Rapparini.

Logitech started off in the 80’s as a maker of computer mice, keyboards and similar accessories. Today, it makes everything from home security cameras to Bluetooth speakers to high-end racing simulator wheels. While the pandemic slowed operations for businesses around the world—Logitech included—the Switzerland-based company was perhaps better prepared than most for the sudden forced shift to remote work. After all, it makes many of the devices now powering our work-from-home existence, including its popular webcams, which a few months ago were so in demand that a booming reseller market arose. Still, the shift was a challenge for the company, which has over 7,000 employees and a presence in more than 30 countries, including Brazil, Ireland, and Taiwan.

“If I’m trying to double the uptake of video collaboration within a couple of months, no matter how much I rely on the cloud infrastructure of some of our suppliers and the like, there are going to be adjustments that we need to make and anticipate,” says Rapparini, who’s based in Amsterdam. “I think for us, the biggest focus has been the scaling of our geographically distributed collaboration.”

Logitech’s long been experimenting with remote work. Two years ago, it launched a “work from home” week, both to test its mettle when it comes to conducting business virtually and to address negative connotations with remote work. After seeing employees participating from places like their local beach, the company changed the name to “work from anywhere” week. There’s an obvious benefit to a company that makes remote work tech testing out its gear with its own workforce, but the remote work policies led to better employee morale, too.

“And so why not make [remote work] much more widely accepted, make it something that everybody should embrace?” says Rapparini. “So, we made a conscious effort to promote it.”

Logitech has surveyed its employees twice in recent months, once at the beginning of the pandemic and another time two months in. The most notable feedback so far: people are having trouble detaching from work when at home. “There’s that feeling…even if it’s just mentally, that you’re kind of attached to your schedule, to your calendar, to calls and videos,” says Rapparini. He has encouraged teams to think differently about when they send messages and expect people to be online, but he adds that it’s up to him and the rest of the company’s executives to model good remote working behavior.

“We do need to, as leaders in particular, explicitly…live by those values ourselves,” says Rapparini. “If I say no one needs to get on a call at 10:00 PM, but I’m doing it myself, then obviously, that doesn’t make sense.”

While remote work can sometimes make it tougher for a person to be noticed—especially if they’re early in the careers or haven’t developed relationships with their coworkers yet—it can in some ways be an equalizing force, Rapparini says. “There’s no more this three of us sat in the room, kind of huddled and joking together, with somebody kind of sitting on the side, not really participating,” he says, of meetings in the office pre-pandemic. “It’s much easier for everybody to have a voice and also to be equally participating in a video experience. So, we want to really continue those types of practices.”

Moving forward, Rapparini believes Logitech will maintain at least some of its pandemic-era practices. “We’ll continue to work as much as possible remotely when there is no real need to be physically together,” says Rapparini. The company is also thinking about creating products to address people’s newfound needs, like virtual learning. “That’s something that we are exploring and we’re putting effort into figuring out how we can help with that,” he says.

Still, Rapparini acknoledges that, while people like him can work remotely, that’s not possible for others. Logitech has re-opened factories in China that were closed when the outbreak began; it’s using multiple facilities and a rolling production schedule to keep in-demand products on shelves. “When it comes to some of these jobs, we can talk about video collaboration until the cows come home, but it’s still going to be challenging to do it,” he says.

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Write to Patrick Lucas Austin at patrick.austin@time.com