How Growing Black-led Companies Are Handling WFH A Year Later And The Covid-19 Vaccine

Resilia, one of the fastest-growing Black women-led software companies which helps nonprofits deploy resources, is on track to quadruple their employee count in the same year that saw many tech companies experience mass layoffs, if not shutter completely. Sevetri Wilson, founder and CEO of Resilia, said the company Wilson has managed to beat the odds of being among the 1.4 million, or 25% of women-owned businesses, lost in the first two months of the pandemic.

“The pandemic caught us at a moment when Resilia was planning to expand our physical office space to accommodate our growing team. Fortunately, we were able to make changes before we began a lease on expanded office space, Wilson told The Plug. We have scaled rapidly in the last year and we aim to have 40 employees by the end of 2021,” Wilson said. 

A year ago, the New Orleans-based company had 10 employees and had recently expanded to its New York office, a careful consideration Wilson had to make to renegotiate the company’s office lease at a time when remote work is likely here to stay. Founders who were caught off guard now have a physical office draining resources. Hybrid models, including keeping certain teams offsite, has been a solution.

“We signed our lease in February 2020‚ bummer‚ and left the office at the end of March 2020. The team returned back to the office in July 2020,” Harold Hughes, CEO of Bandwagon, a customer insights, and identity management platform, told The Plug. “Software Engineers will be in our headquarters in Greenville, SC and the biz ops team is remote,” Hughes said.

Hughes has grown his team from four employees to seven in the last year, providing a one-time bonus for employees to adjust to working from home. While Hughes has adopted a hybrid model of having a portion of the company remote, Wilson has opted to have her entire workforces remote. “Right now, we are operating in a fully remote model, although our team has access to Resilia’s offices in New York and New Orleans if they choose to work out of the office,” Wilson said. “Our offices won’t fully open until September 2021‚ even before the pandemic, Resilia had a flexible remote work policy and we anticipate a hybrid model in the future.”

What comes next after a year of working from home is top of mind for founders and may depend on the deployment of Covid-19 vaccines. Mandates and guidance on the Covid-19 vaccine vary across states and are currently at the discretion of employers. There is an ongoing debate around voluntary vaccination and worker’s rights. Prescreening for employees to get the vaccine may elicit questions about an employee’s disability status. If vaccination is mandated rather than voluntary, employers have the burden of proving that the screening for the vaccine is job-related. Hughes is already factoring the vaccine in his plans for the company to occasionally return to the office.

“As a small team, there are efficiencies that we gain, from a technical standpoint, with everyone being in the same place. I expect our remote team to begin coming to the headquarters once a quarter‚ once we’re all vaccinated‚ so that the entire team can be together,” Hughes said. The past year has made it hard to conceive of workforces returning to the office en masse, but the vaccine, cycling employees on and offsite and flexibility are here for the foreseeable future.

“Remote work‚ especially for growing startups, is more than a trend. I feel that a lot of companies, especially startups, will go for a hybrid model or fully remote,” Wilson said.  Providing flexibility will be on-trend and will stay that way.

Monica Melton

Monica Melton is the managing editor of The Plug Insights. She previously covered innovation, technology, and venture capital at Forbes. She has also covered politics at POLITICO, entertainment for Time Out New York, but her most fascinating beat has been covering the intersection of technology, finance, and entrepreneurship. She is an alumna of CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Washington.