develop, wellbeing and Wefarm

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develop recently wrote a blog highlighting diversity in the workplace with Michelle Davies at Wefarm. Founded in 2015, Wefarm enables farmers to share knowledge, and access a marketplace of trustworthy retailers for free either online and via SMS. 

Our Marketing Manager, Amy Moore had a chat with Michelle Davies, VP of Operations at Wefarm to discuss her career, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and Wefarm’s plans for the future. Today’s blog is highlighting how Wefarm works across different time zones and cultures whilst keeping people’s wellness and wellbeing at the forefront. 

Working across so many time zones and countries must be challenging, how does Wefarm overcome this? 

Of course, it has its own challenges, but we’ve never had any big issues with this. We've always been slightly spread out because East Africa is two hours ahead of London in the summer, three in the winter. But it means that anything that requires everyone is sort of the middle of the day. And that means also that anyone across Europe or all of Africa is going to fall into those time zones. 

We try to work asynchronously as much as we can. So, writing documents, sharing works in progress across the business and recording all key meetings is one thing we’ve always done. The past year has made us put a lot of things in perspective, and we’ve officially gone remote first going forward. It takes a lot of work but it’s best for us. It's also more inclusive; if people don't feel comfortable speaking up in a meeting, they might comment on a document, or comment in the chat as opposed to speaking in front of the entire company on a call.  

Do you find that having key meetings in the middle of the day makes you more appealing to parents?

Yeah, definitely, but it’s also led from the top. Our CEO & Founder and our COO, you can see in their calendars day-care drop off and day-care pick up every day. 

One of our four values is transparency, and you can everybody’s calendars are open, and you can see that they're not available before 9:30 and they're not available after 16.00. So, they might be on late answering emails, but you know what’s important to them and it makes it OK for everybody else. 

We also have other leaders who work four days a week because of childcare requirements and I think it's important that that's visual and everybody can see it because it makes it truly acceptable,  you can see it's OK to live your life and do what you need to do, but unless you actually demonstrate it, flexible work policies are pretty meaningless documents.

How do you find managing people's wellbeing when it's remote?  

Yeah, it's never easy, and it’s important to remember that you won't be perfect. I think the advice I always give people is to be OK with the fact that it's not going to be the same everywhere. Cultures and expectations are different. Offer everybody the tools but be OK with if not everyone accepts it. 

The important thing is to be human about it and genuinely support people where you can. We don't know all the answers, and certainly can’t plan for every possible individual need, so tell us what you need, be honest and just say how can I help you? 

How have you found being a woman working in HR?

I mean, let's be honest, I probably work in one of the industries where women are the majority, but that has its own challenges. Prior to my current role, I was usually the only woman in the boardroom, and being in a senior leadership role, often the youngest as well. And because women are the majority in H.R. / People roles, it's often seen as the “soft skills” and that has its own challenges of not being taken as seriously in some business situations. 

I'm not the same person when I started, but I also have figured out ways to make my voice heard, but in ways that are authentic to me. I think early in my career I tried to just be like all the men and talk louder. And that was not real for me. So, finding ways to lead my own path, has been my bigger challenge. 

But honestly wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m so grateful for my first boss when I was working as an Office Manager in a start up who saw the potential in me and that I was clearly passionate about the people stuff (including the legal and other not so “soft” bits) and encouraged me to study it and gave me my first job in HR. I haven’t looked back since. 

What advice would you give to young people entering the workplace? 

I would say be authentic. That was the big thing I did wrong early on, and you’re not going to be your best because you’re going to feel uncomfortable.

One of my biggest learnings was not feeling like you always have to say something for the sake of saying it and being included in the conversation. It’s okay to say “I don’t know”, everyone around you is probably thinking it half the time too. What’s more important is that you find the answer and circle back to them – that’s what makes you memorable. 

Oh and join a start up if you want to grow fast and experience all the highs and lows of a business at pace! Corporate is great if you want security and stability but the big benefits packages are not worth more than the experiences and fun you’ll have in a small team scaling quickly. 

If you’d like to participate in our diversity and inclusion campaign, please reach out to Amy Moore.
 

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