GC Fireside

Responding to COVID-19

Sivan Whiteley
August 17, 2020

Please provide a breakdown of Square's Coronavirus response.

In terms of our business and employees, Square’s approach to COVID-19 has been focused on being proactive (even in advance of any local orders), in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus. We began by strongly recommending Square employees work remotely on March 2nd (in advance of most businesses) and on March 11th we instituted a mandatory work from home policy, which meant that anyone coming into the office would need an approved exception. Our exception process begins with an e-form filled out by the employee, which is then vetted by the HR and business continuity teams, who ensure the person needs to access the office to perform essential work for the business. Additionally, our policies included instituting a ban on all non-essential business travel (both domestically and internationally) and suspending external guests from visiting Square offices, including candidates, and moving all internal meetings, external meetings, and interviews to video conferencing.

Clear and transparent communication has been key. Our communication with employees has been structured through weekly updates (or more, as needed) sent out through our intranet and a comprehensive FAQ which we update daily with new information. That document includes all of the company policy changes for travel and office access, resources for working remotely like remote team best practices and audio-visual tools, as well as benefits available to our employees during this time (reminders about our web-based wellness resourcing, stipend details, etc). In addition to the top-down communication to the company, we opened up a Slack channel to field questions from employees and began live-streaming a weekly all-company meeting where the CEO and leadership team are available to answer questions from employees.

How do you mitigate risk during COVID-19?

Our priority from the start of this situation has been mitigating the spread of COVID-19. We are focused on our employees, our customers, our local communities, and our business. We take our community responsibility seriously and developed policies to proactively help reduce the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to do our part by monitoring and adhering to the local shelter-in-place ordinances and guidance from the medical community and by supporting our employees and customers as best we can.

Square supports small businesses through our Seller ecosystem as well as individuals through Cash App.  We have taken a close look at the ways we can provide services that are useful during this time and that reduce the burden that our Sellers are experiencing. For example, we expedited and launched seller-powered delivery and curbside pickup features. These features were originally scheduled for Q2, and the team accelerated to launch the products in one week. For the month of March, we’re also waiving fees for our software products like Square Marketing, Square Loyalty, Square for Restaurants, Square for Retail, and more, to help our sellers who need a little extra cash. For Square Capital (our lending platform), we’re offering delays on minimum payment obligations.  For our Cash App customers, we are engaging with our customers over social media and participating in social giving activities along with other influencers who use our platform. We have also launched new Boosts on Cash App so consumers can access discounts to places like grocery stores and Walgreens for items they need.

How has Square’s transition been to a WFH policy?

Our transition to WFH has been relatively seamless. Because we took early action, our policies were already in place by the time local officials began issuing ordinances to shelter-in-place.

We are a technology company and have already been focused on decentralizing our workforce. With remote employees and cross-functional teams in offices around the world, we had existing tools and processes in place to support a decentralized model.  We have pivoted in-person meetings and candidate interviews to video conferences and are heavily relying on cloud-based work collaboration and Slack channels for communication. Agility to transition to distributed working is a key skill we are developing and practicing. This situation was a forcing function for all of us to be sure we are prepared to work together while not physically in the same location.

We also explored ways to help our employees more effectively work from home. This included providing a one-time $500 stipend to help with expenses employees may incur working from home and we also leveraged resources and best practices for effective remote work from different teams throughout Square. One of the biggest challenges has been for parents working without childcare and we encourage manager conversations and flexibility while we navigate through this. Our parents employee resource group has provided support, tips, and resources to help with this effort.

What advice would you give to lawyers managing COVID-19?

I can share what worked for us. First, we had clearly designated decision-makers. For us, the team leading the response is Trust & Safety, which sits in my organization. The Trust & Safety Team manages the physical security of all our global office locations and are best equipped to advise on safety matters and procedures for limiting or shutting down office access. Second, we put together a small cross-functional working group of senior leaders to assess new information, make decisions quickly, and communicate directly with the company. We included representatives from Trust & Safety, Legal (including both Employment and Business Continuity), HR, Finance, Internal Communications, and the business teams. Third, we hold daily meetings with the working group and the full Square executive team so that all updates can be processed and responses developed in real time. This approach helps us maintain alignment as we deal with an ever-changing situation. Finally, throughout this process we led with empathy and were deliberate, not making promises or statements that we weren’t sure of -- focusing instead on delivering regular, predictable communication cadences, transparency, and clear, up-to-date facts, as well as acknowledging people’s struggle.

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