Taste of Instacart
What’s it like to join Instacart as a remote employee?
By Cody Reppert, Product Designer II
2020 hit us all differently. For me, the most immediate effect was on my career. At the beginning of the year I was working in my first job out of college as a designer, where I had just been promoted. Just as swiftly, though, I was laid off when the company realized it would have to downsize due to the pandemic.
Today, I’m working remotely as a designer at Instacart. I’d like to share my journey to get here and what it’s been like to join a company remotely during a year of tremendous change.
Turning uncertainty into optimism
Of course, I was concerned when I got laid off. I knew I was employable, but if the company I just left was downsizing, what did that mean for the job market as a whole? In a way, I was grateful that the company I was leaving was one of the first to initiate layoffs in response to the pandemic because it gave me a head start for job hunting.
While some companies were shrinking due to COVID, others were growing rapidly. Instacart was one of those companies because it became an essential service for millions of people who needed safe access to groceries and other essentials. Instacart was focused on creating the safest and most streamlined experience both for customers and Instacart shoppers, which meant there were big opportunities on the design team.
But if I joined them, what would it be like? How would joining a newly remote team feel different from my last experience of working with a tight-knit, in-person team?
I knew I wouldn’t fully understand the answer to these questions until starting out at the company, so with an optimistic mindset, I accepted the job and started fresh.
Contributing to a team vibe from afar
I’ve been able to foster great connections within the design team since I started my role here, thanks to team offsites, regular 1-on-1 meetings, and team events.
We’re a team that meets often (with the exception of no-meetings Wednesdays). This gives us the opportunity to really get to know each other better and understand our working styles, and our leadership team also makes sure we can get to know one another outside of a work context.
Through the pandemic, the design team has held regular “virtual” offsites — things like doing a virtual escape room together or playing games remotely. This has allowed us all to bond on a personal level (and it’s an added bonus that we can expense the food and drinks that we get for these events).
We’ve also gotten a chance to attend Instacart Design Talks, where each month one of our design leaders hosts a virtual chat with someone from the industry who inspires them. Attending these talks has given us a great chance to get inspired and get to know our design leaders better. It really feels like there’s an effort to foster a sense of camaraderie on our team, especially when we’re all working from home.
Enjoying the “flexible office” perks
Being forced to go remote changed one major thing for a lot of companies: the “cool office” factor. Like a lot of startups, Instacart’s office is a major draw for many employees, and I’m sure our leadership team felt pressure to recreate that feeling remotely. There are a number of things that have been introduced that have helped us all feel taken care of, even if we can’t be in the same office together. For instance, we were given a home office stipend to reimburse us for anything we needed to make our space easier to work in, from ergonomic furniture to technology.
Firstly, I’m grateful for the flexibility. Right now, anyone can work from anywhere in the US, whether that means working from your home, visiting family, or even working from Hawaii (where I have spent some time this past year). As our offices reopen, we’ve also created permanent remote options for employees whose roles don’t require them to be in an office or a specific geographic location or time zone.
Our schedule is flexible. No one is expected to be at their desks from 9–5 if those aren’t their most productive hours. As long as you’re available when others need you and you finish your projects on time, you’re good. That means it’s okay to take a break during the middle of the day — life happens, and this schedule makes room for life and everything it brings with it.
Feeling supported through challenging times
Even with a number of plans in place to support us, working remotely during a pandemic still presents its own set of challenges. I’ve found that Instacart has done everything possible to try to alleviate them.
Employee mental health has always been important here, but there’s been an effort to ramp up efforts on this lately to address stress from the pandemic and video chat fatigue. Luckily, our leadership team has made it a priority to give us access to therapy resources, and time off when we need time to reset.
Another thing I’ve been impressed by is that we’re always trying new ways of creating a social environment remotely. Some of our managers have started creating optional hangout times. For example, you can join a Thursday morning coffee chat, where you sign in to a meeting space and just chat with whoever else is there.
On Wednesdays we have a special meeting room that people can drop in and out of where we all take turns playing DJ with music everyone else can work to. We’ve also been trying a monthly inspiration session where we share things that have inspired us. I really appreciate all the different ways we’re experimenting to bring people closer together. Our managers are always trying new things to see what sticks and what will help us work better as a team.
All in all my experience working as a remote employee at Instacart has been overwhelmingly positive. I can’t imagine it’s been easy to make new employees feel welcome and connected over the last year, but the effort has made this year easier for me and my team in countless ways. And I know those efforts will only continue to grow and evolve; I can’t wait to be a part of that.
If you want to get involved, we’re hiring! If you’re a designer who’s looking for a new opportunity, I would definitely encourage you to apply for a product design position. We’re also hiring product design managers, and researchers. For all other positions, please take a look at open opportunities on our careers page.
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