Boston Tech Companies on the COVID-19 Front Lines

April 23, 2020
Knoq team member delivering package in COVID mask
knoq

Boston companies are jumping headfirst into the fight against COVID-19. Businesses are adapting their strategies and empowering employees to lend support to those affected by the economic and social impact caused by the pandemic.

Knoq, a business-focused neighborhood outreach company, created a philanthropic division dedicated to helping nonprofits like the Brookline Food Pantry get food to Bostonians in need. Cloud-based communications software provider Fuze developed new training and informational materials to help companies better manage their newly remote workforces. Lose It! made a corporate-facing fitness challenge on its weight loss app available to the public so more folks at home could stay active. Pet product supplier Chewy is actively hiring 6,000 new staff and donated millions in supplies to pet owners all over the country.

In addition to supporting their clients and community, the following Boston companies are also keeping their teams top of mind by offering increased wages, flexible working hours and resources to beat social isolation.

 

Kendall H. Tucker
Founder and CEO

While partnering with Boston food banks, Knoq is also providing internal support by paying its field employees more. Tucker said the company is hiring new staff so that the “Knoq Cares” team can assist even more citizens in need. 

 

How is your company contributing to the COVID-19 efforts? 

We train neighborhood representatives to go into their communities and educate people on the products and services offered by local businesses that do not have a brick-and-mortar presence.

Due to the spread of COVID-19, we made the decision to pause our neighborhood outreach to keep our employees and communities safe. Our team knew that helping hands would be needed, so we launched “Knoq Cares,” an initiative to support mission-critical organizations, like food banks, that are in desperate need of assistance. We immediately began searching for community partners and teamed up with the Greater Boston Food Bank and the Brookline Food Pantry to deliver supplies and groceries to those in need within the Boston Area.

 

What is the greatest challenge COVID-19 has presented to your team?

Meeting the overwhelming demand from community organizations that are working around the clock to deliver groceries and supplies. To increase our support, we’re looking to grow our team while maintaining their safety and the safety of our community. We’ve taken steps to hire, train and protect our Knoqers remotely. Additionally, all our deliveries are no-contact to help ensure the health and safety of our Knoqers and our neighbors. We developed door hangers with instructions for community members on how to safely handle delivery packages.

 

How Knoq onboards employees during a crisis:

  • Hosting video conference interviews and remote trainings
  • Sending onboarding materials that emphasize precautions specific to COVID-19
  • Sending care packages with personal protective equipment

 

What impact have these events had on your overall business?

We’re delivering groceries and supplies rather than talking to our neighbors about products and services. But the business shift aligns well with our core mission of neighbors helping neighbors. To expand this work and help more neighbors, we’re looking to add an additional 30 part-time and full-time employees to our Boston team. 

All Knoqers are hourly employees, and to recognize the bravery currently shown by our staff, we raised wages to $20. We provide $15 as a base, with an additional $5 of hero pay. Those working full-time hours are eligible for health benefits.

 

As businesses move their entire workforces to remote setups, Day said Fuze is providing free public resources to individuals managing employees working from home. And for its own remote staff, the company is allowing them to set their schedules to create a work-life balance that works best for their situations.

 

How is your company contributing to the COVID-19 efforts? 

Fuze is a global cloud communications software provider. Our customers rely on us to keep their workforces connected over voice, video and chat from any location or device, especially now that the majority of their people are working from home. 

Our customer success and support teams have been working very closely with our customers to ensure they are enabled with best practices for distributed work during the COVID-19 crisis. We created several new guides, resources and live training sessions to ensure all of our end users have access to the information they need to stay productive from home. We also created additional free resources that anyone in the community can use to help set remote working policies, create business continuity plans and manage remote teams, among other tasks. 

Our workforce is encouraged to figure out which hours make the most sense to them.”

 

What is the greatest challenge COVID-19 has presented to your team?

Many companies, like ours, are feeling pressure in maintaining culture, productivity and the balance between professional and personal responsibilities while teams are apart. So we focused on increasing internal communications and transparency through ask-me-anything sessions with our executive team, town hall meetings and frequent email updates on the impact of COVID-19 throughout the past several weeks. 

We’re also focused on maintaining work-life balance, since many of us are juggling responsibilities at home. Our workforce is encouraged to figure out which hours make the most sense to them given the current situation. Drawing the line between work and personal time is more important than ever. 

There have been several initiatives to maintain the fun, social side of work. HR is scheduling virtual yoga and kickboxing classes so our team can connect with one another and stay well. We’re collecting ideas for additional activities like a book club and open mic night that our team can do to keep the Fuze community spirit alive. 

 

What impact have these events had on your overall business?

This new way of working has focused our team even more on what matters most: supporting our customers, one another and our ability to take care of our families. We will continue to keep our employees and community safe by staying home. We’re looking at hiring plans to see what makes the most sense across the business and will continue to hire for critical roles. Part of our innovation strategy is to continually act on customer needs to improve their experience, and our product and engineering teams are zeroed in on improving the product experience for remote workers. 

 

Related reading:How Boston Tech Companies Are Supporting Their Communities

 

Kevin McCoy
Senior VP of Business Development

McCoy said his team wants to help the public stay active in this period of nationwide social distancing. So, they developed new features for their health and fitness platform and made a corporate wellness app open to the public. 

 

How is your company contributing to the COVID-19 efforts? 

Lose It! is a calorie counting and weight loss app. As COVID-19 began, we focused on supporting our members by providing new, free features to make activity logging easier, relevant content from our advisors and a donation to Meals on Wheels.

Our most impactful contribution was the decision to launch a public challenge in our Challenges App. This product, which is typically only available as a wellness tool for corporate companies, allows Apple Watch owners to participate in friendly competition through team activity challenges. It was the first time we opened the app to the public, and in the first two weeks, over 16,000 participants logged almost 12 million exercise minutes. The results were so positive that we decided to do another iteration, making it free for companies to provide their employees with added wellness support during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We prioritized COVID-19 support over other projects that we had planned.”

 

What is the greatest challenge COVID-19 has presented to your team?

The greatest hurdle we’ve overcome was preparing the Challenges App to reach public audiences in such a short amount of time. While the app has seen large volumes of participants from some of our corporate partners who use this tool as an employee wellness benefit, we were unsure what to expect when we opened it up to everyone. 

 

What impact have these events had on your overall business?

Apart from our employees now working remotely, we prioritized COVID-19 support over other projects that we had planned. The Challenges App team dropped everything and worked long hours to get the app ready for public use. We plan to return our focus to improving the product for our corporate wellness clients, but for now, we’re excited to be able to support our community with these activities.

 

Joanna Hass
Associate Director of Public Relations

Hass said Chewy’s team is providing substantial assistance to pets, and the humans that care for them. In addition to creating room for thousands of new hires, the company supplied pet owners nationwide with millions of dollars worth of supplies for their furry children.

 

How is your company contributing to the COVID-19 efforts? 

We’re supporting the community by working with shelters to donate food and supplies to those who may need it most. We expanded food support for people and pets living in underserved communities through strategic partnerships. We’re working to ensure that those who are economically impacted can keep their animals healthy and fed at home, rather than facing the difficult decision of surrendering their pet. We’re honored to share that our relief efforts have surpassed more than $4 million in pet products donated across the country.

We are hiring more than 6,000 new team members.”

 

What impact have these events had on your overall business?

To further support our increased customer and community needs, we are hiring more than 6,000 new team members spread throughout our organization.

 

Keith Nicks
DIGITAL AND E-COMMERCE OFFICER

At Peapod Digital Labs, the e-commerce team is facing a unique challenge. Digital and E-commerce Officer Keith Nicks said he’s trying to balance scaling the company’s online platform to meet the current increased demand while focusing on the customer experience. Stakes aren’t low. According to Nicks, website traffic has been between four and six times the normal volume.

 

How is your company contributing to the COVID-19 efforts? 

Peapod Digital Labs is responsible for delivering digital and e-commerce capabilities to customers who shop Ahold Delhaize brands through websites, mobile apps, fulfillment and automation. When you’re in the grocery business, you don’t really think about signing up to be on the front lines of a pandemic. But as this has taken place, that’s exactly what’s happened. 

The grocery industry is responsible for delivering food and products to customers. And as the e-commerce arm of that grocery operation, PDL is trying to support customers as they shift to getting their groceries online, allowing them access to the products and services they want to access. 

It’s a lot to manage but our customers are counting on us.’’ 

 

What is the greatest challenge COVID-19 has presented to your team?

The challenge we’re seeing in relation to COVID-19 is two-fold. On the one hand, website traffic is between four and six times the normal volume. We’ve had to rapidly scale up our platform to support that kind of traffic while adjusting our fulfillment operations to ensure our customers and employees are staying safe. We quickly implemented contactless delivery and contactless pickup options, as we want to respect our customer’s personal circumstances.

At the same time, we still have ambitious goals related to how we continue to evolve the features and functionality of our platforms. We want to make improvements based on what matters to the customer. So, the challenge is trying to scale the solution to meet the increased demand while also focusing on the experience. It’s a lot to manage but our customers are counting on us. 

 

What impact have these events had on your overall business?

Our teams have stepped up to ensure that we’re continuing to deliver for customers during this difficult time. But, to keep moving quickly, we’re also hiring across all fronts of tech. We’re hiring JavaScript developers, quality engineers, DevOps professionals and front-end developers. We’re looking for more folks who are hungry for this kind of challenge. 

As COVID-19 continues to impact traffic both in-store and online, we need team members who can help us deliver the products customers want using the best experience possible. 

 

Related: Companies Hiring During Coronavirus

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