Top tips on how to engage with staff remotely
Across the UK, the business impact from COVID-19 has been felt throughout all industries. The most notable change being the new working environment resulting from risk mitigation measures such as social distancing and remote working. While the challenges to economic and financial outcomes are evident, humans are highly social and need frequent interaction too. It’s clear that a significant challenge to business will be how to respond to the toll it takes on our mental health and our personal relationships.
To find out what businesses can do to support the needs of their staff, Oak Engage, a specialist software provider of staff engagement platforms, and Maven investee, discusses its own response to the new remote environment and the best practices it implemented to engage and support their staff.
Here at Oak Engage, we introduced company-wide remote working from March 13th ahead of the government lockdown measures on March 23rd. The lack of contact with teammates can make remote working hard, and there’s no denying that the buzz of the office is deeply missed by most. Given our product is an online communication and engagement solution, we adapted fairly easily to home working. To maintain high levels of communication, motivation, and morale, the key things we have implemented are;
1. Using our own staff-engagement product, Oak
Everyday we use ‘Nutshell’ our own instance of Oak with integrated timeline, project areas, and messenger apps. Nutshell enables us to collaborate and engage with each other, through updates, news posts, and interactions (likes, comments, and tags) in real-time, on all of our mobile, tablet and desktop devices.
Nutshell has allowed us to strengthen our relationships virtually, through one to one and group conversations, to say good morning to each other and check-in on what others are doing.
We’ve been able to send urgent messages with push notifications and breaking news features, immediately alerting employees if we’ve needed too.
Every team uses their own dedicated area to give progress updates and add video presentations/walkthroughs every couple of weeks to ensure everyone is informed about Company strategy and current OKR’s.
2. Fluid Working
Oak has always supported employees with flexible working hours. However, given the extra time needed for child and family care during this crisis, we needed to be more innovative. As long as people attend the meetings they are invited to, they can carry out the rest of their hours anytime, Monday to Sunday to fit family life. We call this concept “fluid working”. Due to its success, we are considering keeping it post lockdown.
3. All Hands Updates
We have always given a weekly presentation to staff, known internally as our “Happy Monday Update”. We use this time to update employees on what is happening throughout the company in Sales, Marketing, People, Customer Success, Product & Engineering. Now a virtual meeting, it has been integral to keep people up to date and involved. We record the video update and post it in Nutshell in the event that anyone is unable to attend.
4. Virtual Coffee Morning
Every day each department runs a catch-up meeting in the AM, to touch base/ chat, go through the previous day’s work, and set work for the current day providing another way to retain social cohesion.
5. Virtual 1:1’s
Weekly 1:1’s between Managers and direct reports are always important, even more so right now. They are used not only to catch up and discuss workload but to cement relationships.
6. Virtual Employee Well-being 1:1’s
Every 6 months our Head of People has a check-in with each individual employee which we are now doing online. This is a confidential discussion, where an employee can chat and give views on company direction, product changes, ways of working, and leadership. This extra communication channel allows them to feel more connected and provides additional social cohesion.
7. Virtual Fireside Chats & Weekly Wind Downs
It’s important to start the week off with updates, but it’s equally important to close the week down with social contact with your teams. 30 minutes to make sure you sign off with everyone for the week is important for well-being and alignment.
8. Holidays when you need them
There has been a reluctance for employees to use their holiday allowance given the current lockdown. This made us concerned about employee burnout so we introduced a policy uncapping the number of holidays people can take and we ask employees to take time off whenever they need it.
9. Employee Feedback Survey
We run an anonymous employee feedback survey every quarter using Oak, to ensure employees are happy and to get feedback on how well the company is being managed. We received great feedback in our last survey on how we handled working from home as a company, showcasing the results to employees on our Happy Monday Update.