As many companies transitioned to working remotely due to COVID-19, leaders searched for new ways to keep employees engaged and productive. Tech tools like Zoom, Slack and G Suite are great for virtual meetings, but the following teams are using these tools for more than daily stand-ups.
Chief People Officer Jennifer Schwalb said the CEO of Ceros gave employees an “MTV Cribs”-style tour of his home and other employees followed suit. Virtual happy hours and coffee dates have also been popular.
But when they’re not dialing in for virtual planks and employee-led TED Talks, NYC tech leaders are encouraging employees to get off their screens. Taking walks, spending time with family and simply resetting are the mental breaks employees need to perform their best.
In part three of a three-part series, learn how remote teams across the city are replicating office culture and fostering cross-functional communication.
How Curve is boosting engagement and productivity: Before our global work-from-home arrangement, Slack was used to reinforce and follow up on in-person conversations and simple requests. Today it still serves that functional requirement, but we’ve also opened channels to group employees by their common interests, such as cooking.
Tools for remote engagement: We’re being proactive about checking in at regular intervals with every Curver just to chat, make sure they’re okay and see if there’s something we can do to make their lives better right now. The tool Slido lets employees ask Curve’s COO questions that she later addresses in company-wide meetings.
How Curve is supporting employees: We have adjustments as everyone does, but a silver lining to all of this has been the feedback that Curve feels like a more cohesive unit across our three offices and two continents.
The most upvoted question an anonymous team member asked for this week’s stand-up says it all: “I feel like we have been one big office since the lockdown and not a separate London, Brooklyn and Bristol office. How can we maintain that feel going forward?”
How Frontify adapted to remote life: The move to working remotely happened as we were determining our objectives for Q2. This change allowed us to adapt our objectives to be more relevant to a fully-remote company and the challenges that will come with it. Additionally, it also enabled our team members to set goals that felt more meaningful to them while working in a remote setting. For example, I’ve chosen to focus on revamping our Frontify’s wiki as an HR resource. This is a project that has been on my to-do list, but now has become a priority since going remote.
Tools for remote engagement: The Tandem app allows employees at Frontify to connect instantly with anyone online. It’s a bit like walking up to their desk in person and asking for help or just saying hello. Now, with both offices working fully remote, we use the tool as a way to quickly connect, collaborate and get feedback. Additionally, the survey tool Slido allows people to stay engaged and voice opinions on priority topics.
How Frontify is supporting employees: We’ve started a non-mandatory daily huddle that gives everyone in the company a place to connect. Each huddle is led by a volunteer who can present on any topic they desire. So far, we’ve had Italian cooking lessons, a talk on the expansion of space, and a doodling class. These huddles give us a space to connect on non-work related topics, which has overall brought our team a lot of laughs so far.
Fun, virtual events to fight employee isolation:
- Weekly, randomized coffee chats between employees
- Lunch and learns
- Birthday and holiday celebrations
- Meditation sessions
- Comedy nights
- Fun Slack channels
- Happy hours
How Ceros is boosting engagement and productivity: We decided to focus on maintaining the strong team connections that already existed. It was mainly a matter of translating our existing culture to remote channels and we did it by creating experiences we could all engage in. For example, Ceros employees have showed off their homes a la “MTV Cribs,” participated in an open Zoom room for various watercooler chit chat, and have attended lunch and learns, where employees teach cooking classes or explore the history of Burning Man.
Tools for remote engagement: Ceros employees use Donut to randomly pair up with another employee and have one-on-one chats. On top of that, we’ve learned how to better leverage the tools we already had, like Zoom, Slack, Trello, Guru, Google Docs and more, to keep up engagement and productivity while staying efficient and transparent. Transitioning our weekly sales stand-up to Zoom has allowed us to engage and share with others outside of the office more effectively.
How Ceros is supporting employees: Every Monday, CEO Simon Berg sends an email to all employees called ‘Creativity in Captivity.’ In his email, he answers practical questions with courageously honest answers. Simon reflects on his thoughts and feelings, not just business topics. The feedback from employees has been incredible, with many saying how much they look forward to receiving the message each week and expressing the comfort and confidence it brings.
How Dom & Tom is boosting engagement and productivity: The biggest difference we’ve made is doing remote Zoom parties. We play Houseparty and other online games together once a week. We also take 5-10 minutes before a meeting starts to connect with the rest of the people on the line.
Tools for remote engagement: Employees use Slack for online communications and Teamwork for project management. Tools we have vetted for use were intended to help the company do remote work in the first place; that’s a company requirement because we have people all over the world, some working remote and some working onsite.
How Dom & Tom is supporting employees: Not a day goes by without people checking in and connecting with their teams. For a lot of people, the work-from-home period feels like a vacation they can’t leave. It’s nice to be home, but as the weeks roll on, it can bring out stressful situations, especially for employees with families and bored kids. There's really no rulebook for this kind of situation. We've never done it before so we’ve had to approach the challenges with a good sense of humor. Same story with our clients. We joke that we like to get to know our client intimately, and that’s kind of on overdrive now.
How Neustar is boosting engagement and productivity: The switch to working from home has resulted in higher productivity, partly due to less time spent on commuting as well as shelter-in-place dynamics. Our focus instead has been on maintaining and increasing ‘real’ engagement with our teams. To that end, we have been working to expand the connectivity within and across the functional teams. It was important for us to instill flexibility for people to attend opportunities to connect by being mindful of increased productivity.
Tools for remote engagement: Beyond WebEx and Slack, we have been encouraging team members to leverage in-app tools to collaborate in real time at Neustar. For example, we have regular stand-up meetings to track and problem-solve key issues for our clients. In these meetings, all participants have the ability to contribute with dynamic edits to engagement statuses and project updates. We have also leveraged in-app whiteboard tools for scribing charts, creating process flow diagrams during ideation and hosting creativity sessions.
How Neustar is supporting employees: We have invited several industry experts in health and wellness to come speak at our all-hands meetings. As a follow up to one of those sessions, we instituted a mental health day where the expectation was that all employees would completely disconnect from their work and decompress while focusing on themselves and loved ones. It is our way of thanking the associates for their continued focus on the business and enabling a collective deep breath to refresh and recharge. As an added benefit, we provided all team members with a $200 stipend to expense any office equipment and supplies to enable greater productivity at home.
How Medidata is boosting engagement and productivity: We have always practiced the philosophy of ‘outcomes over activities.’ To optimize our workflow, we’ve built interview panels with fewer interviewers but better questions and coordinated remote orientation and onboarding with our people ops team. Finally, we continue to advocate for talent without zip codes so that we don’t limit the talent pool to one location for roles that don’t require customer-facing or hands-on execution.
Tools for remote engagement: Medidata employees use Slack to stay connected. We’ve also increased our social media usage. While our talent brand team has always been active advocates on social media platforms, they now see our TA team members engage with more of their content. I have also witnessed more of our team begin to write their own content and share on our internal website and LinkedIn.
How Medidata is supporting employees: We understand this self-isolation is tough on everyone, not just the extroverts. We reinforce to everyone to prioritize their health and their families’ health over everything. Work will always be here. We also have numerous touch points throughout the week while adhering to our previous structure, which include bi-weekly team meetings and the weekly touchpoints on each of our teams. I also see our leadership checking in. For us, it’s about keeping communication open and practicing our culture, which emphasizes bringing your genuine self to work every day. If your kids or dog comes into the room, embrace it! We all have a similar reality right now. Don’t hide the things that make you unique. We have created an environment that is open, natural and real. I believe that alone has helped keep everyone feel connected.