It’s been seven months since we recorded a podcast shortly after lockdown 1.0, discussing our plans for keeping the company culture alive and well when the Bright office was suddenly thrust into remote working. As with many other companies, we’ve changed and adapted as the weeks have gone on and also encountered plenty of challenges along the way! With this in mind, we thought it would be a great idea to check in with Vic to see just how things have changed for the team, and how Bright was really doing in terms of company culture, and why Christmas ain't cancelled. *Please note - this podcast was recorded just before the second Government lockdown announcement*
Welcome back Vic! I hear you are now the unofficial Covid coordinator of the office... how have things been for you - are you sick of Zoom yet?
Sick of Zoom? Yes. In terms of my new role as the Covid coordinator, yes I'm actually quite upset I don't have a sash or something a little more official!
We spoke with our Head of People, Caroline a while back about her plans to reboard, is this on the horizon and how are you planning to introduce people safely back to the office?
There is a focus on reopening and welcoming the team back to the office in a safe way - whenever that might be. We have followed on government guidelines with the plan to invite people back at the end of August which we achieved, but since then things have changed again so we will continue to adapt and follow the guidance as it’s released. We're mindful that having the office space accessible is important for those struggling with productivity and mental health at home as not everyone has a suitable set up to work where they live.
One step we took to ensure the office was safe to return to, was bringing in a 3rd party health and safety consultant who conducted an extensive risk assessment and actions for us to take. One of the recommendations was to produce signage for the office to clearly explain what's expected in communal zones e.g. the kitchen and which rooms were still able to be used safely, with social distancing in mind. It was important that this signage be branded as much as possible so that it felt reassuring rather than entering a 'Covid situation'.
We spoke extensively about the measures you’d put in place to keep a sense of company culture alive when people were working from home - which of those do you feel worked well and were there any that you feel didn’t work for the team?
We had a number of great initiatives at the beginning and I’m so pleased that we spent the time to focus on this as it definitely carried us through for a period.
What worked well:
- Themed Friday 4pm drinks via Zoom
- Monthly lunch club also continued in an online format
- We also encouraged people to send in photos of their home working set up which made people feel connected
- Birthday treats
- Quarterly review budget - food/drinks
- Social activities such as group calls after work/board game nights
- We started new employer brand videos to give people a real project to work on and something tangible and fun to be part of
And what didn’t work so well...
The things that fell out of favour a little were some of the regular social sessions or channels we opened such as the Bright Breakfast Room and the WFH channel. We started the latter so that the team would have somewhere to share their experiences working from home, however over the weeks this became the norm so there didn’t seem such a need for a specific channel to talk about it. Other areas we’ve struggled with is the challenge of keeping motivation high within teams, especially when you might not feel it yourself!
I know that you’ve recruited remotely over lockdown and there was a plan to onboard from afar to ensure new starters felt integrated with the company culture and part of the team - how do you feel that has worked so far?
So far, so good! We've successfully onboarded 3 people over the last six months, 2 permanent (Barney and Shaun) and one contractor (Sara). We’ve tried hard to keep our onboarding process friendly, with plenty of welcomes on our Slack channels, invitations to company-wide meetings to meet the whole team and weekly stand ups. We have updated our onboarding process and documentation to include more information about our company culture. We have to be aware of the informal conversations we used to have in and across the office which currently is not occurring. This is how a great deal of information gets communicated so we’ve updated things like:
- Governance structure
- Approach to Leadership
- Team principles so that people get an insight into the way we work
- Who makes the best cuppa
The subject of trust came up quite a few times when we spoke about having an entirely remote workforce and it’s something Caroline is very keen to promote within the company. Do you feel that this period of time has strengthened the trust within teams?
Absolutely, there is no doubt about how committed people are and how mindful they are about being available to their team members. Something we’ve found helps with this is people making sure their notifications on Slack tell others what they are doing and when they can be reached. People are able to update that they're taking some time away from notifications or perhaps to do the school run which helps the team and their communication. Everyone has been open and honest about how they are feeling working from home and when they need support with their workloads. We couldn't be more grateful for the commitment shown by everyone who works at Bright.
If you had the blessing of knowing what you do now six months ago - what would you have done differently?
It’s so hard because a lot of learnings come from practice, trial and error. One thing we’re planning to change is how we run online meetings, we’ve found we need to assign a ‘compere’ to lead the meeting, especially when the meetings have multiple people attending virtually. We are constantly improving the way we communicate across the business and I’m pleased that any feedback that’s been given has been taken on board.
So now we know that there is a chance we’ll be working from home more for a little longer and potentially even a bit longer than that - things need to adapt - potentially long-term. What are your plans for keeping the company culture alive over the next six months?
- Surprise and delight - We’re excited to be sending every member of the team a ‘Keep Cosy’ working from home kit this month. These are full of treats such as hot chocolate, biscuits and candles, as well as some more practical items including hoodies, a notebook, a blanket and even a wireless phone charger/desk tidy!
- We plan to refresh our regular meeting formats so that people stay engaged e.g. QRs and Friday meetings.
- We’ll be encouraging people to shout out when they have been supported by others and share thank yous often.
- Due to working remotely, it can feel like efforts can go under the radar so we’re keen that acknowledgement of great work is communicated by the leadership team frequently.
- We’ll be making an effort to make sure celebrations such as Christmas are still planned for with different activities so that everyone can join in safely.
Crucially, we’re continuing to look at our current company culture and review it. We’re asking the questions such as, is the culture actually what we believe it to be? How can we evolve it to something potentially cool and new? We have new recruits who have come from different companies and have new, exciting ideas so it's important that we listen to them, start talking about it more and not rest on our laurels.
Our podcasts are recorded and produced by Let's Talk Video Production.
Written by Victoria Heyward
Meet Vic, head of all things Brand and Marketing at Bright. Some might say she has an unhealthy obsession with celebrity and Arnold Schwarzenegger (please refer to our team video) but what can you do when you look that good in camo gear? Vic ensures that the company culture is not just felt within the Bright HQ but also radiates out to our clients.