Cultivating an authentic and empowering company culture is a challenge at the best of times, but when the majority of your team are working remotely it takes things to the next level. What happens to the Friday beers when the fridge is miles away? What's the protocol if someone leaves? In our recent podcast we speak to Vic, Marketing and Communications Manager at Bright and the woman responsible for everything 'Employer Brand'. It’s important to mention here that Bright has recently ranked 26th as a best small workplace by ‘Great Place to Work’, an accolade we’re extremely proud of and couldn't have done without the input of our amazing team.
So to start off, in normal office life, what do you do to encourage a healthy company culture?
The key to a healthy company culture lies in trusting your employees - this is needed even more at the moment when we are working apart from each other. We try to empathise with each other and be supportive as you never know what might be going on in someone’s life. People tend to be quite skilled at putting a brave face on when personal troubles are happening in the background and we want to encourage our employees to feel comfortable in opening up about anything that may be causing them stress.
We tend to encourage conversations cross levels as we don’t tend to have a typical hierarchical structure. There is transparency in communication and for important company meetings where big decisions are made we ensure that minutes are taken and shared so that our team can understand the thought processes behind them.
By removing the traditional hierarchy we are more likely to be able to encourage people to affect change in the business - our Director Martin sits with the Dev team and is always happy to lend an ear if any member of the team wishes to speak about ideas for positive change to how the company is run. We run yearly employee engagement surveys to make sure that we are seeking continuous feedback from every member of staff. It’s important to us that people feel comfortable sharing their honest thoughts and opinions as this is the only way we can improve and evolve as a company.
Back in the days where we could gather and drink beer...
We’ve been in lockdown for a while now and I assume quite a bit has changed in terms of how teams are working and communicating with each other. Can you talk us through how people have adapted from working side by side to speaking over Zoom?
Everyone has adapted amazingly. I think we’re in the lucky position that we already encouraged flexible working and people often worked from home before this.
That’s not to say that we’re not finding it challenging - we are but we’re pretty overwhelmed with the commitment from the teams to make this work.
We’ve kept going with all of our meetings but just moved them online. Meetings originally were a bit of a challenge, particularly because from being in a room where you can easily read people and interject with humour - suddenly we found that we were all talking over each other.
We’ve introduced a few new comms channels - we use slack as our company comms/collab tool
- WFH channel
- Morning breakfast club - on Zoom
- Parents channel - for those with children who might want ideas on how to keep the kids entertained or generally vent.
We continue to hold our Friday stand up so when 4pm strikes the (remote!) beer fridge opens and we meet at a company-wide Zoom meeting. As usual we have a theme for the topic of discussion. It could simply be to tell us about one thing that has gone really well and one that continues to be challenging, or perhaps a game of pictionary where we encourage teams to use their (often terrible) drawing skills to outline their week.
There ain't no party like a Bright Zoom party!
The team is pretty social generally and there’s always lunch outings and breakfast clubs going on - have you managed to keep up any of these events virtually?
We’ve always focused on bringing a sense of fun to our company wide activities. This can range from our company quarterly review meetings, breakfast and lunch clubs and birthdays.
From our perspective, we just need to continue these traditions but flex to accommodate everyone and ensure we’re being inclusive. A lot of our traditions include food and drinks, but we saw no need to let that drop. It brings a smile to everyone’s face and keeps that feeling of ‘Bright’ running until we can all be reunited.
- Our breakfast club has evolved into a Slack channel and a morning open Zoom meeting which is designed to give everyone the opportunity to grab coffee and chat as they would in the office.
- Our monthly lunch club is always a great opportunity for all employees to get together at a local restaurant. As a business we provide a monthly budget and then anything over and above the employees cover themselves. Whilst everyone is working from home, we’ve simply adapted and added a bit more flexibility for personal restaurant preference. Our finance team sends everyone £10 and each employee pre-orders on Deliveroo or Uber Eats for lunch time and then everyone joins a Zoom meeting to eat, chat & play games.
- Our Quarterly review presentation used to be littered with food and drinks in the office so we’ve adapted the same principle as the lunch club. Finance sends each employee £10 and we get food and drink in at home and join the presentation.
- Birthdays have always been a big thing here at Bright and we usually celebrate by shouting about their birthday on Slack and then asking the person celebrating to choose lunch for the whole office (on Bright of course!). Foods have ranged from fish and chips, fudge, McDonalds, falafel & arancini to doughnuts, charcuterie platters and crisp sandwiches. We still send out a birthday message on Slack so everyone can send their best wishes and then deliver the celebrant a treat of choice with a larger budget just for them.
- One of our employees recently decided to move on to new pastures and it’s essential that we handle any leaving employee with the same care as if they were in the office with us. As you’d expect the same HR processes are followed which include exit interviews and team/company wide comms but it's crucial that the human part isn't missed. We’d usually be circulating a card and presenting a leaving gift, so why should that change? We’ve just assumed that collaboration should work as usual so we’ve simply submitted all of our ‘goodbye wishes’ on a Google doc and a card will be sent out to the employee with all those messages on. We’ll have a virtual pub goodbye and wish them well too.
If anyone is out there listening and struggling with ideas to keep their team motivated and connected whilst working from their homes - do you have any top tips for them?
- Listen to your teams and employees. This about the sorts of communication they’re looking for at this time. We’re living temporarily in a time of over communication. Everyone is keen to keep in touch but be mindful that this can actually have an adverse effect on wellbeing.
- Trust - keep trusting your employees. However they’re managing their time, support them.
- Make time for communication that isn’t work focused. As humans the social interaction and not losing our personality or self at this time is crucial. It’s so important to keep that sense of self and if you’re like me, it’s essential that i’m able to chat. It might be about something weird that happened to you, some random film trivia, or what you watched on telly. I’ve found that it’s easy to slip into Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting without making time for some much needed small talk.
- We’re now focusing on ‘Re-boarding’ - so how we integrate everyone back into the office after this is over and also which positives in terms of ways of working can continue? We’ve already seen that working from home has worked really well for us so why not continue that into the future? It's worth thinking about how you're going to 'Re-board' - whether its your employees or even just yourself. Have a think about the adaptations that you've had to make during this time and which ones you could continue doing.
Our podcasts are recorded and produced by the brilliant Laura Evans at Let's Talk Video Production.