2020 has proved to be an incredibly tough year for many businesses, taking a huge toll on the people involved. Here, leading influencer marketing company Influencer’s Marketing Director Hester Bates speaks to Influencer’s Head of Heart Carly Ash, about how Carly and her team ensured that the wider Influencer team was supported throughout.
The Influencer team has now been working from home, on and off, since mid-March. How did you ensure that they felt supported, despite not being in the office?
It's been an incredibly challenging year, for many reasons! Our greatest challenge this year has been around employee wellbeing and managing change during the pandemic, with everyone being at home and not just at home, but fully locked down in their homes.
The team are a sociable bunch and thrive working in the office and having that interaction with each other. We implemented a new intranet and comms tool using Workplace by Facebook in April, which has amplified our culture. The team has several networking groups they communicate in and instant messaging. There are fun social groups, and we all discuss the latest netflix shows we are watching, books we like, podcasts, even what we are having for lunch. Through this, we have been encouraging staff shoutouts and kudos for work well done. We have wellbeing forums, where we share useful resources or micro actions to encourage the team to reflect positively on their day. It's been so important to just check in on each other.
I heard someone say the other day on the news that they didn’t feel they were working from home, but more ‘living at work’. How did you ensure that the Influencer team didn’t feel like this?
We quickly realised we had to set new expectations for what needs to be done and support everyone's working and personal lives. At the beginning, everyone was online all the time, having video call after video call. So we introduced core hours where only internal meetings are to happen during a 6 hour window. We also introduced flexible working hours, and really encourage the team to mix their days up by flexing their hours. Especially during these winter months when daylight is limited. Encouraging the team to get themselves outdoors for a walk or other forms of exercise is key, ensuring they are getting their endorphins pumping. We run virtual coffee clubs, where ‘talking shop’ is banned.
Much has been done by Influencer to support the team's mental health this year. Could you tell me a little more about that?
We organised several wellbeing events and benefits this year, such as mindfulness workshops, yoga workouts and recently introduced a Headspace subscription for all staff. We've also continued to really encourage the team to take their leave this year; even though you can't go anywhere, that rest & reset away from your home office is so important. Our social committee has been amazing and so creative organising fun virtual events for the team too. The Christmas event this year was fabulous, even though it was virtual!
How does the support offered currently differ to that offered when the team was in the office?
This year has changed how we work forever. The pandemic has forced us all to pause and take a look at our lives, both professionally and personally. We know the team can still work effectively working from home. We will now have a Working From Home policy in place when we go back to a ‘new normal’. This is amazing for those team members who have family commitments or that long commute. Employee wellbeing has always been on the agenda but 2020 has catalysed it. I'm really proud of what we have put in place to support our team.
Finally, are there any lessons you feel our senior leadership team, in particular, have learned this year?
Leading by example and having empathy is everything and having our leaders look after their own wellbeing first, has been pivotal. You have to look after yourself to be able to look after your team. Our leaders regularly open up discussions around how they are feeling working from home, or if they need a break and are going to flex their hours so they can fit some exercise into their day, prioritise family commitments or whatever it may be to care for their own wellbeing. We are all human after all. It's been a challenge as a leadership team, we don't all work the standard 9-5, but being open about our boundaries, and learning to set them has been a real learning curve. We've educated ourselves to understand signs of stress and to look out for anyone that may be struggling. We are more self aware of our team's psychological safety, so people can openly discuss ideas, questions and concerns without fear of repercussions. With the constant change in regulations and uncertainty, we have learnt not to act too quickly. To be calm, assess the situation, anticipate what may happen, get the facts and then act and ensure we are as transparent as possible with the rest of the team.