Wellness Wednesdays, company-wide days off and virtual ‘donuts’. How WiredScore maintained a healthy culture throughout the pandemic

Posted:

5 / 7 / 2021

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Back in March 2020, like many businesses, WiredScore stepped into a remote working model.

As family homes became hybrid offices and flatshares were transformed into co-working spaces, the pandemic afforded us the opportunity to rethink our routines and reassess working habits. Time and money spent commuting were placed elsewhere, as the vast hours spent away from the home were reclaimed, with many of us saying that we would use the time saved commuting to exercise more, spend more time with family and even learn a new skill.

The aspirational attitudes from the start of the pandemic were certainly commendable, and morale remained high throughout as a collective sense of comradeship shone through. A year later, what has emerged is a company that’s adapted itself to a remote working model with ease.

So, one year on, we take a look at the WiredScore journey as we navigated multiple lockdowns across several different countries – taking this opportunity to reflect on the experience, and think about what we want the future of our workplace to be.

Maintaining the engagement of a global company throughout a worldwide pandemic is a challenge that no leader anticipated. Arie Barendrecht, WiredScore founder and CEO shares insight on keeping the culture by creating context:

I think “context” is really important for people to do their jobs well and, more importantly, to be fulfilled and energized. Looking for new and better ways to provide more context to the team (the why we do what we do) has been a key to maintaining engagement.

Context is about understanding the overall mission and direction of the business, and how an employees’ work and role fits in. Context sharing often happens in the water cooler conversations in the office, and I was concerned about the impact remote work would have on such context-sharing opportunities.

To maintain the ‘context conversations’, we send a monthly round up email that, with honesty and good humor, provides a summary of our goals and achievements as a global company. Our Global All-Hands meetings are also thorough; we really want to make sure everyone has full and clear visibility of the company strategy and roadmap, and we’re in the process of updating a company-wide KPI dashboard that anyone can access at any time.

Another really key point is the importance of creating spaces for learning, sharing, and discussing issues that impact our team. WiredScore can and should be a place for both professional and personal development and for exchanging of ideas.

Through workshops and discussion sessions we respect the need to explore more non-work topics, creating space in the workplace to bring personal experiences into the conversation, allowing us to strengthen both personal and professional bonds.

For example, engaging with key global movements like Black Lives Matter and International Womens’ Day have been critical, and we have encouraged company-wide discussions centering on worldwide events—a really important thing to do always, but especially when living through a global pandemic.

For the most part, navigating WiredScore’s remote working journey has been smooth sailing. I think there were pressures to do remote working well for the main reason that we want to continue on our stellar growth trajectory and remain a really great place to work. It wasn’t about expectations being any higher because we’re a startup, it was about staying on the path to reach ambitious goals together as a team.

As a leader I’ve learned a lot through the process, and I’m pleased to say that we are way more adaptable than I thought, and I’m shocked by how easily we adapted to a new model. This was because we already were a multi-office/country company (we expanded to the UK before we had 10 employees, so this is part of our DNA). This gives me more confidence to explore new ways of working in the future.

On a personal level, I was surprised by how much I actually missed my commute to the office—never thought I would say that! Many people rave about the extra time unlocked by no commute (and I do appreciate that too), but I really love the opportunity to change location, listen to a podcast or 90s rock playlist en route, and have a coffee outside (even during the cold NYC winter). To make up for it, I’m taking many more random walks/jogs to get changes of scenery.

Remote work has also taught me the power of in-person collaboration. There are certain types of team and one-to-one interactions that we simply haven’t been able to replicate as effectively in a remote environment, and this is one of the main reasons I’m excited to get back to the office. In the future, I’ll be more deliberate about carving out time for these interactions (e.g. white boarding sessions, or sitting in on random meetings to learn something new) because I better-understand their value.

Shedding light on the learnings from WiredScore’s big working from home experiment: Lydia Beach, People Operations Manager, shares some key takeaways from the experience:

Maintaining global and sustained engagement throughout the pandemic hasn’t been an easy task for the People Operations team, but the overall success of our initiatives has been through trial and error. In short, listening to our people is the key!

As a culture-driven company we were keen to maintain that spirit, so like a lot of companies we threw ourselves into Zoom quizzes and virtual celebrations. As the pandemic progressed, we needed to be in tune with the different kinds of fatigue employees were going through, and one of the most impactful things was realizing when people needed a break. For this reason, we introduced additional all-company days off, the second of which was in March 2021, giving us all an opportunity to switch off from work and recuperate.

Further initiatives included Wellness Wednesdays, which saw tips for maintaining good mental health throughout the pandemic shared on our internal messaging system, Slack. This has been a great way to promote the conversation around health, encouraging the people of WiredScore to put their own wellbeing first.

But, more than anything else, the thing that’s kept us all going is each other. We’ve had the opportunity to take part in ‘Donuts’ (a weekly, half hour, casual chat with a randomly selected colleague)—a simple yet effective way to encourage people to stay in touch and get to know colleagues from all over the world. And it’s had a big impact, allowing us to keep connected, proving a much needed reminder of the amazing team around us whilst we’ve been unable to see each other in person.

Despite the fact that we can work remotely, and we can work remotely well, the fact remains that most of us miss our colleagues, social interaction and face-to-face meetings. This testifies to the great culture at WiredScore, and reinforces the need for inspirational spaces that allow us to collaborate and socialize, whilst allowing individual productivity to flourish.

We’re in the business of buildings, but we’re a people-centric organization and the pandemic has proven that we’re great at remote working—but we’re all keen to collaborate and innovate in-person again. Looking to the future, we anticipate a gradual return to the workplace where we’ll continue to work flexibly, armed with all we’ve learned from our remote working experience.

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