We preemptively created a plan for the protection of our employees prior to the enforced lockdown, and it’s something we’ve continually evaluated and improved throughout.
The plan was influenced by the idea of Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ ensuring we covered the fundamental areas where people need the most support, and recognising that staying active, motivated and mentally healthy requires many different kinds of support.
As a digital business, working remotely is fairly straightforward – but we still wanted to give our staff time to adjust, so we made the decision to become remote prior to the lockdown. This gave our employees the time to collect their belongings from the office, say their goodbyes and get properly set up at home before the lockdown was announced.
From our first full week working remotely we enforced an extra flexible company-wide work schedule to allow for people’s varying at home needs and responsibilities. In line with this, we isolated any work communications to work-only channels so our employees felt fully able to switch off from work without the physical wind down of a commute.
When it became clear that remote working was going to be the reality for the foreseeable future, we took the decision to end the contract for our office space, meaning that we could save the funds from our rent to offer security to our staff.
We are an early stage startup and so all of our employees are fully aware that even in the best of times, it’s anything but secure. However, suddenly the world felt very different and we knew even the usually unfazed may now feel on edge.
Acting early and saving funds on the office rent extended our business runway which provided reassurance to staff.
We also moved our salary payment date to the first of each month. The initial change meant that staff were paid their full salary twice within a fortnight and the increased cash flow helped our employees flexibly deal with any sudden costs emerging from the crisis.
We’ve proactively kept aware of Government aid measures including furloughs, Business Continuity Loans and have applied for the Future Fund as other means of being able to offer further job/salary security to our employees. We have not imposed furloughs on any member of the team. Furloughs have only been used in a select few cases where people voluntarily opted in when they felt unable to complete duties during the crisis.
We’re a close company and we knew from the beginning that we’d miss the comfort and support that comes from proximity. We introduced several measures to combat this.
We utilised tech solutions. First by moving from Google hangouts to Zoom so we could use features like Gallery View to increase visibility. Secondly by using Sococo to create a virtual office. This allowed team members to move around as they would in the physical space and connect with people outside their direct teams when not in meetings.
We input two all-company meetings per week which allows the whole team to check-in and keep in touch.
We brought a mindfulness coach on board and introduced regular meditation sessions with him every week that are open to any and all staff members.
We sent a care package to every member of staff that didn’t just include practical items (like a facemask, eye massager to relieve eye fatigue and handy door-opener), but also a message of hope, to remind every member of the team that even if we’re away from each other, we’re still in it together.
We don’t believe in brave faces and during this time, more than ever, we wanted to encourage openness.
From senior management to new members, we’ve actively motivated all staff across the company to talk about how they’re feeling during this strange time. We remind everyone that there are always good and bad weeks, and that’s only been exacerbated by these new challenges.
We take the time in company meetings to provide a safe space and the opportunity to talk about vulnerabilities, concerns and mental health challenges in an open and considerate way. We’ve stressed the idea of ‘immunity’, so no one feels the need to put on a brave face for fear or judgement or security.
It might feel that the world is at a standstill, but we think it’s important to still feel like you’re moving forward.
We’ve made it known to all employees that this situation has not and will not affect their career tracks, wherever they may be within them, and we encourage them to continue forging and following their ambitions – letting us know any ways we can help them with their progression along the way.
We’ve encouraged all staff to attend online events, webinars or courses to promote ongoing development.
Plus, we’ve also introduced our own ‘Pi Masters in Management Skills’, affectionately known as PiMMS. Led each week by our CEO, PiMMS is an optional course that introduces and discusses all facets of running a business including Economics, Statistics, Finance, Marketing, Strategy and Technology. It focuses on understanding real-world applications and uses a business simulator which has generated a lot of friendly competition amongst participants.
And most importantly it’s getting everyone dreaming about what Dozens could be in the future – dreaming about a world after COVID-19.
Lockdown might be easing, but we’re not quite through the woods yet. We’ll continue to look for ways we can make things easier for our employees at every stage until we’re back together, and beyond.