Amy Clark | PA and HR Generalist
Being responsible for HR during lockdown has been a bizarre experience.
I’m sure many others in a similar role would agree, but a big part of my job is making sure that the Coyote team is feeling happy and healthy at work. When lockdown started, I had no idea how I was going to give the team the support they needed, and I knew even less about the variety of challenges and triumphs it would bring along the way.
Mental Health Matters
Not so long ago, mental health issues weren’t given much attention in the workplace, but thankfully the world has come a long way in recent years and more importance is being placed upon employee wellbeing.
Mental health support is always near the top of my agenda, although during lockdown, it has become more of a primary interest.
Something we realised quite early on, is that access to mental health support (through the private healthcare plan we provide to staff) was straightforward in a pre-lockdown world, but help was difficult to access and in high demand when working from home became the new norm.
So we spent some time assessing some of the many support options available and decided to work with a provider called Spill. Spill provides mental health support and services through a remote network of qualified counsellors and therapists. The service plugs directly into Slack meaning that anyone on the Coyote team can instantly connect with an experienced support network and receive practical resources or arrange one-to-one sessions – without the barrier of needing a referral.
Wednesday is Quiz Day
We’ve got a very competitive team here at Coyote. Half of us took part in last year’s Steptober challenge; a month-long competition where teams compete to log the most steps during the whole of October. It was so fiercely competitive in the office, you would’ve thought a month’s paid holiday was at stake!
So I was pretty confident that the team would enjoy channelling that competitive spirit into some Zoom-based challenges. Like everyone, we’ve had our fair share of quizzes, but we’ve also made a real effort to get creative and ensure that it never feels repetitive or stale. Many of the team have pitched new ideas in via the events committee and so far, we’ve done scavenger hunts, bingo, drawing games, themed pop quizzes, some brilliant online escape rooms.
It’s not compulsory, but it’s a good excuse to down tools for an hour or so and many have commented that it’s become a highlight of the working week.
Whilst Wednesday’s activity time is about adding a little fun to the day and helping the team to feel less isolated, I recognised that another negative by-product of lockdown was a lack of motivation to stay active and healthy. So based on the popularity of LandAid’s Steptober, I introduced a weekly step challenge (via StrideKick) and no surprise, people are taking it very seriously! It might be the Deliveroo vouchers up for grabs every week, although I suspect it’s more personal pride that’s driving some to average a weekly step count of more than 130k!
It’s Good To Talk
Another cool thing we’ve implemented is a service called Donut. It’s an application that connects three random team members together via Slack, on a weekly basis. It generates fun questions for people to answer – helping people to discover new things about their colleagues, before prompting to schedule a 15-30 minute online coffee break together.
It’s been great for getting to know those people who we wouldn’t normally engage with during the working day. For example, people on the commercial team are getting to know back-end developers, and designers are hanging out with onboarding consultants.
We’ve had a few new starters during lockdown too, and Donut has been a real help integrating them into the team more informally – particularly as there’s no opportunity to get talking to new people in the lift, the office kitchen, or the pub.
Technology has been a game-changer
The one thing that has enabled me to react so quickly to a new set of challenges, is tech. Everything I’ve mentioned above has been based on services that utilise technology in a way that makes it almost effortless to engage with.
As I mentioned, we’ve had three new people join us since lockdown began and the onboarding process for new starters would be almost impossible without Slack, Zoom, Donut or Calendly to name a few.
So, although we’ve adopted many new processes to survive a difficult time, many of these initiatives are delivering employee wellness benefits that won’t simply end when lockdown ends; they’ll be carried over.
They’re improving our internal and external communication, improving transparency and inclusion, reducing the negative effects of isolation, and ultimately, helping us to be a better company.
Putting time to good use
Finally, and if only to give a shout out to one of the few plus points of lockdown, the extra hours reclaimed from the morning/evening commute have required careful management.
Resisting the temptation to chill during these moments hasn’t always been successful, but as lockdown has progressed, I’ve really enjoyed taking this time to focus on developing my personal interests and passions outside of work.
At this time in my life, that’s meant studying for the further HR qualifications I’m eager to obtain. I know that just seems like extra work, and in many ways it is, but because I can do it between 5.30 and 6.30 – the time I’d normally be packed inside a train carriage, I’m still able to switch my brain off and relax during the evening.
So, while I’m excited for most things to get back to normal, the daily commute is not one of them. I guess we’ll have to wait for teleportation to be invented.