The Seeker team has now worked remotely for over five months—just like many businesses the world over. The pandemic has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for employees, so we asked our HR Manager, Becky Holmes, to share a few successful strategies from our remote working wellness programme. We’ve seen positive impacts on team morale and productivity, so we hope you’ll find some useful nuggets in here, too.
The pre-pandemic days
Rewind to three days before official lockdown, and the entire Seeker team is working from home.
After watching the events of the coronavirus pandemic unfold, we made the decision to protect the team as early as possible—providing the tools, infrastructure and support for everyone to work safely during the pandemic.
We’re incredibly lucky that the nature of our work gives us the freedom to crack-on with our work remotely, using a computer and some morale-boosting conference call backgrounds (while some businesses are inviting llamas to spice up their online meetings).
Working from home: the ups and downs
Almost 50% of people in employment are working from home during the pandemic, sometimes juggling caring for loved ones or homeschooling at the same time. Advocates of flexible working have long known the benefits of working from home, from productivity to an increase in staff retention. And the lockdown has reinforced these benefits at Seeker, too.
But all this solitary working can come at the expense of mental wellbeing. Communications can feel more intense when you’re on the other side of a screen, and we found that the lack of office chit-chat and overheard conversations was beginning to have a negative impact on team morale.
So, we asked ourselves: what practical strategies can we bring in to help people feel more positive about their day, and stay connected? We needed to find another space for kind words and ideas to flow.
Of course, wellness isn’t something you can just click your fingers and fix. But as the team was in need of a boost, we decided to kick things off with…
Seeker Wellness Week
Our Wellness Week involved hands-on activities and talks from guest speakers, all designed to give the team a daily dose of positivity. This included sharing everything from inspirational quotes and photos to mental health strategies—anything to help navigate the weird and wobbly circumstances of the crisis, and make the situation a little easier.
So, why did we do this?
Team members were still coming to terms with how isolation and lockdown really made them feel. No one had definitive answers, and the presentation of events in the media was filling everyone with fear. Birthdays, holidays, festivals—you name it—were all cancelled, with no end in sight.
The lack of interaction with friends or family was beginning to take its toll, and some colleagues were experiencing emotions they had never felt before.
There was no right or wrong way to deal with these emotions, but there were so many tools and resources that we could share.
Here’s a peek inside our Wellness Week program:
Mindful Monday—We asked each person to share a photo of something that made them feel good and invited a guest speaker to talk about the future of wellbeing and wellness strategies.
Tuesday (stop, collaborate and listen)—Team members shared talks, podcasts, books, music and films that make them feel good. We also discussed the importance of sleep.
Wellbeing Wednesday—Our guest speaker, Hannah Butcher, talked about how to cope with rejection in the marketing world, and her personal approach to dealing with depression.
Thursday—Suicide is obviously a difficult subject to discuss. We watched a short film and provided resources for anyone who wanted further information or support.
Fitness Friday—Mental wellbeing is often linked to physical wellbeing. So we all jumped on a Zoom call and sweated it out at an online workout from The Body Coach, Joe Wicks.
We also created a COVID-19 intranet webpage. This included regular updates from our CEO, the latest government guidance, and FAQs tailored to our team. A wellness section also offered resources to help with mental health issues during isolation.
While we’ve long been advocates of flexible working, and staff had been able to work flexibly around childcare and other commitments for years, these aren’t normal circumstances. So you might expect to see a decline in work wellbeing and productivity.
But we’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of the results.
In terms of emotional resilience and impact: “I think Seeker has gone above & beyond as far as providing equipment and being sympathetic to each person’s situation.”
And in terms of productivity—with a 16% increase in the number of pieces written by the content team in the three months since we began working remotely.
Of course, these are only a couple of examples. But while it’s been tough at times, we’ve also seen some silver linings.
Wellness: a long-term view
We’re aware of the tendency for short-termism and lip-service when it comes to employee wellness, particularly in agency culture. So we’ve always taken regular catch-ups with managers—to check in and make sure everyone’s doing okay—very seriously.
We also ask employees to fill out regular wellness surveys to make sure everyone has what they need to come to work feeling their best.
As all companies should, right? It’s our responsibility to monitor the long-term mental health impacts of these new ways of working, and do what we can to help.
But we’re very much continuing to evolve with the times, and looking to see what we can do next to help the team feel and work at their best.
With this in mind, all Seekers have also been given:
+1 day holiday—in June we all received an extra day’s holiday, with the intention of giving people the time to reflect on all the wellness lessons learned.
Kindles—at the end of wellness week we were all sent a surprise in the post: a Kindle. After a week of learning about wellness, this gave us access to delve deeper into wellbeing (without needing to visit a shop) and gave us the opportunity to take some down time and switch off. The team was over the moon, and we will continue to give a Kindle to all new starters.
Headspace—every member of our team is now subscribed to this app. It not only helps with meditation, but with sleep, working from home and focus (to name just a few).
Our social team also hosts weekly ‘coffee mornings’ on Slack, encouraging those informal, relaxed conversations that keep us feeling part of a tight-knit team.
Learnings from remote working
The UK’s working patterns are looking to change for good, with plans being considered that would give workers the legal right to work from home. Many companies have now committed to more flexible working, and half of Facebook may work remotely by 2030.
That so many of us have worked from home for over five months is proof that it can work, and it gives us the flexibility to do our jobs in a way that allows for a better work-life balance.
The main difference right now? Remote working is mandatory rather than chosen, and under very trying circumstances. So, as we all know, it’s not ideal!
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to employee wellness. But by focusing on how employees are feeling, remaining in constant communication and responding to team needs, we can take what’s worked well during the crisis and carry it into our future work lives.
There are many benefits to joining Seeker, including a training plan, flexitime, access to some of the best tools and systems in the industry, and gym membership (to name just a few).