When The Wow Company made the switch to remote working, the business already had the technology in place. The challenge it had to solve was a human one.
The Wow Company knew from early March that people would be working from home for the foreseeable future. The first step was to do what they could for employees’ physical health, equipping them with desk stands and chairs. But a bigger challenge remained: how do you support staff emotionally during months of remote working?
“This is a human crisis. The bit that no app can fix is the human aspect. We’ve got a bunch of humans who are working from home, often dealing with childcare and health concerns, whether that’s concerns about family members getting the virus or people actually losing loved ones. As an organisation, how can we best support those people?” co-founder Paul Bulpitt said.
Instituting a buddy system
Paul acknowledges that there’s no magic bullet for how to support staff remotely. But he’s concentrated on trying to replicate the human culture of the office by creating a buddy system.
“We instituted a buddy system to make sure everyone has some human contact at the start of the day. We paired people up and I dare say, when we’re able to go back to the office, the system will remain,” he said.
As part of the system, people check in with their buddy for half an hour every morning. The conversations aren’t usually work related, but Paul thinks it gives staff a positive start to the day. It helps to mimic the natural conversations people have when they arrive at the office and keeps them feeling connected.
Looking after your own mental health
There’s a tendency to keep pushing yourself and doing everything you can for your team when you’re in crisis mode. After weeks powered by coffee and adrenaline, Paul realised that he needed to think of his mental health too.
He took a few days off from the business, which he credits for refreshing his mindset and giving him a better perspective. He also stopped using slides on team calls and kept the team on grid view instead.
Although Paul misses the human contact in the office, having face-to-face conversations where he can see people’s reactions has given him a boost.
“The best advice I could give anyone running a business right now is to take a day off. Be able to step away. As business owners running teams, we like to take a lot of the emotional responsibility of our teams onto ourselves, but we need to nurture our mental health at the same time.”
There’s a lot for your employees to be worried about right now. As a boss, how do you avoid making it worse – and maybe even make it better? Download our expert guide to staff wellbeing and workplace engagement for SMEs.