As we come to the end of another week working from home, there is an air of cautious optimism spreading throughout the country. Provisional dates for the reopening of entire sectors have been marked on calendars as we tentatively make plans for the return of some normality.
And yet, as we pine for the return of life as we knew it; millions of us are still working from our living rooms, and for some, it is still novel. For those that are new to the world of remote work, those that have started jobs in lockdown or even for the next generation joining the workforce during these isolated times; developing meaningful connections with colleagues can be challenging.
But there are companies that are nailing it, keeping their employees connected and developing innovative ways to engage and motivate. Superscript is one of those companies.
Superscript is a provider of business insurance and we caught up with some of their team to find out exactly how they have been keeping their employees connected during these periods of remote work. We were lucky enough to interview Zena Alana, Superscript’s Talent and People Ops Manager and Hannah Keal, their People and Culture Partner.
NHR: Zena, Hannah, tell us a bit about Superscript and how you have been working throughout lockdown?
“We are a people-centred business, so our number one priority throughout this time has been figuring out how to keep our team healthy, safe and connected – and a lot of that has been done by asking Superscripters what they need and responding to that.
“Like a lot of businesses, we’ve had to adapt quickly, but we’ve done a lot in a short amount of time to ensure that people feel able to operate with both the autonomy and support needed to be successful. For example, we’ve changed a lot about how we communicate and celebrate each other as a team. Last year we implemented Objectives and Key Results to ensure that our focus as a company was crystal clear and everyone understood how they could contribute.
“One of our big takeaways this year has been that trust trumps all – so we’ve tried to introduce practices that really foster that within the team.”
NHR: How have you kept your Superscripters connected during this lockdown?
“In these weird times, it’s more common to say “you’re on mute” than “would you like tea/coffee?” It’s been a learning curve for all companies, but we have been embracing some awesome new tech to bring our Superscripters together – and although nothing will replace in-person communication, we understand that social connection is more important than ever at the moment, so we do a range of things to keep people connected. We use Donut to pair people across the business together for coffee and catch-ups, and we also have dedicated Slack channels filled with fun competitions (or quarantine challenges as we call them around here).
“Prior to COVID, we were a super social bunch – and we still are – but we’re also conscious that just moving Friday drinks onto Zoom isn’t going to cut it, so we’ve been exploring different types of team social. Recently, our team has been getting involved in a couple of gaming tournaments – research shows that this is a great way for remote teams to bond. When we do have monthly social events, we keep it fresh – our most recent was drag queen bingo!”
NHR: Have you made any changes to facilitate working from home?
“Yes – towards the end of the first UK lockdown, after surveying our team to find out how they would like to work in future, we shared the first version of our hybrid working policy – I say the first version because obviously, the situation is still quite uncertain, but also because we will continue to evolve it as we learn.
“However, it was important to give our team as much clarity as we could about our intention to create a way of working that offers the best of both worlds – in office time for collaboration and connection, and the flexibility and other benefits offered by remote work. In terms of tech, we’ve been experimenting with Hopin – an events platform – we’re actually using it to run a mini wellbeing festival next Friday (more on that later!).”
NHR: And how are you maintaining Superscript’s culture away from the office?
“We define culture quite broadly – it’s all the things that make us, us. Not just the social stuff mentioned above, but how we interact with each other, the way people feel about the work they do and the values we share. We’ve been looking at a lot of things across that spectrum, but two things that stand out are our Superstar of the Month programme – anyone in the team can recognise and celebrate anyone else for being Unexpected, Unafraid, Unassuming or Unstoppable (our principles) using our shoutouts channel in Slack and we celebrate one Superstar who’s really embodied one of those principles each month.
“We’ve also just implemented a buddy system for new starters to help introduce them to our culture – when you can’t absorb it from being in the office and meeting people organically, it can be easy to feel a little lost – our buddies act as an anchor, helping to introduce new starters to all aspects of Superscript life.”
NHR: Have you made any changes to your employee engagement strategy due to remote work?
“Yes – although a lot of the changes have been in how we deliver initiatives and events, rather than a fundamental shift in approach. One thing that we have placed even more focus on is the wellbeing and mental health of our team.
“We have great health benefits, but we recognised that’s not enough – so we’ve equipped our managers with more tools to check in on our team’s wellbeing during 1:1s, shared more resources (like a support plan to reflect on what good mental health at work looks like for you as an individual) and in response to a survey we did earlier this year, we’ve organised a Wellbeing Festival, filled with expert guest speakers, discussions about wellbeing as well as some other little surprises for our team.”
NHR: How have these practices been received by employees?
“This is an easy one! As any changes we’ve made have been decided off the back of data collected from our team through pulse surveys, we avoid needlessly implementing practices we think our people will benefit from, but rather those that we know they want and need, so I think the changes we’ve made have been well received for this reason.”
We would like to extend our huge thanks to Zena and Hannah for sharing such brilliant insights into how the team at Superscript are managing and engaging their employees while we continue to work from home.