When the lockdown started, no one really knew or understood the gravity of the situation. For me, it reminded me of an unexpected school holiday - but instead of no school, it would just be no office for a bit. A new way to engage with colleagues, discover new ways of working and ultimately, begin a path of real self-discovery.
Going into the first lockdown, we all assumed that it was going to be about two weeks and then things would slowly return to normal. As the Internal Communications and Engagement Executive at RG, my job was to recreate activities that would usually be hosted in the offices and adapt them to create new versions of virtual events for our employees that would work in our new world. I was used to doing a lot on our employee engagement hub, boom!, but this was going beyond our usual ways of working. It was time to try new things to engage my coworkers as we all began to get comfortable with working remotely. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot and especially some lessons for future me to pay attention to as well. Here’s a look back:
Feeling the exhaustion of being online all the time
This was the perfect time to try different activities to see what worked virtually and what didn’t. And a lot of things didn’t work. The team and I went full steam ahead on engagement, coming up with quizzes, competitions and other activities for employees to participate in. We had virtual discussions with outside speakers and even pushed for wellbeing breaks. While some of these events were successful, there wasn’t enough balance yet.
We didn’t host multiple quizzes and competitions on a weekly basis when the offices were open, why were we trying to do that now?
Even as I hosted and planned a lot of these activities, I could feel myself becoming exhausted by them and wasn’t surprised when there was a lack of participation. ‘Zoom fatigue’ became a very real thing. It was time to pull back and reassess as I realised that lockdown was going on much longer than originally thought.
Taking the time to check in with myself
Mental Health Awareness Week came at the perfect time. While I was getting used to the idea of lockdown as a more permanent thing, it didn’t mean that it wasn’t taking a toll on my mental health. It was discouraging watching the news and the only topic of conversation was the pandemic. Mental Health Awareness Week was able to shift focus and let everyone have a moment to focus on themselves.
Our partner Sanctus, a mental health company, was sending out daily ‘check-ins’ which then I shared on our social media. It was a great way to engage with one other outside of Zoom and Google. I blogged about my own struggles with lockdown on our employee engagement platform, boom! and received wonderful comments and support from colleagues. For the first time since lockdown, it felt like I wasn’t alone. We were all dealing with this situation together, not just as a company but as people.
After that week, it felt like a good balance had been struck. Meetings were still ongoing but there was more consideration for people’s time. I took to making sure I had my lunch break but then also going for a walk. It helped me realise that if I wasn’t at my computer all the time, the world wasn’t going to fall apart. I could take time for myself and set boundaries for work. When lockdown first occurred, I was trying to be so accommodating and available for everyone that I allowed my focus time or even lunch breaks to be taken over.
My diary went through some important overhauls, which included blocking out time for breaks or periods of focus to help me focus on my wellbeing. This not only showed my colleagues that they couldn’t just schedule in a meeting whenever but also set a routine for myself.
I also realised that taking a break outside of work was important. I didn’t need to attend every Zoom quiz or finish that needlepoint project, taking care of myself became the priority.
There were some brief reprieves where our office opened and I was able to work amongst colleagues again in a COVID-safe environment (massive kudos to our Experience Manager, Will Elliott for creating the safe space). They were always short lived but very welcomed and allowed me to apply my lockdown learnings to the office setting. My new diary bookings gave me more control and while I could have easily been distracted with getting used to the office environment again, it helped me keep to schedule while also allowing me to enjoy my time.
Learning and growing from each lockdown
As lockdown became strict again in December for the UK, I was dismayed but knew that I would get through it. With fantastic holiday virtual events and new wellbeing programmes in the new year, I felt armed with tools to keep myself mentally and physically fit. There will still be bad days but I know how to handle them better than I first did. The Reward Gateway team still feels united even though I haven’t seen anyone outside of the confines of my computer while working remotely.
Throughout all of lockdown, Reward Gateway has done a fantastic job promoting wellbeing and encouraging balance between work and life. It was a new experience for everyone and while it wasn’t always perfect, the Leadership Team and managers have done a great job listening and reacting when things aren’t working. We were able to try things out and have things fail. We were allowed to be annoyed or upset and feel acknowledged. And most importantly, we were still able to be Reward Gateway.
Finding the new way forward
Now that the UK office is slowly re-opening and lockdown is lifting, I’ve been able to test out a new way of working as a hybrid worker. The time working from home in 2020 was a great opportunity for us to fully understand our work modes as they were put to the test in the home environment. I won’t be expected to be in the office every day but rather take our work modes and apply them to my home office. If I have a confidential discussion with my manager or have a complicated task that needs serious focus, I know logging on from home will be the most effective for me - and encouraged!
This new twist on our work modes will be shared with all RG employees globally, with fantastic guides to break down when is the best time to head into the office or work from home.
The pandemic gave us time to look at our ways of working so we can continue to enhance and develop them so that every RGer can tailor their work modes to their unique needs and personal preferences. While I’m hopeful we can put the pandemic behind us, I’m glad for the lessons I’ve learned. I’ve been able to engage better because I now have a better understanding of how we all work. I’m taking more consideration into balancing home and work life, not just for me but everyone at RG. New campaigns and benefits will be created knowing that we’re not all just sitting in the office, we’re working where is best for us and that doesn’t make us any less of a connected workforce.
I’d love to hear about some of the ways you’re keeping your hybrid workforce connected, whether they’re in the office, working remotely or on the front lines. Feel free to send me a message on LinkedIn!