Well this is all a bit strange isn’t it?
Here at SSP, as with many other companies, our people have had to deal with the sudden shock of working from home full time and all the challenges this comes with. All while struggling to make sense of whatever normal looks like at the moment.
They’ve dealt with it brilliantly. But the pressure and stress that the current situation brings can start to take its toll. Some people have grown to love working from home. For others they cannot wait to get back to the office.
Our people need support. And we’re making sure they get it.
From the moment SSP decided to ask its workforce of over 800 people to work from home, we prioritised employee engagement.
Our employee engagement plan has a very simple guiding principle: support our people and make them smile. In terms of how (and how often) we do this, the approach is ‘little and often’.
There’s a good reason for this. How often do you find yourself having a quick chat with a colleague while walking through your office? Or catching up with someone while making a tea? These ‘little and often’ human interactions are a valuable part of office life.
Connecting people is fundamental to our engagement plan. At SSP we are fortunate to have excellent online communication tools that allow us to chat as easily to each other, from our work mates that usually sit across from us to colleagues in another continent or hemisphere.
Encouraging people to connect, to engage, to collaborate, and to communicate is something we do all the time. They are some of the key ingredients of a good internal communications function. We’ve just stepped up a gear.
There’s a serious side to all this. As a dedicated Time to Change Employer and a business that prioritises mental health and well-being, we’re committed to supporting our people through this period. Many of our messages include reminders and links to our global Employee Assistance Programme, which includes access to free counselling and other support.
To give you a flavour of how we’re doing this, here’s some ‘little and often’ ways that we’re engaging with our people:
- Yammer. We’ve had Yammer since May 2017 and it’s always been an active space to chat and share. When we started to work from home, one of our employees started a COVID-19 group on Yammer which we hijacked and made everyone a member of – it’s now the most active group on Yammer by far and has allowed us to create a self-support mechanism that includes plenty of the humour and banter that we all value.
- #myoffice. This was a campaign we ran right at the start, asking people to share photos of their new office spaces.
- #myofficeview. Our people then shared photos of what they could see from their desks, ranging from beautiful open countryside to blank walls.
- #badjokethursday. This one actually started before the lockdown, but it’s going stronger than ever. Each Thursday colleagues post truly awful jokes and puns on Yammer. Simple but effective!
- #proudfriday. Another one that started before the lockdown but that has continued strongly – our managers and business heads recognise members of their teams that they are proud of.
- Colour of the week. Each week the people of SSP are asked to wear a particular colour on Tuesday and then share photos of themselves (and their teams if they’ve been on a call) on Yammer. A little thing perhaps but something that has really brought people together. And some of the outfits have been particularly interesting!
- Stretch o’clock. Every day at 10am local time, our people have a reminder pop up in their calendars to stop work for a few minutes and do some very simple desk exercises to stretch their backs, legs and necks and ensure we don’t start to suffer while sat at our home desks (particularly important given the temporary nature of some of their workspaces).
- Guided meditation. Using the sessions on the Headspace website, we have a weekly guided meditation session run over Microsoft Teams to give our people a moment of calm reflection amongst the chaos.
- Videos. To really put a smile on our people’s faces we’ve put together a number of videos that are funny and silly, with many more in the pipeline! They include:
- One Step Beyond: our kids (or ‘junior co-workers’) danced and moved to the Madness track One Step Beyond and performed brilliantly!
- Cha Cha Slide: demonstrating a funkiness that no one knew about (even them) around 30 of our people across the globe busted some moves and did the dance moves to the Cha Cha Slide track – watch their epic performance.
- Who Let the Dogs Out?: putting our pawsome pets centre stage, we put together a video of our canine chums doing what they do best to Who Let the Dogs Out? – watch the pawfect video now.
- SSP Sounds. To give people a soundtrack to work from, several of our talented SSP musicians lent their considerable talents to SSP Sounds, a YouTube playlist featuring nearly two hours of original tracks and covers – have a listen while you work.
- Bingo on Teams. Yep, bingo. For an hour over 80 of our people grabbed their virtual dabbers and tried to get four corners or a full house while our colleagues in India called out the numbers. It was madness. Everyone loved it!
- Competitions. Whether it’s a working from home selfie competition, a caption competition on Yammer or a ‘best socks’ competition for Lots of Socks Day, our people love a competition!
- Chat, chat, chat. We actively encourage our people to use communication tools like Teams to chat. To catch up with colleagues and friends. To have virtual coffee breaks or lunch times with work mates sat in their kitchen or in the garden.
- WFH Weekly. Every Friday an email goes to everyone in the business that is specifically about working from home. It discusses some topics relevant to working from home (things like the importance of staying in touch with colleagues and getting away from the desk regularly) and also includes advice from SSP people who are permanently home-based.
This is just a taste of what we’re doing. And doesn’t even begin to cover the many things that our people are doing on their own, with no involvement from Internal Comms!
If anyone is interested in finding out more about these activities then please drop me a line and I’d be happy to chat to you about them.
The one thing that binds all these ideas together is a sense of togetherness. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to juggle work and home schooling in Gurgaon or Aldershot. Or trying to walk the dog while on the phone to the boss in Auckland or Solihull. Or struggling to resist the lure of the fridge or biscuit tin in Halifax, Denver or Johannesburg. We’re all in it together and these shared experiences can, oddly enough, bring us all together.
Employee engagement at SSP has one clear guiding principle. And that is ‘One SSP’. Time and again, in every survey we do, we hear how talented, friendly and valuable our people are. How much we value each other.
Never was engaging our employees, supporting them, making them smile and making sure we all get through this together more important than it is right now.
They’re our people. They’re our most valuable resource.
And they’re well worth it. Maybe pinch some ideas and let your employees know that they are worth it too?