fscom’s Head of People, Brona Cathcart shares her insights into how the fscom team have been adapting to the shift in workplace dynamics over the past two weeks and her top tips for a productive and connected workforce.
Having spent many years working in human resources and people management, I have experienced a number of major business disruptions, the first in 2010 when I worked with the Emirates Group in Dubai with the disruptive “ash cloud”, and more recently when I worked in London as they came to terms with the aftermath of a terrorist attack and the pre-empting of further terrorist attacks. However, nothing has been quite like what we are now facing with the global pandemic of Covid 19. The key difference being we are not only experiencing this as a team but rather alongside the countless other teams and individuals across the globe right now.
Closing the doors but “open for business”
Two weeks ago today, we made the decision to close our office doors in Longbridge House in the historical Cathedral Quarter to ensure not only the safety of our team members but also the safety of our clients. A travel ban was put into immediate effect and everyone packed up and went to work from home.
As a business, we have been lucky as most of our team members are well used to working from client sites and off site at home. With already strong technology based infrastructure to enable provision of its services through virtual means as well as extensive contingency planning and testing, we have made the move to ‘working from home’ with relatively few hiccups.
We have risen to the challenge; providing services to our clients remotely, whilst also ensuring that staff members remain motivated and retain durable communication channels.
So, what are we doing?
- Meetings - we have moved all meetings to Microsoft Teams and encourage everyone to use the video function to keep connected.
- Team catch ups - all teams kick off the day with a team meeting and I touch base with all team members on a regular and ongoing basis.
- MD updates - Communication has been essential and our MD sends out morning updates and hosts video company updates to allow for clear and transparent messaging every step of the way.
- Virtual coffee sessions - We have coffee sessions every morning and chat non-stop on our team chats.
- Exercise - we have introduced work out sessions and have encouraged each other to join in and get fit. This is essential as we are becoming more house bound and looking after our team’s mental health is key during this challenging time.
- Friday funtime - As a consulting company, our consultants were well used to travelling however always aimed to return to the Belfast HQ every Friday where we often had team breakfasts, townhalls and Friday funtimes where the staff took turns to host games and have a drink at the end of a hard week’s work. We successfully moved this online last Friday and got people to bring along their family and friends they are living with to join in. Our competitiveness possibly went up a notch with this move. There are plans to get a chess tournament started, so I am looking forward to brushing up on those skills again.
- Pets - At fscom HQ, the most common question we were often asked was, “can I bring my pet to work?”, sadly our landlord objected but I am pleased to say they have been appearing at our gym sessions and regular video calls since our move to remote working.
- Social skills - Essentially, we are trying to keep connected with each other beyond our work requirements and are allowing our consultants to demonstrate their other skillsets as much as we can. Coming up this week, we have a gardener’s clinic, and other ideas going forward include dance lessons, music and cookery sessions.
What has fscom learnt as a team over the past week?
Finally, what tips can we share as a team from the past couple of weeks to those just now starting out in the journey….
- Maintain a routine – keep as close as possible to your normal routine e.g. get up at the normal time, have breakfast, get dressed for work.
- Work in smaller chunks – working in smaller chunks with frequent breaks to retain concentration levels;
- Use video chat – in person contact is important to read social cues and feel connected. Do not just rely on email or chat.
- Set achievable goals – do your to do list as usual however ensure they are realistic for the current situation and you will feel more accomplished when you hit those goals.
- Schedule daily team check-ups – daily meetings to ensure everyone knows what is expected of them, check progress against objectives and goals to ensure productivity and to check in on everyone on a personal level;
- Manage distractions – make rules and stick to them – no housework until break and lunchtimes. If you are looking after others in the household, make sure to share the shifts.
- Have fun – remember the social side to work as well and keep the fun going with coffee chats, games, exercise and the photos and videos of your new ‘homeworking’ experiences.
I believe for workplaces, the way we communicate going forward will change forever. We will all have become much more technology driven and see the value in communicating in this way where appropriate. However, I don’t feel it could ever replace the face to face working that is so important in consultancy practices such as fscom.
As a team, I feel we have become even closer over the past two weeks, not just to each other but also to our clients. This comes through in quotes from the team such as this one “I feel even closer to the team than before and safe in the knowledge we are all in this together”. As feedback, I feel this bodes well after two weeks however the key will be the continuation of this motivation and feeling of connectivity as the weeks and months go on.