TACKLING LONELINESS IN THE WORKPLACE

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If someone had told me, before March 2020, that I would be conducting most of my work from a desk within my bedroom, I’d have thought they were off their trolley. Yet this was the reality that hit us - not just myself and my colleagues at Punch!, but for thousands of people across the nation. Such a major change to daily life had a profound effect on everyone, and as the Talent Manager, it was my team’s responsibility to ensure that we helped the company manage the transition to this new way of working.

Before the pandemic, we had a very typical company set-up. You worked in the office, 9 to 5, and maybe went out for drinks on a Friday. So what we very quickly realised, as we settled in behind our computer screens at home, was the impact social rituals have on the workday. That natter by the kettle, or the casual chitchat with the colleague next to you, had been removed. It was a major change that myself and my team endeavoured to address. After all, the last thing we wanted within our remote-first approach was for anyone to feel a sense of loneliness.

Loneliness is one of the hardest emotions to deal with, and in my opinion, is about more than simply being by yourself. For example, you can be alone at home reading a book and feel perfectly content. Equally, you can be in the middle of a party surrounded by people and feel absolutely alone. Loneliness is an intrinsic disconnect with the world, be it with yourself, the people around you, or the events happening in life.

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We wanted to keep all our employees feeling connected at Punch!. As such, our top three priorities when creating our virtual workspace were:

  • Make communication between colleagues as accessible as possible
  • Ensure that the company vision, values, and goals were understood by all
  • Create new daily or weekly rituals of interaction with colleagues

We implemented technology such as Google Workspace and HIBob to allow employees an easy way to chat with others and collaborate on work. The technology was adopted successfully by the team, and to this day our staff regularly celebrate successes on our HR platform, and use Google Chat to reach out to team members and catch up on the NFL, or discuss last night's bake-off. We also made sure that each department has a regular catch up within their calendars, and a company-wide Monday Morning Meeting, to provide a sense of structure and routine. Managers also check in regularly throughout the week with their teams.

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There were other fun incentives we rolled out during the pandemic, such as our “Fanmail” initiative. This is where employees can nominate colleagues who have been doing an amazing job and, at the end of the month, one will be chosen to receive a surprise gift in the post. We also implemented The Friday Cool Off, where colleagues could hop on a call on Friday with a drink and relax. Fast forward to the present, we still continue to look for new ways to create community within the company virtually, and most recently, we implemented our 5K relay, where colleagues nominate each other to run, walk, swim 5km for charity. And, once restrictions had been lifted, we made sure to re-introduce some in person social activities too. The teams now meet in person once a quarter, to socialise and bond over a game of mini golf, darts, or any activity of their choice.

Most importantly of all, we embedded our company values - Humble, Tenacious, Ownership, Empowering and Flair - in our performance reviews and daily practices. Our company goals and our vision as an agency are shared, and re-shared, on a regular basis, so that everyone knows what we’re working towards, and more crucially, what is driving us to work towards it. By doing this, we endeavour to create a sense of belonging at the company.  Everyone in the team, whether they are based in Manchester, London, Wales, even Bermuda, knows who we are, what we stand for, and how they contribute to it.

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Life is not the same as it was before the pandemic. However at Punch! we have made sure that even though we are remote-first, everyone knows what we do, why we do it, and how their role in the organisation fits into the wider picture. Our determination to engender a sense of purpose and belonging, bolstered by regular touch-points between colleagues and easily accessible communication, is what has made the Punch! culture thrive.

We may not have the old office vibe. But, I think, we’ve innovated into something more.