How to engage employees from afar

Check out how Jetpack and Zeptolab have been trying to maintain a sense of community when everyone is working from home.
April 3, 2020

We all have little rituals at work. Maybe you meet up with your co-worker first thing in the morning to talk about your favorite television show, or grab a breath of fresh air and a cup of coffee each day to break up the afternoon. But with people around the world working from home in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, those rituals have been replaced by a newer, often lonelier routine.

Zoom Yoga

In an effort to keep employees engaged, companies like London-based distributor Jetpack are implementing new programs to maintain a sense of community.

Beyond being Jetpack’s head of global sales, Marie-Laure Roche is also a yoga instructor. In March, she offered to give her colleagues a 30-minute yoga lesson via Zoom.

“It’s so beneficial to take a break and have a moment, just with your breathing,” Roche says.

The class was a hit, with Jetpack’s employees requesting it become a weekly ritual. Those looking to participate simply join a Zoom meeting at the designated time, with around six or seven people taking the class each week. It was easy to implement, Roche says, because Jetpack employees already worked from home prior to the pandemic and used Zoom meetings to collaborate on projects and keep in touch.

For companies looking to implement similar programs, Roche recommends reaching out to employees to discover what hidden talents they might be able to lend to the team. You never know who on your team might be a natural-born book club leader, or willing to lend their green thumb to coworkers in an online gardening session

Coffee roulette

Barcelona-headquartered Zeptolab, meanwhile, has significantly less experience with working from home. As a result, the indie game developer is implementing several programs in an effort to engage with employees in its offices around the world who are now isolated from their coworkers.

The company’s “Coffee Roulette” program, for example, pairs employees for randomized video chats. Designed to mimic the office kitchen setting—where colleagues who may not regularly speak often run into each other over the coffee maker—the program uses a downloadable extension for the inter-office messaging system Slack to pair employees who haven’t been in recent contact for a fun Friday get-together. 

“Thirty people have signed up, including the founders and CEO,” says head of animation distribution Anna Shchur. “It’s important for us to try different things to engage people and keep them motivated. This is especially true for those who are locked down alone.”

The company is also looking into different programs it can put in place to provide additional support for employees home-schooling children during the lockdown.

“People are feeling lonely or scared, but they have no idea what to do and are afraid to talk about those feelings,” says Shchur. “We want to talk about it with them and provide resources, even if it’s as simple as kind words or movie recommendations. Little things can make a big difference.”

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