As part of our Pandemic Insights series, we spoke to Lisa Berardi, Strategic HR Consultant, previously People & Culture Director at We Are Social. She’s been working with a variety of clients over the last 2 years and provides us with valuable insights on the positive advice she’s been giving creative companies during challenging times.
How would you describe your companies Covid/Pandemic experience
The clients I have supported have had very positive stories, in the two years I have been consulting (4 months before the pandemic hit) I’ve only seen growth in each and every one of my clients, some are hitting double-digit growth consistently. There have been no cuts made nor furloughs, that is probably due to the Comms and PR sector not being as affected as other marketing mix budgets. Despite job security, along with the rest of the world there have been challenges for both employees and employers to navigate through.
Top tips that assisted the teams whilst working remotely
- Put in boundaries, the lines became very blurred during the pandemic seeing employees work longer hours, without the physical break up of the day, the walk to the station/office etc. Ensuring the encouragement of regular breaks was imperative – refresh and refocus
- Walking meetings – it keeps things to the point and more productive, as they do in stand up meetings – with ensuring your teams are getting some fresh air
- Get the balance right with virtual socials. Being creative was really important here; it’s not the usual going to the pub social but these really helped bring some fun back into the monotony of lockdowns
- Ensure teams have the right set up. Before the pandemic most employers were not aware of individual living conditions/lack of space. Some employees are in house shares and having to do video calls/work on their beds, others have to juggle childcare and clashing meetings right through to other individuals living in studios; all come with challenges. Making sure only necessary meetings are booked in really helped with fatigue
- Show compassion and care. With all the usual perks out of the window all of my clients really wanted to show their teams they’re valued and they knew how hard it’s been. Thinking outside of the box on this was a really good idea
What’s the ‘return to the office’ and hybrid working approach
Every client of mine is different, each of them understand the importance of IRL working teams. Collaboration, creativity and ideas have all suffered, naturally, whilst the world became virtual. Some have gone back as soon as it was safe to and are navigating a hybrid approach that will feel more of a balance, others are planning to return in the new year to a form of hybrid. I have seen lots of office moves, some that can accommodate entire companies and others that have purposely chosen new office space that can only accommodate 75% of their workforce to ensure they continue to work in a hybrid way.
How has the pandemic positively affected how your company works now
I think the pandemic has pushed employers to entrust their teams more. WFH entirely will have pushed some of them, made them uncomfortable but ultimately the decision was out of their hands. It means the working life has caught up with the 21st century. In terms of mine, being agile and working with multiple clients in the UK and Europe has meant online working has cut out travel, enabling me to focus more on my time making an impact on the businesses.
How are businesses supporting the mental health of employees
Most employers will have an Employee Assistance Programme, which ensures that all staff have round the clock support whenever they need it. The support is available to them and also their immediate family. It enables them to obtain any therapy/counselling without the hefty cost or long wait lists on the NHS. Lots of companies have also upskilled their own teams to become mental health first aiders. These individuals are trained on how to be that first port of call for any of their team members struggling with their mental health and are able to sign post them to the help they need. Others have been super proactive in lockdown providing paid for workouts, guided meditations, yoga and even sound baths!
Your top tips on ensuring the wellbeing of staff
Listen to what your teams are asking for. There’s not one size fits all. Ensure the programme you develop is reflective of who your teams are and what their needs and motivations are. Reflect these or they won’t engage. Regular engagement/happiness/pulse surveys will always help in aligning your direction.