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How to keep employees happy, motivated and productive whilst working from home

Our2Cents

What Naked is learning from the global work-from-home experiment.

It has been a challenging time for the world: our daily routines are out of the window, and many of us are homeschooling our kids and focussing on keeping our family members healthy and safe.

On top of all of this, those of us lucky enough to continue working are suddenly taking part in a global work-from-home (WFH) experiment. Although there’s been a shift from office to home over the past couple of years, many employers didn’t fully support a WFH model – because it’s generally believed to be difficult to maintain employee productivity and focus at home, as well as keeping a sense of connection between colleagues.

And then, overnight, and with minimal planning, it was something we all had to do out of necessity – and it proved to be challenging for a lot of employees and employers alike.

Here’s what the team at Naked has learned:

1. Communication should be boundless

There’s nothing quite like face-to-face communication, but it’s not always necessary.

In an increasingly digital world, sharing and receiving information has become a whole lot easier. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5m or 50km from someone if you’re using tech to communicate.

At Naked, our primary source of communication is Slack – even in the office. Emails are very formal and take time to type out, whereas Slack is like the WhatsApp of the working world.

Slack has become the transparent hub for the different facets of Naked, encouraging collaboration around all aspects of the business, and allowing everyone to stay up to date with the latest company happenings.

A few tips for online communication:

  1. If your conversation turns into a ping-pong match, move on to a call. We believe Slack should be used for sharing and receiving information, but if there’s an issue that needs clearing up or there’s a discussion that needs to be had, we have a call.
  2. When reading messages, assume that they are well intended. As with any form of text communication, it’s always easy to add your own emotion to it.
  3. Read your message before pressing enter. You want to make sure your communication is clear and understandable ‒ humans aren’t mind readers, especially when all your communication is done through a little device.
  4. If you need to step away from your computer or concentrate for an hour or two, make sure you tell your teammates. Turn your status to ‘away’ – it helps people know when you’re not available and doesn’t leave them tapping their feet wondering why you’re not responding.

2. Collaborate and innovate

“In-person collaboration is necessary for creativity and innovation.” – Nicholas Bloom

Bloom, a Stanford economist who extensively researched WFH prior to COVID-19, found that face-to-face interaction was essential for creativity, as well as keeping employees engaged and motivated. Of course, this hasn’t been an option.

We’ve reimagined and reworked how we collaborate as a team

Luckily, video calls have been a big part of the answer. Our teams attend daily stand-ups (albeit little standing), brainstorming sessions, collaborative working sessions, and feedback sessions.

It brings a sense of normalcy to our working day, but also allows us to iron out any hiccups that we would normally talk about in the office.

We also do bi-weekly company-wide check-ins, where each individual team does a show-and-tell of what they’ve been working on. These help maintain communication and keep everyone pulling in the same direction.

A few tips for video calls:

  1. During video calls, if you can, keep cameras on. It helps with maintaining the connection amongst the team (you get to see into their world and vice versa). Plus it allows you to read body language, which is an important part of basic communication.
  2. Just like you used to in school, raise your hands or wave them about when you want to mention something without speaking over other people. Your call can quickly start to sound like a fish market, which isn’t very productive. So find ways to ensure everyone is heard.

Collaboration in real time

To solve problems creatively and efficiently, we rely on collaboration. So giving our teams the ability to continue doing this, albeit remotely, was essential.

Miro, a whiteboard tool, made its debut just before we all started WFH. Like Google Docs and Slides, it allows us to collaborate in real-time. Being able to share ‘live’ docs or virtual whiteboards with each other ensures that we’re all on the same page (literally). It opens a dialogue between us, instead of us all working in siloed isolation.

3. Stay connected beyond ‘work’

Our daily commute now is from the bedroom to our makeshift office space somewhere in the house, and our colleagues are our partners or four-legged friends (if we’re lucky). It’s been a lonely time for a lot of people. So we’ve introduced chats amongst our Naked family that are non-work related.

We’ve replaced our in-office morning coffee chats with Donut coffees

Donut is a virtual tool that we’ve linked to Slack; it pairs us with people we don’t normally talk to, for a virtual coffee date every two weeks.

Maintaining connections at Naked has always been important. And it’s become even more so now – especially for our latest Naked members who joined us during lockdown. We’re all looking forward to the day where we can meet in person.

Daily meditations to help us face the day

If we’re not up to socialising, there are daily meditation sessions to start the day. Alex, one of our founders, hosts a virtual meditation via Google Meet every morning. It’s a tranquil way to start the day, and it helps us breathe more easily for the rest of it.

4. Keep the company culture front and centre

With a name like Naked, it would be strange to not have a happy and quirky culture.

Shake the love

“Shake the love” has become a mantra at Naked, whether it be ending meetings with a collective, ‘Go team!’ or having lunch together as a company on Fridays.

We’ve always been very social and we needed to find a way to maintain that interaction. So, every two weeks we have “Shake the Love” virtual get-togethers. It’s where we can have a drink, and share lockdown stories, Netflix recommendations, and even recipes. Most importantly, there is laughter – a sound we so miss from being in our cosy office.

When Shake the Love is not on the cards, we play games

Emily, our scrum master, has now also become the games master. She's introduced us to an online game pack called Jackbox Games. The trivia-style games are fun and perfect to play along together while on a video call. A few of our kids and partners join in from time to time too.

After almost four months of WFH, we’ve never been more grateful for the team we have and what we’ve accomplished.

And although Naked is a small company, which makes implementing strategies and processes like these fairly hiccup-free, it doesn’t mean your organisation can’t give it a go! Start small with suggestions just for your team. If you think it could help you and your colleagues, it’s definitely worth the effort.

If you haven’t already, go and check out what we’re doing in the insurance space.

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