It’s now been over a year since we all picked up our laptops, left The Quadrangle at Crewe Hall and set up office in our homes.
We’ve been fortunate enough like many businesses to be able to continue to operate while working fully remote.
Just like every business we’ve had our fair share of challenges! Despite this, we’ve grown our team, powered through the pandemic and along the way we’ve learned some key lessons about working remotely!
So, here’s what we’ve learned, here are the challenges we’ve faced and how we’ve overcome them and how your business can too.
Maintaining and strengthening our company culture
The challenge: When one day you’re all together in a vibrant and buzzing office space, then the next you’re all at home clearing space on your desk to work from home, maintaining that company culture you’ve carefully built is a challenge for any business.
For us, we were used to lunchtimes over at the Crewe Hall gym, pizza days and our charity challenges for Cure Leukaemia.
Recreating that vibrant working environment when you’re all working remotely is a challenge, but it’s been one we’ve been determined to overcome!
What we did: To keep everyone connected, we created Facebook and WhatsApp groups and used these, alongside Microsoft Teams, to post company updates, challenges, quizzes and anything we’d normally do in the office!
This not only helped us maintain our company culture, but it helped integrate new starters too.
We also started weekly lunchtime catch-ups over Microsoft Teams with weekly themes. Each week a member of our team teaches us all something new and in return, we all get to see each other’s lovely faces and keep the company culture going!
We also utilised video as a way to speak to each other while working remotely. Our Founder and Managing Director Catherine records a weekly Friday video update for the whole team helping keep everyone in the loop in a more social and personal way!
What you can do: Utilising social media groups is a great way to keep everyone connected! A group for the whole company is great, but by all means encourage managers to set up smaller groups, through Facebook or WhatsApp, particularly if you’re a larger organisation.
Teams is great for this too, which has the added benefit of not needing your team to provide their phone number or share their personal social media.
However, using social media can be more relaxed and informal and give your teams the opportunity to bond more naturally outside working hours.
Regular catch-ups are great but even better when they have a clear theme or purpose! Employees know what to expect and this can help teams bond even better.
Video is a really great tool to utilise while working remotely too. Using video where you can to help give a more human feel to your messages can support you in strengthening your company culture while working remotely.
Staying on top of our physical and mental health
The challenge: The pandemic has shone a light on both our mental and physical health. The increased pressure on the NHS has meant operations and procedures have been pushed back and routine healthcare put on hold.
The isolation due to restrictions, including remote working, has affected many with their mental health too.
We recognised these could be big challenges when we first began remote working back in March 2020, so we set out to make changes to negate them, providing support for both physical and mental health for our team.
What we did: To support our team with their healthcare, we introduced Private Medical Insurance (PMI) to help staff avoid NHS waiting times and get the treatment they need.
We’ve also provided mental health training to all our team to help build awareness and resilience to help employees not just with their own mental health but the mental health of their peers too.
Spotting the signs of poor mental health are even more difficult while working remotely and so training like this is incredibly important at this time.
We also recognised how important a good work-life balance is to good mental health. We recognised the growing prominence of the 4-day work week within work-life balance discussion.
This helped inform our decision to restructure hours and allow an earlier finish to the working day for our whole team on Fridays!
What you can do: Consider what the real challenges are for your staff and what the company can support them with.
People often face challenges outside the workplace which their employers aren’t able to influence. However, the company can support employees in how they deal with those challenges.
This is where mental health and resilience training and support can really help employees through difficult times.
However, it’s important for employers to take a two-pronged approach to this.
Employees often face challenges in the workplace too, as well as outside. These can include challenges with their workload, work-related stress or workplace conflict for example.
For these challenges, employers have a great deal more control and can get to the root cause of the problem.
Things like mental health training can still help but getting to the root cause of any mental health challenges employees face in the workplace is crucial.
Employee feedback is key here as is taking the right steps based on that feedback. It could be that you need to review workload or task management to reduce work-related stress.
In this case, while mental health training can still be supportive, it may not remove the root cause of any mental health challenges your staff are facing in the workplace.
For more on this, read our guide to supporting remote and furloughed employees with their mental health.
Maintaining our fitness
The Challenge: It’s fair to say most of us who’ve been able to work remotely have either been a little less active than usual or have had to up our fitness game to keep the pounds off!
As mentioned, we’re usually pretty active at caboodle! So, this has been a big challenge for us. But we do love a challenge, so we set about planning and creating some to help keep active and keep our fitness levels up.
Joe Wicks was great, but we needed something a bit extra!
What we did: To replace our usual lunchtime workouts over at the gym at Crewe Hall, we had our own Joe-Wicks-style home workouts over Teams and sent out workouts for everyone to try at home in their own time.
We also took part in The London Marathon’s 2.6 challenge, setting ourselves fitness challenges around the number 26 to raise money and awareness for our charity partners Cure Leukaemia.
When restrictions allowed, we also got together for group training cycle rides in preparation for Cure Leukaemia’s annual cycling event London 2 Paris, cycling through Shropshire and conquering The Horseshoe Pass in Llangollen, Wales!
After London 2 Paris was postponed to 2021, we continued training and set our own caboodle500 challenge to fundraise for Cure Leukaemia, cycling over 500km over 4 days through Wales and raising over £2,200!
What you can do: Gather the fitness fanatics in your team and challenge them to take their own workout sessions over Zoom or Teams with the whole team or their individual departments.
The more inclusive and flexible the workouts are to suit different levels of fitness the better!
Tying charity to your fitness challenges is a no-brainer too! Charities have taken a big hit due to the pandemic and need our support more than ever.
The key is finding what works best for your team. You might have keen runners, cyclists or weightlifters in your ranks. Supporting your team with their fitness goals while working remotely is a challenge but one that’s definitely worth overcoming!
So, what about the future? Well, like many businesses we’ll look to return to the workplace in some capacity in the safest way possible and once the lifting of restrictions allow.
The next challenge will be, like for many businesses, to ensure that we maintain our company culture, the physical and mental health of our team and our fitness levels as we transition to a more hybrid model of working.
While the pandemic has thrown up many challenges for businesses across the world, it’s not quite done yet and there’ll be many more to face in the future!