I’ve worked through other pandemics in the last two decades, but I don’t recall one that required such global measures as COVID-19. While the pandemic is alarming, it has been wonderful to see people pitch in to support each other and give to those in need. I am thrilled by the many creative ways I’ve seen communities connect in the past few weeks – famous artists offering live shows on Instagram, DJs giving hours of their time online, museums providing virtual tours, symphony orchestras giving virtual concerts. More importantly, we now seem to have a keener sense of appreciation for each other, and for essential workers, like doctors, nurses and first responders, who are putting themselves at risk every day to help save lives.
Indeed, we are blessed to work in an industry that allows us to have work to do during this time and to be able to do it remotely. I am proud to say that at The Spur Group, we decided very quickly to have all of our employees work from home. Our Redmond office is not very far from Kirkland WA, where the first confirmed COVID death in the nation happened. We made prompt decisions to restrict travel, move to remote work, and to restrict face time with clients. Our leaders’ quick decisions protected our people and our clients.
Like everyone else, we hoped to return to the office after a couple weeks. However, each day and each week brought new insights globally, and when our governor issued a second statewide shelter-in-place order, we knew we had to make working remotely work. Our teams rallied together and put forth several ideas to best support our people and our clients:
Be of service
As leaders, we must make decisions promptly to protect the safety of our people and our clients. Communicate important information transparently and often. Provide the tools necessary to collaborate and offer flexibility. At Spur, we use Microsoft Teams as our primary tool for staying connected, and we created an all-company Teams Channel to provide a single place for our people to go for the latest. This Teams channel allows our senior leaders to provide updates and allows employees to offer best practices for remote work.
Across the organization, our teams identified creative ways to support each other remotely. Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) kicked into gear to support the Spur community by offering inventive ways to manage remote work and to care for self and family needs. It was our employees who implemented ways to connect like “Yappy Hour” (online Happy hour with pets), Restorative Yoga, and other ways to disconnect from work and spend time together. Our leaders continue to lend their support to employee drives to give to local charities. We’ve had a longstanding practice of providing Thursday Morning Bagels (a very popular program!). Rather than suspend the program, we are offering our weekly bagels as a donation to essential workers and first responders.
Our values: ICARE stands for Inclusion, Courage, Accountability, Respect and Excellence. Everything we do is rooted in these 5 values. Our people leaders are continuing their rhythm of regular meetings with their teams, and conducting check-ins, using an employee-recommended Check-in process for every meeting. The check-in allows us to genuinely share how we are doing, individually and collectively. We have partnered with an outside company to conduct a COVID-related pulse survey, allowing us to identify what we’re doing well and where there might be areas for improvement. Another employee-led idea was for senior leaders to offer regular updates and connection via a Virtual Townhall. The Townhall allows us to hear questions that are top of mind from employees and for senior leaders to respond authentically.
Wellness and well-being are top of mind for all of us as we deal with the many challenges COVID-19 brings. Like everyone else, we are now integrating work and family needs 24 hours a day, and it can be exhausting! Our people needed to hear how we were personally dealing with business as unusual and I understood the importance of sharing my personal journey. Here’s what I shared with them. It helped more than one person feel better under these circumstances, and therefore was worth it.
At the end of this, it is our hope that we all realize how much we already have, how little we need and the true value of human connection. I offer you the same well wishes for health and hope. Let’s continue to be steadfast in doing our part to flatten the curve and care for our people.
As Chief People Officer, Bhavani leads vision for culture and talent strategy for the People Team at The Spur Group. Bhavani has over 22 years of Human Resources experience, leading teams in multiple industries including telecommunications, entertainment and tech startup.