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More remote work stories from the quarantine: 6 leaders get creative to support employees, customers and their communities.


Dr. Neil Morelli


Last week we shared stories from intrepid business leaders who are finding fun, inexpensive ways to engage newly remote workers – beyond the daily Zoom call. The response to that blog was so strong, we thought we’d share a few more. These business leaders are going above and beyond to support employees, clients, and the community.

If you are struggling to keep your people engaged, we hope you will find a few good ideas below.

CEO makes family a priority

One of the biggest challenges many employees face during the pandemic is taking care of their quarantined kids while trying to work from home, says Matt Satell, SEO growth manager for Mechanism Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm. To ensure his employees didn’t feel overly burdened, the company’s CEO, Breanden Beneschott, sent out a company-wide message highlighting the positives of working with kids at home.

“Rather than fear the potential disruption that can sometimes come from having kids at home during work, he embraced it,” Satell says. “He let us know that it's okay to reschedule a meeting and take some time to focus on our families.” It eliminated the stress many employees felt in trying to achieve that balance and demonstrated the company’s commitment to its people. “His message provided much-needed comfort during a challenging time.”

Giving back and getting fed

In late March, BestCompany.com CEO Landon Taylor bought lunch at a local Utah restaurant, only to discover he was one of the only people who had ordered food that day. “He drove away overcome with emotion,” says Rebecca Graham, BestCompany’s content manager.

In response, he decided to take the money the company normally spends to stock the break room and give it to employees to use via DoorDash to support their favorite local restaurant. 

“I know it's just a drop in the bucket, but if every business took their normal 'stocking the break room' budgets and distributed it out for use toward local restaurants, it could add up quickly,"

Taylor says.  “And I couldn't feel better about putting my portion toward businesses that need it the most.”

I’ve got your back

When Serbia declared a state of emergency on March 15, every employee at FishingBooker, a fishing trip booking service, was immediately instructed to begin working from home. The problem: March 15 was a Sunday, and they didn’t have a chance to return to the office. “A lot of us weren't prepared for this, and a lot of us don't have the proper workspace in our flats,” says Aleksandra Jovicic.

Instead of leaving employees to fend for themselves, the company’s office manager, Djordje Živković, made sure everyone had everything they needed to stay productive. “He put himself at huge risk and personally delivered equipment to our homes,” Jovicic says. Along with PCs and laptops, he even sent office chairs and desks, all through contactless delivery. And employees loved him for it. “He literally saved our backs,” wrote one employee on the company’s Instagram page, highlighting Živković response.

Connect with clients in #familyphotos

Employees at Surex, an automotive insurance company, wanted to be sure they stayed connected with their customers as well as each other. So they created a team Instagram site called #familyphotos. “It’s a place where we can show our staff and their families, maybe a porch photo, or a mom working with her baby,” says Jennifer DeFrenza, vice president of marketing. “It’s just a way to share a smile with our team and our clients.”

The company’s CEO also posts videos from his home office, and employees post daily updates in an employee chat room. “We share photos, recipes, work at home hacks, even funny memes to get us all through the day,” DeFrenza says. “Our company’s tag line is ‘We're in this together,’ and it is truer now more than ever.”

Welcome to my virtual world

Early in the quarantine, the team at WikiLawn, which connects customers to on-demand lawn services, decided that the occasional after-work virtual happy hour wasn’t enough to keep them connected. So one of the managers launched a virtual game night.

“At first it was games everyone could play online together, like Cards Against Humanity, which helped everyone laugh for an hour or so,” says Jennifer Walden, director of operations.

Then another team member expanded on the idea by launching a video game night. “We were supposed to pick a new game each week, but everyone has been playing Animal Crossing,” Walden says. So instead of competing, they all get on a video call to discuss their Animal Crossing strategy and visit each other’s virtual paradises. “I think in a crisis it's really important for people to have that leisure time,” Walden says. “Being able to bond over these things from a distance has definitely helped relieve some of my stress, and I imagine it's the same for many of our employees.”

When your customers are kids

When schools were officially closed in Illinois, RLS Tutoring had to shut down its After School Care program for local elementary schools, leaving kids and parents in the lurch. The structured programs offered homework help along with games and activities, with highlights shared in a monthly parent newsletter.

“When After Care was abruptly disrupted, it left a void for students and staff alike,” says Kathleen Biegalsk, president of RLS. Even though they couldn’t see their kids, the staff decided that they wanted to continue with the newsletters but with a new focus: “Virtual After Care.”

The newsletters now share activities that kids can do with items they find at home. “Some staff members have even uploaded videos of how to make crafts or play a game,” she says. The staff then encourages students and their parents to send pictures of themselves doing the activities to include in the next newsletter.

“It has helped everyone stay involved,” Biegalsk says. Parents are happy to have activities for their kids to do, and the kids are excited that they might be featured in the next newsletter. Even more important, says Biegalsk: “Our staff is able to stay connected with the students and families that they have grown to love.”

All of these leaders prove that even small gestures can go a long way to engaging employees and building their loyalty to the firm. With all the depressing news in the world, we hope these stories brightened your day and inspired you to do something fun for your team.

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