With 1,550 employees spread across 17 offices worldwide, 270 of them taken on since the first lockdown in 2020, online casino and gaming firm Gamesys was well-versed in the challenges of maintaining engagement across a dispersed workforce even before the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.
As soon as the first lockdown hit, the organisation increased the level and frequency of its communications, explains Tina Southall, chief people officer. “We immediately recognised that employees feeling connected was a key part.”
The employer already streamed a quarterly live event. A monthly video update was added to this, along with regular emails from chief executive Lee Fenton. It implemented a working-from-home allowance of £125 per head to help people kit out their home offices.
“We also sent out a working-from-home merchandise box, containing a mug, pens, notebooks and stickers, which employees loved and really helped people to feel connected, even while working remotely,” she adds.
While 2020 was hard, in many respects the engagement headaches for 2021 may be even more complex, says Southall. “From a productivity point of view, we managed surprisingly well during 2020. Having been forced into it by events, we’ve been pleasantly surprised,” she adds.
“But, for 2021 once, hopefully, we move out of the current lockdown cycle and things do begin to open up again, it’s probably going to be more a case of hybrid working which, if anything, is more difficult to manage and harder to plan for.
“I think offices of the future will need to be much more of a destination; much more of a place that people want to go to. We never used to have a canteen or a coffee bar, for example, but we might need to think about that.
“Training events, team-building events, planning events: they will all need to be a little bit more engaging. It will be about making sure people want to come in, even in a post-Covid world. And I’m not even sure we will be talking ‘post Covid’ this year.”
This also means location-specific benefits, such as local gym membership, may have less resonance in the future than aggregated or more flexible products. Car schemes and bikes-for-work schemes may also both become more popular, she predicts.
“I don’t think there is going to be one thing that is going to make a difference in 2021 and beyond,” concludes Southall. “It will be a series of small incremental things. But what underpins everything will be connections. It is about ensuring employees stay connected, emotionally connected, to each other and the [organisation] when they’re not in the office.”