WFH has created a lot of challenges to team morale and mental health.  What have been the most valuable services that your organization has offered employees?

We are starting to introduce a lot more of these meditation apps (Calm, Headspace, etc.). There's a few apps and services out there that our HR team has been partnering with and starting to introduce into the company. We'll host a cooking event, for people to share recipes, maybe even bring in a chef to show people how to make stuff. We had a session where you could learn how to play a guitar. I know some of this stuff, it may not be core to work, but I think it's been a way to lighten up the mood for people, and also to get people to have some connection to other people, and not just so work, work, work, work.It's not a great substitute for having coffee face-to-face with someone, but I think for some folks it's actually been at least a good way for them to feel a little more connected to others. We did a lot of that, because as we were doing our surveying through the course of the year, we started getting more feedback from people that they were struggling with some of that, and mental health was becoming a problem.  We also instituted things, I think a lot of companies have, like mandatory shutdowns for, in some cases, it just a couple of days in the middle of the summer. I think last year we did a whole week right around the 4th of July. Where normally you'd only get a day or two, they just said, "The whole week. It's a shutdown. The entire company." And guess what? It was awesome, because you didn't have to check email and you weren't worried about missing something, unlike when you go on vacation, obviously not that there's a lot of places to go on vacation right now. Those are some of the things I think also help when we talk about working from home, especially in COVID. Those are things companies should be at least considering. It's been a good experience for us, and we didn't invent it. We were hearing it from other companies that were doing it. So we sort of said, "Hey, maybe we should try that."

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We are starting to introduce a lot more of these meditation apps (Calm, Headspace, etc.). There's a few apps and services out there that our HR team has been partnering with and starting to introduce into the company. We'll host a cooking event, for people to share recipes, maybe even bring in a chef to show people how to make stuff. We had a session where you could learn how to play a guitar. I know some of this stuff, it may not be core to work, but I think it's been a way to lighten up the mood for people, and also to get people to have some connection to other people, and not just so work, work, work, work.It's not a great substitute for having coffee face-to-face with someone, but I think for some folks it's actually been at least a good way for them to feel a little more connected to others. We did a lot of that, because as we were doing our surveying through the course of the year, we started getting more feedback from people that they were struggling with some of that, and mental health was becoming a problem.  We also instituted things, I think a lot of companies have, like mandatory shutdowns for, in some cases, it just a couple of days in the middle of the summer. I think last year we did a whole week right around the 4th of July. Where normally you'd only get a day or two, they just said, "The whole week. It's a shutdown. The entire company." And guess what? It was awesome, because you didn't have to check email and you weren't worried about missing something, unlike when you go on vacation, obviously not that there's a lot of places to go on vacation right now. Those are some of the things I think also help when we talk about working from home, especially in COVID. Those are things companies should be at least considering. It's been a good experience for us, and we didn't invent it. We were hearing it from other companies that were doing it. So we sort of said, "Hey, maybe we should try that."
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We instituted recharge days. We didn't do it in November and December, but we have done it every other month, where everybody shuts down. And it works, because telling people to take a day off when they're at home, they often end up working. But getting the whole company to take the day off, all of a sudden, I would think of something, I'd say, "You know what? I'm not going to bug anybody with that." As opposed to when it's partial, everybody ends up working. So that's been really effective. Also, no one was taking PTO, so we encouraged them to take the time off by having a cash out program. So if you took a week of PTO, then you could cash out a week. A few folks from my team said, "What's the point of taking it, I'm going to do anything?" And after they took some time off some said, "I didn't expect it, but I took a week off and it was really good. I actually stayed away from working, and I feel better." And so I think that helped quite a bit.
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We have a mentalist that performs for our company. It's pretty cool. So he's kind of like a magician, but he guesses things, and it's crazy. He can do it over Zoom as well. And it's just baffling. He'll just pick some random person and say, "Get out some cards, do this." And then they'll show him the card, or whatever he wrote down, he'll get all these different things. And then he'll just ask people random questions, which is your favorite vacation spot or whatever. And then he'll pull it out of a sealed envelope or something. It's just nuts. So we have that once a quarter, and everybody can join that. That's a good relief vector for us.
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There's a company called Ryptic, I think, that does online team building activities. We've done those a bit, and that's been a big hit as well. We've had a few little outside spaced gatherings, and things like that, they do definitely help. And I think it's just trying to find the groups that are comfortable, those that are comfortable in that kind of environment doing it. I think the people that would never consider doing online stuff, team-building, have started to do some of it, and seeing that it's actually pretty fun too. So that's been a learning as well. Trying to be creative for sure. Our HR team's done a really good job in introducing mental health and wellness ideas and resources. That's been good for us too.
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+1 on Headspace. We do offer an employee assistance program (EAP). I would say this is a topic that admittedly I didn’t pay close enough attention to until the last couple of months. Working remotely, workload, pandemic, politics and unplanned outages took a greater toll on my team then I expected. We’ve started talking about it in weekly leadership meetings and 1:1’s and it’s made a difference.
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