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Working Life at Z group (May 2020-2021) – Part 1

In March 2020 our working life was turned upside down, in the space of 24 – 48 hours we had all staff set up and working remotely from home. For many this was a new concept, despite the disruption, our team managed to adapt well with the transition.

With all major changes that affect our staff at Z group, we like to ensure that staff are given the opportunity to have their say and provide feedback to help steer business decisions. Given the circumstances, we also wanted to take the opportunity to check in with everyone and find out how people were coping. We did this by conducting a staff survey during May 2020.

The survey had a focus on exploring ways to ensure staff had an enjoyable and productive time at work. This covered themes such as ways to connect and collaborate remotely and opportunities to improve mental health – all things that are a major priority for Z group when working remotely.

At the start of the transition to working from home, there were feelings of angst and uncertainty about the sudden change. What was once a working environment filled of noise and movement (from the keyboard tapping, the casual chatter, the coffee machine buzzing, the telephones ringing) made a drastic change to the silence and isolation of working alone at home. However, like many businesses, our staff at Z group started to notice some of the benefits of working remotely. One of them being the time we saved with not having to commute to the office. We had been “gifted with time”, staff were encouraged to take more control over how they managed their time and found they were able to balance their work and personal life more flexibly (for example, spending more time with family or attending their local supermarket at less busy times). The May 2020 survey found that 94% of our staff wish to work remotely more often with a desire for flexible working.

Here are some more of our May 2020 survey findings:

Feeling Connected During Lockdown

Although we have an open environment at Z group whereby most staff feel comfortable asking each other for help, staff generally wanted more ways to connect with each other as a team, talk and exchange ideas. Our staff also wanted more people outside of their teams to be able to communicate with. It was very apparent that the social aspect of the office was missed however we also missed the convenience of being able to walk over to a colleague to ask a quick question, grab a meeting room or even exchange ideas over the water dispenser. We really had to think about new ways to connect such as instant messaging on Zoom or scheduled team meetings each morning (things we weren’t used to doing before).

Collaboration and Team Spirit

It was found that 43.8% of staff agreed that we needed more ways to generate ideas and share information. Z group introduced Company Calls every Friday as a helpful way to receive business updates.

Working from Home Effectively

Generally, most of our staff felt they had been able to work from home relatively well although some required more support and the right resources to do so successfully. Z group introduced a ‘Working From Home Risk Assessment’ form to ensure all staff were working safely and had everything they needed for their working spaces at home.

Staff Engagement, Mental Health & Wellbeing

In May 2020 it was commonly felt that there was stress over workload, the need to have necessary headspace to reflect and think clearly and a desire to increase team spirit. Staff were encouraged to take regular breaks and take time out to go for walks during the day. A number of remote activities were introduced such as company quiz nights and company bingo (via zoom).

19 out of the 32 participants were able to concentrate while working from home and find ways to take a break to disconnect from work. For those who were finding it hard to disconnect from work, Z group introduced company coffee breaks for those who wanted to participate. This was an informal zoom call to allow staff to socialize with others. It was recognised, by taking 30 minutes out, staff managed to feel more productive and improve concentration after a break. Z group also took the decision to introduce early finish Fridays on the last Friday of the month in the hope to lift spirits and say thank you to our staff for their continued hard work.

The Office

In May 2020, a vast majority of staff said they would want to work remotely after the pandemic and when given the option – most people said they would like to work remotely 2 days a week, with 3 days in the office.

After a few more months of working from home in August 2020 it seemed we were more settled and used to working from our homes. Like many businesses, Z group started to review what we actually needed the office for.

We launched another staff survey in August 2020, to once again check in on how people were coping and cover the following themes: ways of working; the use of the office; working hours & routine and Z group culture.

Whilst every member at Z group has the opportunity to check in with their manager daily (informally) and once a month (formally), by doing a company survey we could capture consistent and honest feedback of all staff.

Out of the 27 participants, 25 agreed they were no longer struggling to keep in contact with colleagues. The majority of staff placed themselves under “adaptation, damage control and recovery” when asked their current state of mind towards the pandemic.

With regards to our Z group office, all 27 participants agreed they most miss colleague interaction. Although, there were certainly mixed feelings about returning to the office. We asked staff what their feelings were about going back, and if they did how often would they like to visit:

It was established that whilst Z group is able to fully function without an office, our culture and social interaction with colleagues is still important. Integrating our skills & services with our connection of people is who we are and joined up thinking is what we do. As the majority of staff agreed they would like to attend the office weekly or monthly, it was therefore confirmed to keep our office but once restrictions ease, we will plan to use the office in a smarter way, by reducing the space and introducing a hot desking concept. Luckily enough we have a whole team of architects to help us re-design our space!

Find out more about our plans for the office and how our staff feel one year later in part 2 of this blog.

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