Staying Connected in the Time of COVID-19
On March 9th, Change.org staff began working from home to limit exposure to COVID-19. Despite the separation, our company implemented small but meaningful initiatives to boost staff morale and maintain what we feel is a strong sense of community and camaraderie across our distributed workforce.
Our People Team has developed and disseminated more robust resources to support our staff while we navigate this unprecedented situation. These include guides on managing remotely, supporting staff in their work from home setups, parenting support, flexible working schedules, a COVID-19 FAQ and a mindfulness training, to name a few. We send regular communications to staff with updates and resources, and use our weekly all-team call to reinforce them.
Although the following are lighthearted activities, we recognize the significance of the impacts COVID has had across the globe. Our hearts are with those facing extreme challenges and/or experiencing loss at this time.
Our hope in sharing the following initiatives is to inspire companies and individuals alike to continue to get creative in how we connect in this era of social distancing and remote work.
1. Staff Interest Channels in Slack
One way our teammates are staying connected to one another is through virtual interest groups. Change.org staff have developed a plethora of Slack channels over time, and they’re especially active these days. Aside from identity and affinity groups, we’ve seen niche channel topics ranging from ping pong to Beyonce, meditation to memes. We have a channel called #arbitrary-karma so folks can give kudos to one another. We’ve been sharing recommendations on podcasts, movies, books, music and beer, along with engaging in healthy conversation over sports, astrology, vegan recipes and cats. We believe having active communities for common interests and identities will continue to help our team maintain a sense of connection, inclusion and levity in these moments of unchartered territory. Team members have developed a few new channels in response to current affairs, including #chat-happiness for uplifting news and #howtohelp for sharing ways we can safely help communities and individuals most vulnerable and heavily impacted by the coronavirus.
2. Changing Tunes
Jaime Sparr, Senior Product Designer in San Francisco, organized a space for her colleagues to create playlists and take turns DJing for one another throughout the work day. “In the past, I used Turntable.fm with coworkers to play music for each other. I wanted to make something similar for folks at Change.org so we could stay connected and have fun together. I found JQBX.fm, a Spotify plugin that lets you and your friends take turns playing songs for each other. You can choose whether you want to be in the DJ rotation or just listen along. I made a private JQBX room and Slack channel, then I let folks know that both of those things existed. A bunch of my teammates decided to join right away and more people are joining all the time. Our teammates in the EU are even using it now. It’s been a ton of fun getting to see what kind of music my teammates are into and the cherry on top has been christening everyone with their ‘DJ name’ when they join up.”
3. All-Team Call
Every Thursday, staff from all around the world dial into our weekly call where we share organizational updates — ranging in topic from emerging petitions to product updates, staff celebrations and review of progress toward goals. These days, our “All-Team Call” serves as an incredibly important channel to provide key information and new updates about what our team on the work staff is doing to support those who use our platform during COVID-19, while building culture, morale and connection. We use this platform as a space to bring something lighthearted to lift spirits in these trying times. In addition to individual shout outs and appreciations, we’ve organized a Work From Home edition of Jeopardy featuring a few of our long-standing remote workers, as well as interviews with our colleagues’ kids and parents.
4. Physical Activity
A few newer interest groups have come together in this new reality. The #globalworkoutsquad chat offers space for a group of fitness enthusiasts to share resources like free online workout classes and tips for getting adequate exercise in their daily routines. The #chat-stretch-break automatically reminds participants every three hours to get up and stretch out. These reminders come with an optional Zoom link to login and share a quick break with others. The fun part is you never really know who else is going to join, so it’s a nice way to see unfamiliar faces or even meet coworkers for the first time.
5. Virtual Chats + Happy Hours
In the spirit of traditional watercooler catch-ups, we’ve encouraged staff to set up non-work one-on-one conversations — with others they’re friendly with or those they’ve yet to meet. A lot of our team members are having coffee or lunch together on Zoom or making time for 15-30 minute social breaks to check in with colleagues around the world. This is more than just an effort for extroverts to socialize — it’s intended to give space for introverts to connect in ways suitable to them. By making time for each other, without any agenda or focus on work priorities, our hope is this activity will help mitigate the negative effects of loneliness and separation.
And finally, as is happening across many workplaces these days, our teams have been coming together at the end of the workday to raise a glass from a distance and socialize for a bit during a virtual happy hour or tea time. It’s our hope that the mix of impromptu and scheduled moments help create the space for our staff to kick back and take it easy over a drink of their choice without leaving their homes. The same goes for celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries.
Miscellaneous Tips from the Change.org staff:
“This morning I got dressed for work, left home, walked around the block, and went to work (my flat). And after work today, I’m going to leave the flat, walk around the block in the other direction and arrive home.” – Simon, London
“I try to remember to look out the window every half an hour – it’s good for your eyes and to remember that there’s still a world out there, even during the quarantine… not just on my screen.” – Fiamma, Rome
“Instead of doing my usual 40min commute, I’m finally committing to doing some stretching/yoga in the mornings!” – Mabel, New York City
“As an always remote employee, I just wanted to remind folks that it is OK to step away from your computer throughout the day and take some time to reset/recharge/get some air. Think of all the time in the office you spend talking to people in the kitchen or just chatting. You need to build those breaks into your WFH environment.” – Hilary, Boston
“Not sure if this tip would be useful to anyone else, but I’ve been using the Photo Booth app on my work computer to check my camera angles, lighting, and whether I have anything hanging from my nose before I get into Zoom” – Edgeworth, San Francisco
“As someone who generally works from home once a week, I usually take this as an opportunity to just wear sweatpants/PJs for 12 hours. When I get dressed in my “regular outfits,” I’ve found it gives me a tangible mental shift in showing up. Even if it’s just for the walk from my bedroom to the kitchen table.” – Gabby, New York City
“Anthony introduced me to the Pomodoro technique and it’s been really helpful while at home – helps me get focused and finish tasks and then take a break to interact with the kids, make a coffee etc. It works great with kids, get them setup with some activity and then do a Pomodoro and by the time they are bored and looking for something to do again I’m done.” -Shane, Paris
“I’m loving proactive (usually mine is reactive) self-care, like I now take a bath every evening which helps me squash built anxiety through the day and also am being careful about how much media I read/listen to/absorb.” – Holly, London
“Something I found useful yesterday (as I’m using my dining room table for a desk,) was to pack my laptop/monitor/keyboard away so that it was out of sight. Made my living room feel less like a place of work and I relaxed better in the evening.” – Laz, London