This past Friday, Five to Nine brought together 3 people leaders to discuss what to expect from the future of work following COVID-19. The event allowed us to consult people leaders from Synk, Dashlane, and Policygenius on the following topics that are top of mind for employers and their workforce as we prepare for return to office:

• What changes employers & employees should expect, short & long-term

• Strategies for employers to maintain flexibility and agility

• How to boost morale & support employee’s mental health

• Remote work vs in office – the optimal balance & implications for each 

For those that did not make it to the event and those who need a quick refresher, we have compiled a summary of tactical steps for both employers and employees to draw inspiration from. The summary ranges from ideas for team-building and engaging your workforce virtually to how to minimize Zoom fatigue and de-stigmatize mental health. Read more below:

Dipti Solapek, VP of People @ Snyk shared how her company is learning to be adaptable and is tailoring their return to workplace plan based on geography and governmental regulations as each office will have its own needs and advised protocols to follow based on its COVID-19 risk factor. She recommended aligning workplace culture principles across offices such as doubling down on digitization, collaboration, etc. and implementing locally. However, it is also important to be mindful of how these principles translate and potential drawbacks. For example, an inclusive and collaborative culture may translate to Zoom fatigue in an effort to give everyone a seat at the decision making table. Dipti shared how Snyk is working to mitigate this issue by focusing heavily on information architecture (e.g. streamlining Slack, developing guidelines for Zoom etiquette, utilizing Wiki’s, sharing examples of what a good agenda/pre-read looks like, etc.). On the mental health front, Snyk re-labeled sick leave into wellness leave to de-stigmatize mental health and shut down for 1 week to allow people to re-charge without having to stay plugged into Slack conversations happening in the background.

Ciara Lakhani, Chief People Officer @ Dashlane discussed how her company plans to differ to state laws, best practices from health officials, and learn from other companies when planning office re-opening guidelines. Regarding current movements such as BLM, she shared how Dashlane prioritized educating and fostering dialogue across their international workforce. Although BLM did not exactly translate for some countries, Dashlane focused on experiences faced by people of color with the objective of promoting a workplace of inclusivity. For Pride, the company relied on volunteer groups to engage in cross-country dialogue focused on recognizing, educating, and amplifying pride month. She emphasized the importance of being agile and moving quickly, even if you do not have the perfect messaging – the key being to learn, adapt, and pivot accordingly. To boost morale, Ciara shared how Dashlane built task boards and optional programming on slack for employees to engage virtually (e.g. everyone share a pic of lunch you cooked, ugly sock day, etc.). Additionally, each one of their managers receives coaching monthly by people partners on best practices to boost morale and to conduct team pulse-checks.

Cindy Gordon, Chief People Officer @ Policygenius Inc shared how her company sends bi-weekly pulse surveys to gauge employee sentiment and reminded us that it may vary by office and location depending on the office specific culture. She recommended crowdsourcing from within the company to develop wiki’s with best practices and engaging the workforce when designing for the future to improve buy-in and adoption. Cindy reminded us that it’s okay not to have all the answers and shared resources she found useful from other companies and recommended adapting these to your company as needed:

From a mental health standpoint, she shared how important it is to re-orient employees and encourage them to still take time off and de-compress even it doesn’t look like a normal vacation. Policygenius leverages Donut and Slack to randomly assign people into small groups to catch up and have time that’s not work related. The company also started “Wellness Wednesday’s” – a budget friendly way to show your employees that the team at large supports mental health by offering programming (e.g. meditation class, series on self-preservation, etc.) taught by either internal or external facilitators.

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