6 February 2021
The well-being of our employees is our responsibility and utmost priority. That’s why we didn’t hesitate to take immediate action to protect our employees, their families, and the broader community when the coronavirus started to spread across Europe. In early March 2020, well before we knew how the virus would progress and when government officials would initiate lockdown measures, our leadership made the audacious decision to ban business travel, move client, partner, and team meetings online, and transitioned everyone to work from home.
Our Co-CEO, Thomas Servatius, recounts,
“At this early stage of the outbreak, before any official regulations or guidelines from the governments were installed, it was a delicate matter to not cause panic among our staff, but at the same time pro-actively protect them. It was obvious that the virus would reach all our communities rather sooner than later and no business matter is ever worth putting anyone’s health at risk!”
In terms of logistics and technology, the decision to send everyone home didn’t cause any major interruptions (except maybe the occasional faulty internet connection). As a tech company, we have an innate digital mindset and routinely equip all of our employees with the latest technology and tools. Also, due to our pan-European setup, virtual meetings have always been part of our everyday work. For the same reason, video conferencing tools, as well as collaborative work software, had already been well-established across the company when we moved into mandatory work from home.
Despite being undoubtedly well-positioned to work from home, we weren’t immune to the hardships that come hand-in-hand with a global pandemic. For those of us in HR, this meant we needed to be agile and adjust our roles and activities in light of these challenging circumstances. Our immediate goal was to find new and creative ways to effectively maintain a compelling work environment that serves the needs of our current and prospective employees.
Together with upper management and local leadership teams, we defined a new course of action, and almost instantly, we witnessed a remarkable ripple effect across all countries and divisions as our teams got encouraged to invent alternative means that keep our culture alive.
Creating a safe working environment under volatile conditions
We understood that the drastic changes to our life due to corona, created a sense of insecurity and significantly increased our risk of stress and anxiety. Therefore, we immediately sought to support our colleagues by encouraging transparent and frequent communication.
In addition to regular internal comms, all-hands video meetings, and corporate corona policy updates, our Co-CEO, Thomas Servatius, sent daily messages to all staff which helped us to adjust to the “New Normal”. These messages not only included business briefings and official news, but also his personal thoughts on the latest COVID-19-related developments and anecdotes from his life in lockdown that humoured, consoled, and even encouraged us.
The global economic impacts of the Corona crisis undoubtedly added stress of uncertainty surrounding job security. Our leadership team handled this with prudence and transparency as they kept us regularly updated on temporary hiring freezes and potential furlough plans.
“Open and compassionate communication has been crucial in our efforts to navigate smartclip through these unforeseen circumstances. The situation was new and distressing to every single person, and it was important to us to do everything that we can do from our end to avoid any worries relating to our colleagues’ work and livelihoods.”Dr Oliver Vesper, Co-CEO at smartclip
Creating new avenues for support and collaboration
Over the following weeks and months, we all grew closer together as we digitally moved into each other’s kitchens and living rooms, and restless pets or family members made cameo appearances on our video calls.
When schools and nurseries closed, we introduced a family-first approach to accommodate parents and caretakers by offering reduced hours and flexible working schedules. The commitment and solidarity our colleagues have shown, has been extremely impressive.
For those who struggled to concentrate at home or keep a healthy work-life balance without the familiar structure of their office life, Sonja Schuster, Head of Training & Development, created an interactive workshop with effective strategies and best practices for remote working.
This workshop was one of several new initiatives that we rolled out during the pandemic to sustain professional development.
We also created a new virtual knowledge exchange event called smartweek, expanded our educational training and scholarship programmes, improved and digitised the recruiting process as well as onboarding of new hires, and launched a new intranet that serves to better connect employees to work-relevant information. Additionally, we revised our entire performance and development review process in order to make goals and competencies transparent and easily trackable in both on-site and online working environments.
Opening up space for fun and levity
Team spirit and sociability are vital to smartclip’s company culture, so we sought out new ideas and ways to actively cultivate the same sense of fun online.
Our teams got creative and introduced morning check-ins like virtual breakfast or coffee talks to start the day with a sense of belonging. In later hours of the day, we came together for game sessions (one of my favourite quiz questions, “Guess the iconic song title from its Finnish translation”), happy hours, wine-tastings, a full-on Halloween costume contest, and Secret Santa—among many other virtual events.
We also moved our annual company-wide Christmas party online. To keep the spirit alive, we sent out personal “Christmas market kits” to everyone’s home, containing mulled wine, speculaas, and other seasonal goodies to create a festive atmosphere at home.
Without the given circumstances, we probably would have never discovered our ability to “make music” alongside 200+ collegues on a video conferencing call.
Staying fit and building resilience
Our internal step-count-athon, push-up or human flag challenges, as well as team-wide fitness sessions, have become popular activities to battle the effects of closed fitness studios or the missing bike ride to the office. The motivational skills of Erica Speranza — Sales Manager at smartclip Italy and now also known as our fitness trainer — have even inspired some of smartclip’s external partners to join her regular workout sessions!
Jonas Rundgren, Managing Director for smartclip Nordics, started a weekly Health and Well-Being Class, for the Nordics’ team as they fight isolation and the long Scandinavian winter together.
“Our group sessions with the personal trainer are not only about physical strength. In addition to fitness exercises, we all get a challenge for the week from our coach. This can be a 15-minute walk outside every day, but also an assignment to work on emotional balance, like calling a friend or relative that you haven’t spoken to in a while or thinking of four things that make you smile. We want to make sure that our colleagues get through this tough time as well as possible and I’m happy that this class proves to be a valuable resource to them”.Jonas Rundgren, Managing Director at smartclip Nordics
It’s been truly inspiring to see how local leaders and colleagues across all markets found unique ways to maintain our social spirit— creating important mental escape opportunities and new company traditions. Unquestionably, it’s the silver lining to the pandemic, that despite being separated, we managed to grow closer and nurture camaraderie. I’m deeply thankful for how we’ve managed to come together over this past year and I’m looking forward to reviving all our old and new traditions as on-site events when we finally meet again in person.