How to stay positive during challenging times

Employee smiling at video call


Employee wellbeing is important at any time of the year, with more and more attention being focused on how employers approach their strategy. Many offices run group yoga sessions, some offer 1-2-1 counselling, others provide access to a gym.  

But how do you as an employer keep up with supporting good health, both mental and physical, in the 'new normal'?

In this new climate where ‘social distancing’ means more than working from home once a week to get some ‘extra focus time’, we’re sharing some of the methods we’re using to boost productivity and keep morale high here at Blackhawk Network. We're still working from home for the time being and even though our UK offices have partially re-opened, most of our staff will continue to work from home for the majority of the week for the foreseeable future.

We’re all in this together 

In times like this where we'e adapting to an ever-changing situation, it’s important to remember that coming together in solidarity has never been more vital. Although we can’t easily get together in person, keeping the flow of communication open, transparent and frequent is something that all employers must encourage. 

Video conferencing: show your face 

First up, our employees are making an effort to use video conferencing facilities. We have more than one great tool for this already, thanks to our need for cross-continent communication on a daily basis. Now that we’re at home, we’ve turned to these tools as the natural replacement for what would be face-to-face meetings. 

When joining a call, it’s easy to switch the camera off, but studies from Lifesize show that 31% of users say that video communication helps them to connect with their customers, clients or partners more easily. The study also revealed that those taking part in a video call are less likely to multi-task; therefore, you get some real engagement when you’re trying to conduct your ‘business as usual’ in unusual times. 

Time Management Ninja explains the power of face-to-face meetings and the reasons that making an effort to turn the camera on really will make a difference to your results. 

Team meetings: keep in touch more frequently 

Ensure that your managers are scheduling regular team meetings (preferably via video). At Blackhawk, we’re encouraging two forms of this – one work-based catch-up that consists of daily updates on everyone’s priorities; the second, an informal chat over a cuppa, to check in and replicate the office banter we’re all used to.  

When working remotely it can feel difficult to keep in touch with your team and know the status of every project. As a manager, make your expectations clear and let your teams know that it’s ok to pop in meetings more regularly to review progress or discuss next steps; after all, according to Lifesize, video conferencing leads to increased productivity in a shorter amount of time. 

You’ve got a friend in me: buddy system 

Working in isolation could easily have an impact on your employees’ mental wellness. Our Blackhawk solution? Buddy up! 

Each person nominates a colleague (or two) that they’re happy to check in on throughout the time that we’re away from the office. Taking a few minutes out each day to make or send these more personal calls/messages will encourage employees to discuss how they really feel. Further research from Lifesize found that 89% of employees say that using video helps them to feel connected; right now, that’s something we all need. 

The Mental Health Foundation released this great guide on how to look after your mental health, with ‘talk about your feelings’ and ‘care for others’ featuring in their top ten tips. We’ll continue to encourage this practise, even after everything returns to normal. 

Rewarding: spread the appreciation 

Rewarding behaviour is what Blackhawk Network are all about. Thank employees for their continued adaption to change with a Select e-code from our self-serve portal. Simply send your employees a code via email that allows them to swap for a gift card of their choice, at the monetary value you’ve given. With a catalogue of over 200 retailers to choose from, you’re safe in the knowledge that there’s something for everyone. And with trivial benefits allowing you to reward employees for ‘non-work’ related occasions tax-free, you could save up to £48.10 per e-code. 

Alternatively, talk to us about using the Select mechanism as a performance incentive, to encourage your employees to continue delivering the high standards you expect.  

Keep your spirits high 

Boosting morale and giving everyone something else to talk about is always going to be a good move. At Blackhawk Network we have a number of platforms that allow us to get social with our colleagues, both for fun and in celebration of one another. 

Get social: make everyone smile internally and publicly 

We’re using our internal social media platform, Yammer, to connect over the little things and keep people smiling – during the lockdown we asked colleagues to share pictures of their pet ‘helpers’ and of their desk set-ups. We also enjoyed threads around family photos and ‘novel’ ways of working. 

Go a step further – we posted our favourite pet pics to our company LinkedIn profile, to share the love with our partners, customers and wider communities.  

Recognition: happy employee, happy customer 

While we’re all spending time apart, it could be easy to forget to thank a colleague or show appreciation for a job well done. 

At Blackhawk this is never a problem as we use our Achievers platform, fondly titled ‘Flyers’. Here, we’re able to recognise each other for a range of actions; whether that is demonstrating behaviour that represents our company values or going above and beyond to help a team member get something done. 

Custom built to suit each organisation’s needs, the platform allows you to award points to each user, which represent a monetary value. Employees can claim a reward of their choice once they have earnt enough points. Make it fun – award extra points for certain behaviours going forward; in our European offices, we reward those who have a ‘green’ commute an additional £50 worth of points each month! 

Lunchtimes don’t have to be lonely: log off and enjoy it 

Adapting to working at home includes being self-disciplined with breaktimes. Employees are still entitled to a full lunchbreak, regardless of where they are working. 

We’re encouraging our staff not to be worried about appearing offline for an hour – the emails and messages will still be there when they get back! 

Instead, we’re making suggestions for ways they can spend their lunchbreak without feeling ‘guilty’ for walking away from their laptops: 

  • Take some ‘you’ time – catch up on your favourite TV show, read a book, have a relaxing bath 
  • Play with your kids - or take solace in the fact they're back at school!
  • Pamper your pets - it’s a time of change for them too...

Alternatively, have a video chat with your best-colleague-friend, do a group yoga workout online or get some steps in for a team fitness challenge

Hygiene is key 

As with any healthcare issue, it’s important to ensure that you’re following the basic hygiene practises, in order to keep your staff safe. Don’t forget to keep up the reminders and stay up to date with all the latest government guidance.

Wash your hands: basic hygiene matters 

Just because your employees are at home doesn’t mean you should stop encouraging them to be cautious of the situation. Every time someone leaves/returns to their house, comes into contact with another person or handles food, they should thoroughly cleanse their hands. 

The NHS and Public Health England advice states we should be washing our hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds at a time - as long as the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. 

We’ve found a novel resource to help everyone out, so that they don’t get bored of humming the same tune over and over again. We’ll display a few different print outs in our kitchen and bathroom areas now that our offices are open again. 

Safe Working Policies: protecting those working outside the home 

For those who do need to work in the office (yes, even selling gift card solutions, some roles require us to be office based), we’ve been sure to follow government advice. We’ve found that these documents released by the World Health Organisation have helped us set out what we’ve needed to do to protect our employees

Whilst it’s true that some employees won’t be able to self-isolate and work remotely, it is possible to minimise the risk exposure. Cleaning contact surfaces more often and providing hand sanitiser are just some of the basic measures all business should be able to take. 

Business as usual 

We hope our guide to staying positive has been helpful. Whilst this is a sensitive time, we’re also aware that as many businesses as possible will be trying to operate as usual. Therefore, we’ve come up with plenty of ideas for how to continue engaging your employees and customers, however long the effects of the pandemic last.  

We recognise that rewards and incentives might not seem like the biggest priority right now, but we believe that everybody deserves to be rewarded for the way in which they've adapted to these unprecedented times.

We're here to help however we can, and we continue to wish you and your employees good health and safety in the months to come.