It's fair to say that most of us have never experienced a global pandemic before, and so reacting to it and figuring out how to deal with its challenges is something that Hurree has had to determine pretty quickly.
Luckily, Hurree is quite the innovator so dealing with the issues brought on by COVID-19 was tough, certainly, but not impossible.
After being advised to avoid all non-essential contact with others on the 16th March, 2020, the UK government fully imposed the lockdown on Monday, March 23rd. The Republic of Ireland saw the closing of schools, colleges, childcare facilities, gatherings, etc., on the 12th of March, and St Patrick’s day (17th March) was subsequently cancelled. For the Republic of Ireland, full lockdown ensued on Friday, March 27th.
Being the keen socialites that the Hurree team are, our St Patrick’s Day celebrations were held on Friday 13th March. Little did we know, it was to be the ‘last hurrah’ for some time.
Following-suit with the Republic, the Hurree team officially left the office on Friday 13th March. Spooky. As a company, Hurree has always offered employees flexible working hours with the option to work from home, but remote working had never been a consideration for the long term.
As the old saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work. Which, in our minds, holds a lot of truth. But high-functioning teamwork is a lot more difficult to achieve when the only communication you have with your colleagues is remote and digital. Of course, we utilise channels such as Slack, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts, but it’s just not the same as physically being in the office. And it can be difficult to maintain productivity, motivation, and gusto, in times that are as ambiguous and unpredictable as these.
For the team, communication is key; each morning we partake in a daily standup meeting. The aim of this is to ensure that everyone knows what they’re doing; allowing for self-structure, monitoring progress and status, and also to keep each department in the loop with one another.
So how does it work? We all jump onto a call via Google Hangouts around 12 pm. Hurree’s Co-Founder and COO, Rachel McMullin, is the facilitator; she goes around the room and addresses each person one-by-one, enabling everyone to tell the team what they have achieved in the morning and what their aim is for the rest of the day. This mimics Hurree’s normal office practice.
Why do we do this? Simple; it can be easy to feel alone when you’re working from home, especially when you have been for a number of months, and having a daily standup (even a digital one) is a surefire way to provide direction, structure, and to evoke a sense of connectedness.
This is something that Hurree has maintained and achieved remotely every day, without fail.
The same can be said for Sales, Marketing, Product, and Operations meetings; they still fall on the same day as before, at the same time, each week, without exception. Structure and communication is a key element that has been sustained during lockdown for the Hurree team with relative ease.
But it’s not just about making sure that we sustain banter or tell each other what we did on the weekend. COVID-19 and the introduction of working remotely have impacted our marketing strategy and aspects of our practice that are ideally solely carried out within a professional office setting. Take podcasts, for example. The Hurree team created The Marketing Slice at the beginning of December, 2019, in our office’s media room. This room is partially soundproofed and has a specialist microphone, camera, and tripod. All of these elements were set up by our designer in a specific way, in order to achieve a particular, consistent sound. Fast-forward 3 months and… BAM!… The team is working from home without any professional equipment or a distinct location. Instead, all we have left is the creativity and the will to record and publish content.
So, what do we do? One of the things we do best, of course. Action research:
That’s right. Plan, act, observe, reflect, and then repeat. Our marketers independently experimented with a number of different methods for creating podcasts at home, using different tools for recording and editing, without the equipment that they were used to. And, you know what, aside from getting used to recording with earphones instead of a mic, it worked! People function in individual ways, so it’s no surprise that most of our marketers had different preferences when it came to recording and editing tools. Some stuck with the original methods of recording with Quicktime and editing in iMovie, and others favoured the likes of Photo Booth or GarageBand.
When you’re creative and passionate about what you do, it’s easier to overcome obstacles that are in your way (and, as a tech company, adapting and conquering tech-related issues should be a breeze for us anyway, right?).
Lockdown and the current global climate is something that no-one could have planned for, but the show must go on and for Hurree, this is certainly true.
There’s more to motivating a team than just regular chats and cohesive problem-solving. And that’s where Hurree’s CEO, Aaron Gibson, really made a difference to life in lockdown for the team, in a number of different ways. Let’s take a look at these innovative, compassionate, and exceptionally generous means of motivation:
The Hurree Benevolent Fund was set up by Hurree’s CEO in response to the potential redundancies, furloughs, or reduced working times caused by COVID-19. Those eligible for the HBF are any partners of the Hurree team who experience the work-related hardships mentioned. The fund entails Hurree paying £500 per calendar month to the partner of any Hurree employee for up to 3 months (after which it is to be reviewed), or until the person finds alternative employment - whichever comes first.
The aim of the charitable and innovative fund is to help alleviate pressure from the team and their partners should they experience any of the unfortunate employment issues that COVID-19 has brought for many people.
As cliché as it may sound, the Hurree team is a family. It has always been this way. And we all know that when a loved one is in need of help - you help them. As a team, we are lucky to have a CEO who also feels this way, and that’s exactly what the HBF was designed to achieve.
Yes, you heard right. Think of the song ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’, and apply it to COVID-19: that is the amount of time that the Hurree team expected to work from home (at least). Hurree’s CEO decided to create the 12 Weeks of Quarantine, acting as a kind-hearted ‘Father Quarantine’ (FQ), as opposed to ‘Father Christmas’. The announcement of 12 Weeks of Quarantine unveiled an arrangement where the team would receive 1 mystery gift each week for the span of 12 weeks. I know, it’s crazy, right?
I’m sure you’re wondering what these weekly gifts entail, so I’ll lay it out for you, in the form of the song that the idea was based upon:
In the 1st week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… a boozy cocktail delivery!
In the 2nd week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… a hamper full of delicatessen treats!
In the 3rd week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… a Fortnum & Mason hamper with an easter theme!
In the 4th week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… a big box full of American sweets!
In the 5th week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… an e-garden and a slushie machine!
In the 6th week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… a mini projector for our favourite movies!
In the 7th week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… a crazy cinema-style popcorn machine!
In the 8th week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… a Bluetooth speaker from ‘Ultimate Ears’!
In the 9th week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… a water bottle that self-cleans with UV!
In the 10th week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… a portable blender for great shakes and smoothies!
In the 11th week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… Treats in the form of THREE! (Oh! Donuts, boozy ice pops, and a massage machine!)
In the 12th week of lockdown, Father Quarantine sent the team… Fancy burgers and a beer tap for drinking!
So, why go the extra mile? Gifting employees isn’t something that all CEOs do, of course, and especially not to this extent! But with all the doom, gloom, and uncertainty... and a huge decrease in the amount of socialisation that we love and have become accustomed to, something as thoughtful and exciting as the 12 Weeks of Quarantine gifts was incredibly motivating for the team. The weekly morale boost encouraged productivity and spurred a sense of wonderful ‘togetherness’ that we surely missed.
But it was also more than a tactic employed to motivate; it was an astonishing and compassionate gesture that will always be remembered and appreciated by everyone.
Late May, about 2 months after the team began working from home, Hurree’s CEO signed each employee up for 6 classes of MasterClass.
That sounds amazing, I hear you cry!… but what is MasterClass? MasterClass is a streaming platform that allows for education via tutorials and video lectures taught by industry experts; 80+ of the world’s best. Now, this isn’t just about marketing. MasterClass offers lessons from industry experts on everything from leadership, writing, and cooking, to acting, photography, music, sports, and much more. The lessons themselves can be watched on any device, including streaming media players like FireTV and Apple TV.
The intention surrounding this was not simply for work-related improvement, quite the opposite. The offer of 6 MasterClass lessons was actually part of the ‘Hurree Education’ scheme in association with MasterClass, wherein Hurree actively invests in the team’s personal self-advancement. What more could you really wish for!?
COVID-19 has brought with it a multitude of ongoing uncertainties. For many, working from home, being furloughed, or losing your job causes complexities that are not regularly experienced; people have endured a huge loss in communication in terms of coworkers, friends, family, and partners; digital communication has become the new normal, and the opportunity for self-improvement in the standard ways we would imagine, i.e. joining a gym, taking up guitar lessons, attending evening classes, or becoming part of a book group, had all but disappeared. That’s why the offer of Hurree Education in association with MasterClass has meant so much not just for peoples’ self-advancement but also in terms of general mental health and wellbeing.
In an ongoing effort to ensure the team’s welfare and state of mind, Hurree secured a coronavirus antibody test-kit for the team. The test, via Superdrug, allows you to find out if you’ve had coronavirus by testing the blood for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies; the test includes a blood collection pack wherein you take a pin-prick sample at home and then send it off to get tested by The Doctors Laboratory.
Having these tests available to the team means a number of things:
Antibody testing is hugely important on both a company and a community-wide level. This is just one of the numerous ways in which Hurree has consistently contributed to monitoring and improving the productivity, security, and prosperity of the team.
After what was initially over 3 months of working from home, the team exercised a precautionary return. The right considerations were made and measures put into place; the virus is still ongoing.
There are many safety measures that offices must employ in order to reduce the risk of infection for themselves and their coworkers. A strategy created by Cardinus Risk Management follows the protocol:
The health of employees is always a top priority for Hurree, so formalised returning-to-office precautions have now been solidly implemented. They include factors such as:
These precautions, and more, are to be adhered to for as long as necessary and will be regularly reviewed in order to ensure the continued health and safety of the team. By preparing, informing, preventing, and entering into the recovery phase, Hurree hopes that this structured return to work plan will allow us to reconnect and perform business as usual!
COVID-19 and the changes that it brought could not have been anticipated. As with many companies, we have had to think on our feet; plan ahead but also take each day as it comes and react accordingly. This has meant, of course, that campaigns, outreach, productivity, and routines have had to adapt.
There are a great many benefits of working remotely, a key one being not having to commute. However, it can also be super tough, and dealing with a work-life balance is a primary concern, i.e. remembering to take your breaks, dealing with a lack of communication, having reduced access to tools and tech, and adapting to an altogether different environment.
We delved into the team’s data in regards to pre-COVID output and mid-lockdown output, we gathered the data spanning all departments, analysed it, and averaged it. And we can say that, surprisingly, we have seen an average increase in productivity by 19.6%!
Overall, it’s not all doom and gloom. What’s happening in the world currently, and not just referring to Coronavirus, has shocked people globally and likely induced long-term changes. But, in a way that’s normal; people evolve, the earth and everyone in it are constantly growing; their minds and actions changing, we just hope that it’s all for the better.
Learn how you can maintain productivity & a healthy work-life balance whilst working remotely with this piece: A Working From Home Survival Kit for Marketers 🏡
It includes everything from 9 top tips to a list of content that will keep your mind sharp. Feel free to get in touch with me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions you may have! 💌