Rein4ce’s newly-appointed Culture Champion, Caitlin Jennings explains how the coronavirus lockdown was an opportunity to implement changes that have made a big impact on staff morale and company culture.
When the UK government enforced its COVID-19 lockdown in March, Rein4ce looked to be perfectly poised to carry on working successfully in spite of the team having to operate from home.
Although we have an office in the City of London in the heart of the UK re/insurance industry, Rein4ce has always given its staff the flexibility to work from home if they don’t have client meetings. And while we are UK-based, for more than a decade Rein4ce has worked with clients in other major reinsurance centres such as the United States, Bermuda and Switzerland using a mixture of phone calls, emails and various video conferencing platforms. If anyone was set up for successful remote working during a global pandemic, surely it was Rein4ce – or so we thought.
We have always had fun as a team working together and enjoyed the buzz of meeting clients face-to-face and socialising in the lively bars and restaurants around the City’s EC3 district. We knew that this element of the job would need to be put on hold for an unknown period of time, but we were confident we would still be able to function highly effectively during the crisis.
However, we seriously under-estimated the impact that not being able to meet colleagues and friends in the real world would have on our team. As the weeks and months dragged on, the uncertainties of what would happen next, the lack of close interaction, and the sheer boredom and stress of being cooped up in our homes, began to take its toll. We all experienced lockdown in different ways – some of us had children to home school, others could escape to the garden etc – but the morale of each member of the team took a hit.
Culture has always been a really important part of the success at Rein4ce, and we realised that it would now become absolutely crucial to get all of us through this unprecedented crisis. For that reason, we dedicated a lot of time to making sure we created the right culture to restore our camaraderie in the virtual working world. We spent a lot of time working to create the environment that will support our team and rebalance the way we worked.
This is how we did it:
I was appointed the Rein4ce culture champion
As the dedicated culture champion, it is my job to maintain a positive, unifying culture in the face of a fast-moving business environment – by no means an easy task when the whole team is working remotely. Never before has it been more important to have a dedicated person monitoring and ensuring that we take time to come together as a team, as well as offering support when needed. Its also very encouraging that the job has been given to the team millennial!
We created a fun virtual challenge for a month – from press ups to cooking demos – and each day there was new activity to complete and share with the team. We documented our progress and shared on social media. As a team, we had no idea how brilliant this would be! Something different to do each day to break up the monotony of lockdown life.
Assigning a weekly meeting dedicated to company culture
Another meeting? Yes. Once a week for an hour we get together on Skype to talk about how a week has been and identify challenges or personal struggles. We also take the time to celebrate success. When you are at home 24/7 just working on your ‘to do’ list you, it is too easy to forget the successes you’ve had over the past week. When combined with a glass of wine, our culture meetings are a great break from the fast-paced madness of our work life, and give us time as a team to catch-up, check-in, and shoot the breeze.
Mental health half days
One thing everyone at Rein4ce was guilty of during lockdown was not taking any annual leave – why would you when you can’t go anywhere? To combat this, we implemented a mental health half-day, where each week a member of the team takes half a day off work, which is not deducted from their yearly holiday allowance, to spend time away from the desk. It’s been an effective way to keep productivity and morale high.
Feel good event for the month
In our weekly culture meetings, we agree on a team ‘feel-good’ event for the month, with only one rule – no work talk allowed! Some of our favourites over the past few months have been a team pizza night, a wine tasting session, and a brilliant gin tasting with the Insurance Insider’sContent Director Charlie Thomas, as well as team virtual fitness training with a personal trainer.
The key to our success has been that all of the team have bought into the idea and been onboard. We wouldn’t wish a lockdown on any business, but it has given our team the opportunity to take a fundamental look at the way we work – and to improve it.
Why don’t you give it a go?