“You’re On Mute” – Connecting Company Culture During COVID-19
We all know the perks of working in an office, the quick hallway conversation on a business issue to the casual weekend updates at the coffee pot on Monday morning. These chance encounters and conversations provide an opportunity to build relationships with our coworkers, foster collaboration and help to develop the culture of Delta Dental of Iowa.
In March 2020, as the state began to shut down, we quickly implemented our work from home policy. One of the greatest challenges working from home was, we lost those informal interactions. Recognizing this change, we addressed key cultural challenges through a series of outreach and engagement programs. The purpose of these programs was to keep our teams connected, to ease the burden of working from home and to provide employees with the tools and resources to maintain and improve our overall health as well as emotional wellbeing.
Work from home workspaces
Our team adapted with makeshift desks and office spaces, learned a lot more about home internet connectivity and we figured out how to use new video technologies such as Zoom and Teams. Delta Dental recognized that our employees were going to be home longer than originally expected. To help employees maintain a consistent and productive work environment, we provided equipment options including folding tables, laptop stands, web cams, keyboards, office chairs and extra computer monitors.
Creative connections fueled smiles and lifted spirits
While we addressed the physical work environment, we recognized the need to keep employees engaged in new and different ways. The first thing we did was to increase our weekly company e-newsletter from once a week to three times a week. These e-newsletters were used to keep employees informed of the changing office protocols but also to provide motivation and inspiration while working from home. New features included the popular Pet of the Week, Employee of the Week, and selfie videos celebrating Halloween, Delta Dental pride and even a crazy hair/hat day. We encouraged the sharing of personal milestones like graduations and salutes to family members who are essential workers.
Company-wide recesses were scheduled for employees to simultaneously step away from their computers and take a 15-minute screen break – important for our vision and our emotional wellbeing. In lieu of our traditional holiday lunch, employees received a fruit basket through our holiday drive-thru and a “You’re On Mute” t-shirt was designed for employees to purchase as a United Way fundraiser. These activities lifted our spirits and served to connect us in shared experiences.
Wellness encouragement for mind and body
To help our team overcome the winter blues and start the year off with some extra motivation, we created a six-week wellness challenge. The program encouraged employees to make small changes to work on their overall health and wellness. The challenges were meaningful but manageable and included cutting sugar, drinking more water and increasing daily steps. Participants completing four of the weekly challenges were put in a drawing for a $100 Scheels gift card. In addition, employees received an Emotional Wellness BINGO card to encourage emotional well-being.
We also hosted a webinar event with a clinical psychologist to provide employees with tips and best practices on managing stress and anxiety including breathing exercises and how to engage in self-reflection. These practices were essential for many of us as we simultaneously managed working from home along with maintaining our personal lives in a pandemic. In addition, employees were encouraged to engage in optional mental health and emotional wellness learning opportunities offered virtually by various local community partners.
As we begin our return to the office in staggered waves, we can all continue to engage in these wellbeing practices to stay connected with our coworkers who are still working remotely. Despite a situation none of us had ever experienced, the feedback to our employee engagement and wellness strategies during the pandemic has been positive.
We may not know what the future holds, but we know the power of a strong culture can prepare us for anything. We are looking forward to returning to the office and living our mission daily to improve the health and smiles of the people we serve.