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Company culture during COVID-19

Written by Maria Lopez-Monis

Looking back

A few months ago, in mid-April, I sat down with members of our management team to ask them about how Polystream was adapting to lockdown. Back then this situation was something pretty new, with quite a few of us still working from the kitchen counter and thinking this would pass and we would be back at the office soon. Now, after a few weeks that seem like an eternity, I’m looking at how our office culture has adapted to being remote whilst far apart from each other. 

I remember when Simon Sparks, in the above-mentioned interview, told me that the key to creating a successful remote environment was offering people a wide variety of choices. And that, dear reader, Polystream has done indeed. There have been, of course, ups and downs, highs and lows, with some initiatives being more successful than others. But, citing Neil Gaiman, making mistakes means that you are “making new things, trying new things, learning, pushing yourself, changing your world. It means that you are Doing Something”. 

With this in mind, and also being aware of the fact that not everyone enjoys the same things, Polystream has offered its employees all kinds of entertainment. 

What are we doing?

For those missing social life and human (virtual) contact, we have had a few Poly-Quiz evenings and a memorable Polystream Bingo! These events have allowed us to find out more about our colleagues. For instance, Senior Strategist Analyst Dayana Salles had never played Bingo before! Or Simon, who – well in his thirties –  just realised that the numbers in the cards are organised in scores. We love him anyway.

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If video games are your thing, Lunchtime Games have been taking place twice every week, with Fortnite and Rocket League as essentials. The latter is especially close to our hearts, as we have been polystreaming it! Incredible, isn’t it? It is true, though, that it has proven difficult to gather the masses for these gaming meet-ups, because of time clashes with other adulting duties such as looking after the kids or homeschooling. This is why our Lunchtime Games have slowly shifted to the evenings… Can you call them Evening Games without it sounding weird?

Also, as shown on a previous blog, everyone received a box of Lego with the encouragement to unleash their imagination. As the person in charge of the logistics of getting a box of Lego pieces to different corners of the UK and the world, I can say that it was quite a painful, sorry, remarkable experience. It was worth it, seeing the different creations of my colleagues and realising I had contributed to those moments of fun. 

Last, but not least, we have an ongoing series of Show & Tell meetings in which one of our employees shares a bit of their incommensurable knowledge with the rest of us, be it hair dying, film industry, or guitars. As with the social events mentioned before, these allow us to get to know each other better. Truth be told, we still have a lot to show, and to tell each other, we just need to push ourselves sometimes to talk in front of several faces on a screen. 

Another pillar of our current culture has been wellbeing, understood as both physical and mental. Since lockdown started, every employee has received a wellbeing allowance that they can spend on anything that will improve their lives, from a mindfulness app to Disney+, video games, or a pet. Furthermore, in order to encourage physical activity among employees, we have set fortnightly step challenges with the aim of eventually walking to… the moon! That might take us years, though, so we divide it in smaller achievements. Up to now we have walked to Cannes!

Here at Polystream, we believe in the power of communication and the importance of sharing our victories, however small, with the rest of the team. This is the reason why we have daily company stand-ups and regular team syncs that allow for everybody to understand what is going on and which way we are moving as a company. However, these are not fixed, definitive initiatives. On the contrary, we try to constantly revise the way these meetings work and how we could improve their effect or minimise their impact. For instance, at a certain point, the decision was made to eliminate all big meetings on Fridays, liberating our schedules and allowing for a day of intensive work ahead of the weekend. In this sense, monthly Retrospectives help to keep track of what employees find good, bad, or in need of improvement. 

As these examples show, the fact of being away from the office does not mean that we lack company culture. On the contrary, we at Polystream realise how important these initiatives are. They allow us to meet our colleagues in a different and more relaxed environment, thus getting to know aspects of their lives and details of their backgrounds that we didn’t even know existed. These activities help to create a friendly environment of mutual understanding, where people are not afraid to speak their minds and, if necessary, share their struggles. Because, after all, that is what this is all about: these are uncertain, difficult times for all of us and, for one reason or the other, at some point we all need the support of our colleagues, who have now become our friends.

Company culture during COVID-19

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