How I’m supporting my team as CEO during the time of COVID-19

As new restrictions and news updates come out daily, I’m doing my best to stay grounded, take care of my family, and also take care of my employees.
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It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is not just an exercise in helping our team be effective working from home. We are now working in an environment we never imagined. Our kids are home from school, and we’re suddenly realizing their teachers should be paid so much more – how do they keep their patience? Many of us have significant others that are home and nervous about their situation. We’re trying to keep in constant touch with loved ones, provide Zoom tech support to grandparents, and not let the hundreds of daily news push notifications freak us out. And of course we’re trying to stay healthy – what’s the protocol again to make sure the Uber eats delivery is safe before eating?  Oh, and we’re trying to focus on what’s that other thing… oh yea, work.

My team and I are continuing to talk about how we run the company and manage this daily. Here are a few things we’ve implemented so far to support employee well-being during this time. 

Equipment stipend: It was clear from the first Zoom call that not all of us are set up well to work from home. While it’s unrealistic to think that everyone can create an instant home office, we do want our people to be as comfortable as possible, and have offered a stipend to purchase the things like laptop stands, keyboards, back supports, etc. they need to be effective in the space they have. Personally, I ordered this and really like it.

Daily mental health break: We’re realizing that breaks are more important than ever. While we already have a culture of flexibility where everyone can choose their own working hours, I’m doing my best to set an example and encourage everyone to take more breaks in the middle of the day. It’s important to take the time for a walk, workout, playtime with the kids, or anything that helps. We’re asking people to share their status on Slack and then feel 100% comfortable ignoring all work-related messages during their much-needed breaks. Personally, I’ve been taking mid-day walk with my kids and dogs to enjoy the extra sunny spring we’ve been having.

Daily rituals: During our first week of working from home, it was so easy to be on 24/7. We’re now realizing the importance of little rituals to start and end the workday—even if it’s a walk around the block as your “commute” home. While every employee decides their own work boundaries, I’m encouraging us all to set work hours and then confidently close laptops to end the workday. I don’t want myself or my team to get to burnout because of pressure to be “always on,” especially during this stressful time. Personally, I still go for my morning runs — I find it amusing as all the runners are all making extra effort to cross the road or do whatever possible to not come in close proximity to each other when passing. 

Weekly “demo” lunch: We set up a weekly lunch for people to informally share what they are working on so that, in addition to daily stand-ups or Slack updates, we can see and celebrate the work that everyone is doing and continue to stay connected. 

Friday online games: As a contrast to our demo lunch, our Friday lunch is all about having fun. We are researching online games that we can all play as a team. So far, we’ve hosted rowdy games of Charades, Pictionary, Heads Up, and online Code Names. We’re also encouraging employees to order delivery from their favorite businesses they want to support during this time and expense the meal. Charades has been the biggest hit so far – “I am literally sweating,” said one of our teammates.

Re-prioritization: No one is quite sure what our future has in store, but we want to be prepared. We’re spending time to really hone in on our top priorities and make sure the entire company is aware and swarming together on these initiatives. While we aren’t cutting back on work right now, we do want to alleviate feelings of needing to accomplish a seemingly endless to-do list, where everyone has different cross-team dependencies that compete with one another. Staying true to our values, we’re working to simplify.  

We’re also learning from others. Here are a few of our favorite ideas we’ve seen from other companies that we’ll try next:

  • Executive virtual office hours: Just like the regular office hours but you know to just knock virtually via Slack/Zoom.
  • Meet the pets: Gainsight shared an adorable photo from a Zoom chat they did with employees to meet everyone’s pets. I think we could all share some pet love right now. 
  • Daily coffee chats: We’re thinking of new ways to connect with employees during this time aside from work conversations. Home tours? Cooking demonstrations? This is the time to really get to know your people and do your best to stay positive and connected. We are all in this together. 

What has been working for you or your company? We’d love to hear your ideas. Share with us by tagging @uplevelteam on social media!

This post was written by Joe Levy, Uplevel co-founder and CEO.