One of Cuvva’s top priorities has always been to create a great place to work. Yet we found ourselves in uncharted territory during the 2020 pandemic (well, us and the entire rest of the world!).
With a government mandate to close offices, for the first time we found ourselves with a completely dispersed team. With our usual in-person events off the cards, the only socials we had to look forward to in those early days of the pandemic were a limited selection of virtual games: fine the first time, but it got a bit boring after a while…
Jump ahead a year to 2021 and we had returned to the office but for the most part we were still remote. It became clear we were going to have to make some big changes to ensure our usually-thriving Cuvva culture was maintained.
Prior to the pandemic, we were pretty much an office-first company. We always had ‘WFH Wednesdays’ - a day where we had no meetings and basically just got stuff done - but aside from this, we were in-person most of the time.
As an Office Manager, a lot of my job at the time revolved around the actual office: maintaining the facilities, organising in-person events, managing our suppliers and budget, and making sure the drinks fridges were stocked and our daily breakfast maintained its status as our most brilliant perk! Culture was pretty easy to maintain when everyone was enjoying a bagel around the coffee machine every morning.
As a collaborative and product-driven team, working from home full time during the pandemic was actually an easy enough transition, perhaps easier for us than some companies in other industries.
Yet one thing that we found concerning was that six months into remote working, while productivity went through the roof, the line between work life and home life was becoming a little blurred.
Anxiety and burnout became all too real. Our CEO, Freddy, rewarded us all with a Cuvva Bank Holiday - a day off in November 2020, which really lifted our spirits.
Our People team also boosted our existing annual £300 wellbeing allowance by adding a £300 WFH allowance to help people get properly set up at home.
These benefits helped hugely - but there was a lingering concern that the bonds we’d formed from our early days in the office might slowly disappear.
As London started to re-open, some people returned to the office, but the vast majority didn’t. Hiring picked up quickly and for the first time, we were interviewing and onboarding people remotely.
For the longest time we had all been aligned in our Cuvva culture - either all together in the office, or all together remote. Yet suddenly, we were split.
This is when the biggest challenge to our culture arose and the role of Office Manager became so much more than running an office. The bigger question was: how do we make our experience of the office equal for those who are in the office, as well as those who are at home?
The term “Workplace Experience” took on a greater meaning - at the end of the day, talented people can get a similar salary elsewhere, but in a remote world, will they get that same sense of belonging in every workplace? How do we transfer our culture to those who have never even been to our office?
We realised for our culture to truly flourish in the new hybrid world, we’d need a dedicated team to have this top of their agenda.
It started when we put together an informal Workplace Experience Group in the autumn of 2020. This saw the roles of Talent Manager, People Ops, Tech Ops and Office Manager get together to share information and try to improve the full employee experience: from interview, to onboarding and beyond.
A great onboarding experience has a direct impact on retention and if we were going to be interviewing and onboarding everyone remotely, we needed to nail it if we were going to make them feel welcomed and included from the get-go. Upon job offer, we made sure every person received a welcome pack to their home which included a Cuvva hoodie, t-shirt, stickers and other merchandise. We hooked them up with their MacBook, gave them access to the various accounts they’ll need, and organised welcome lunches, buddy coffees and intro sessions.
We expanded our socials, combining in-person events with virtual ones. We now host a social every single month and we’ve had everything from neon sign workshops, coffee and tea tastings, clay workshops, drink and draw classes, wine tastings, and a hugely successful Halloween costume party in our Cuvva HQ. We launched a monthly Pizza Day in the office, as well as a monthly Testing Breakfast where people come together to test the Cuvva app. Keeping a mix of virtual and in-person is really important, so initiatives such as our Lunch & Learns take place virtually, as do our weekly CEO Updates and Friday Show & Tell.
We also took a look at our volunteering opportunities, so everyone could still take part while working remotely - we partnered with a handy app, OnHand, to take all the stress out of volunteering and connect people with a wide range of missions close to their home or the office. We've got missions up for grabs including shop drops, gardening projects, befriending calls, youth mentoring programmes, and much more.
While Workplace Experience has developed hugely, we do still have an actual office that we need to think about. There have been plenty of things that we never had to consider before. One of the major ones is how much physical space we actually need. With our office lease ending in June 2021, we had to make some hard decisions during an uncertain time. We surveyed our whole team on several occasions through our engagement platform, Lattice. We found 87% had found working remotely to be a positive experience (2% disliked it and 11% were neutral). A whole 95% said they felt well equipped to continue working remotely and when asked what type of office people wanted, over 70% selected a “flexible space” - a hub where teams come together to collaborate, with fewer desks and more social space.
Taking this feedback onboard, we dropped our former ‘traditional’ approach of a desk for everyone, and reimagined our physical work environment to function better with hybrid work. To give you an idea, we currently have 74 desks for 150 people, with plenty of break out space, 8 meeting rooms, 4 phone booths and an events space. We’ve found that this works perfectly for us, as we don’t tend to get more than 50-60 people in the office on any one day.
We also have a helping hand from our new platform, Common Surface, where people schedule whether they are working in the office or remotely - this is super handy in letting us know how many people are in the office each day, and which teams are coming in the most or least. It’ll also help us figure out how much square feet we need when we do our next office move at the end of 2022.
Our most recent office survey from November 2021 told us that people want flexibility to choose where they work - returning to the office has had a positive impact on wellbeing and team collaboration, but for optimum productivity, hybrid is really the only way forward.
We believe that Workplace Experience is the heart of the company - our core function is to create an amazing experience of the workplace, whether you’re in-person or at home. By doing this, we can create a collaborative social environment that fosters great relationships.
At Cuvva, Workplace Experience has evolved from a stand-alone Office Manager into a team of three, comprising a Workplace Experience Manager, Workplace Experience Associate, and Tech Ops Support, and the team forms part of the wider People team. Workplace Experience works closely with the People team to look after the entire lifecycle of an employee’s experience, combining onboarding, facilities, office moves and fitouts, events, CSR initiatives, H&S, and tech ops.
We work together to ensure everyone has all the tools and support they need to make this transition to hybrid a smooth and happy one. We believe that hybrid working is a way for us to have it all - the autonomy of remote working, with the social and cultural advantages of in-person contact. If we could sum it up in one sentence - our ultimate mission is to build and maintain a workplace environment where every Cuvvarati has fun, feels connected and can perform at their best.
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