As Washingtonians work from home during the coronavirus lockdown, employers are coming up with ways not only to keep their staffs productive and engaged, but to keep up their spirits—and keep them connected to one another. We reached out to a dozen local companies—many of them among our 50 Great Places to Work—and heard about Slack channels devoted to pet pictures and “quarantine diaries,” personal notes from the boss, and virtual lunches and happy hours. Here are a few of the more creative ways that some companies are keeping up employee morale.
At the Motley Fool in Alexandria, which hosts wacky employee activities even in non-pandemic times, teams have been streaming MTV Cribs-style tours of their homes. The finance team got to see that an accounting manager still had her Christmas tree up in March; they also enjoyed the tax manager’s lovely view from her Arlington balcony.
Cooking—and Working Out—Together
At the 90-person software company NowSecure, which has an office in Tysons, their Slack food channel has hosted contests such as “best use of leftovers” and “best video cooking demonstration.” (That one was won by Dawn Isabel, who made a video of her baking cookies with her kids.) With all that eating, it seems only fair that they also started a “quarantine step challenge.” The three employees who post the most steps over the course of the quarantine will win gift cards.
Another company sponsoring a workout challenge is Go Canvas, a mobile-platform firm in Reston. In the squares of a “bingo” card are various exercises—including “favorite yoga pose,” “drop and give me 20,” and “make a healthy snack.” Employees who paste photos of themselves completing all 25 challenges will earn bragging rights.
At the R Street Institute in DC, a libertarian and right-of-center-leaning think tank, staffers without kids have been tutoring colleagues’ children. One employee presented a history lesson about Abraham Lincoln; another conducted a 30-minute PE class on Zoom with jumping jacks and push-ups; yet another created a science project around bird-watching.
After the 45-person staff at Herndon’s Advanced Simulation Technology—most of whom are engineers—started to work from home, ASTi sent each of them mini-robots to build. Parents also received STEM kits for their children.
Interos, a tech start-up in Arlington, clearly believes one way to employees’ hearts is through their stomachs. A staffer celebrating an anniversary or birthday gets a delivery of cupcakes, along with a gift card. And the company’s Culture Club sent each of the 65 staffers a SnackNation box filled with nutrition bars, nuts, and healthy chips and cookies. For every box delivered, SnackNation donates two meals to a family in need—which appealed to Interos, which also launched an internal effort to raise money for the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
Catering to a Need
Another local employer keeping its workers fed is the Midtown Group, a staffing and recruitment firm in DC. Each Friday, Midtown’s president and CEO, Helen Stefan-Moreau, has full meals delivered to each of her 30 employees. The dinners come from other local businesses, including Ridgewells Catering and Fat Pete’s Barbecue.
At Carfax, the Centreville company known for its vehicle-history reports on used cars, team meetings on Zoom have featured daily themes such as “Favorite Hat Day,” “Wear Crazy Colors,” and “Camo Day.” Every Friday is “Carfax Swag day,” when employees are encouraged to show off their branded gear.
A few of the companies we contacted said they were promoting meditation among employees. At the financial advisory firm Glassman Wealth Services, owner Barry Glassman bought, for each employee and his or her significant other, the meditation app Headspace. Meanwhile, Splunk, a tech firm with an office in Tysons, offers 15-minute guided meditation sessions three times a week on Zoom.