#Babyfacechallenge & collaborative Spotify playlists: Curating virtual spaces for employee engagement at FREE NOW

Jedida Ravindran
May 7 · 4 min read

The coffee breaks, the bumping into each other at the kitchen and restroom, or the occasional stroll together to the train station after work. For those who are used to working their usual 9–5 in an office, these are some aspects that are currently missing from our day to day work life. These moments of in-between, are the very moments that actualize the liveliness and excitement of working in a dynamic company.

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Employees picked a song to dedicate to their work bestie and added it to the collaborative playlist

Curating spaces for interaction

At FREE NOW in these difficult times, we have been working on several initiatives as an attempt to boost employee morale and fill in these very gaps that have been missing since we moved to operate as a completely remote company.

Revamping our offerings as an employer, from physical to virtual ones, means that FREE NOW can continue to engage with its team, and offer opportunities for them to share their personal and professional lives in interactive and creative ways. Despite not physically being in the same room, there is a possibility for connections to be fostered between strangers and bonds to be strengthened between teammates.

Being part of A-PART

One of the offerings that we launched is the A-PART initiative. A-PART is an internal activation initiative that encourages employees with little updates, surprises, and activities to do as a team while we work from home. It was launched via slack and a new post with a challenge or insight is posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

It comes to no surprise that some initiatives work better than others. From personal experience, activities that involve people sharing a piece of their individual lives, seem to be working really well! So far one of the biggest highlights of A-PART would be our #babyfacechallenge, which essentially blew up in our company!

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A lighthearted way to share in on your childhood with your colleagues

An intrinsic desire for connection

I think the desire to connect with others is a critical human need. For many, being stuck at home, when they are used to being part of collaborative teams can be a big adjustment. So the combination of informal and formal initiatives such as our employee assistance programs, or scheduled check-ins with our colleagues and even after work virtual beers, give us that room to connect again and process the situation that we are in.

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Winding down from a long week over a virtual beer with your colleagues

Organic growth

Many initiatives have organically grown throughout the company (both locally in Hamburg HQ and in our international offices). The most interesting part is seeing how they come to life through the self-initiative and personal interests of individuals. Even more fascinating is the cross-collaboration and interaction that happens across offices. In a sense as an international company, we really are more connected than ever!

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Sitting at our desk all day long can be very straining on our bodies. Those interested are welcomed to join the 5-minute daily stretch.

It’s not always easy to engage

Not everyone is interested in sharing a photo from their childhood or watching a live stream of resident DJs from our Barcelona tech-hub. Maybe some are more interested in sharing their current favorite book with their colleagues or simply acknowledging a helpful remote working tip from our scrum team. As mentioned earlier, some activities tend to work better than others. So, just like any effort to engage with employees, listening to the needs of employees, and having a feel for the general wellbeing and energy in the company is pivotal.

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For some of us, a 5-minute meditation is a great way to kickstart our day

What’s also crucial is being adaptable to the changes within the company. So knowing when to engage and when to take a step back and give employees sufficient space to breathe and process internal and external changs should be a focus.

On another note, I personally think that engaging virtually isn’t always easy. Sometimes I think it’s more difficult for me to join a virtual breakfast (with people I do not know off or know very well); then it is for me to take a walk to the large conference room for our weekly company breakfast (and physically meet the very same people). Virtual anxiety is a real thing. And I think it is important to acknowledge the diversity of needs and interests in the company and not just the ones who are active and ever-ready to virtually put themselves out there.

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Joan, an agile coach from our Barcelona tech-hub sharing in on ways we can reflect during this time

Employees want to feel like they are being listened to and that they matter. So having open spaces for employees to engage with each other, for initiatives to organically grow and flourish and avenues to confidentially voice concerns are attributes of an employer who visibly attempts to meet their team halfway. This I believe is vital in any case, but especially during this season!

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