“Who was the only Disney princess to have a tattoo?”
It was one of the many standard bar trivia questions employees at digital marketing company System 1 answered together prior to the pandemic. Today, that recurring get-together is now taking place over Zoom.
Eric Piwowar, a manager of partnership and growth, said engagement has always been a big part of the company culture. When the company transitioned to remote work due to COVID-19, it was a top priority to transition engagement activities like happy hours and catered lunches to the new remote setting.
For System1, this pivot began with a mindset. Instead of “working from home,” they prefer the philosophy “working from here” to encourage employees to quarantine with family members and loved ones, wherever they may be. To support that mantra, the company looks to its insurance plans that cover mental health care and a COVID-19 fund established from company profits that helps ensure employees have the resources they need to bring their best selves to work.
After prioriziting mental health and well-being, it became easier for leadership to look at the benefits of remote company culture. For example, a virtual hackathon allowed teams composed of employees from the United States, Canada and European offices to participate in real-time.
Optimizing team engagement in a remote culture will continue to be an evolutionary process, Piwowar said. Anonymous surveys, Slack channels and an engagement committee allow for employees to offer suggestions and ideate new programs like monthly game nights and lunch and learns.
How have you adapted the perks and benefits you offer employees since transitioning to remote work?
Engagement has always been a big part of the culture. Weekly happy hours, catered lunches and birthday treats offered great ways for our teams to connect outside of working hours. Because of everyone working from home, we had to replace them with remote events and gatherings.
We held our first ever companywide hackathon over Zoom in June. The virtual event was exciting because it allowed teams composed of members from the United States, Canada and European offices to participate, and their projects to be judged by leadership in real time.
We’ve also started hosting monthly coffee meetups and “game days,” hosted by Donut and The Go Game. These remote events are a fun change of pace for colleagues to catch up and prove who knows more Disney bar trivia.
Engagement has always been a big part of the culture.”
What are some new, remote-friendly ways you’re supporting mental health and well-being right now?
Instead of looking at remote work as “work from home,” we’ve adopted the philosophy of “work from here.” It’s just one word, but thinking about working this way has created an environment for many of my colleagues to quarantine at a family home or move away from our offices to be closer to loved ones.
We also have great insurance plans that cover mental health care, and we’ve established a COVID-19 fund where a portion of our company profits are set aside to help employees who need extra financial assistance due to the pandemic.
There’s also the premium that System1 puts on physical fitness. We’ve had personal trainer-led fitness classes once a week for several years that we transitioned online.
What role did employee feedback play in shaping these new perks and benefits?
Having an anonymous feedback channel on Slack and regular anonymous engagement and distancing surveys have been a great way for questions, comments and suggestions that might not have otherwise been expressed to our company leaders in a safe environment. It has also created some comical talking points during our monthly all-team meetings.
From these anonymous channels, we’ve established a few ongoing programs to help with remote working. The first is our engagement committee, which acts as a council of peers to help teams and colleagues stay connected. This team has been responsible for ideating and managing things like our monthly bar trivia-style “game days” and our first companywide hackathon. Another program that came from employee feedback is our monthly lunch and learn. The topics for these lunchtime talks include project management, personal improvement and meditation.