During a leadership meeting as the country was about to go into lockdown, Moonpig’s directors came to terms with the fact that there was no playbook for what they were about to face.
“In times of uncertainty, the best thing you can do is be decisive,” says its people director Sasha Watson. “Knowing there’s no right or wrong answer; people just need a sense of certainty when things don’t feel that way.”
The important thing was to be as clear and transparent with Moonpig’s people as possible. The company prides itself on its fun, team-oriented, high-care culture, and it was important to maintain that as the company went remote.
“We said very early on: don’t expect us to reopen the office this year,” says Sasha. “If we were able to open, then great, that would be a bonus. But we didn’t want to give people false optimism when everything could change at any time.”
All meetings quickly became virtual, but it was important for the company not to feel like everyone had lost something. The all-hands meeting was approached like an event, playing to the strengths of a virtual space, incorporating video and bringing in teams from all the company’s offices, from Manchester and London to Guernsey and the Netherlands.
“We turned the dial up on communications,” says Sasha. “And actually, it turned out that being virtual was great from an inclusion perspective.” They found that the virtual workplace was much more accessible for people with disabilities or with care responsibilities.
The company also increased its focus on health and wellbeing, touching base with staff on a regular basis, hosting virtual yoga and cooking classes, and sending care packages to staff, which of course included ‘Missing You’ cards. The team also created a number of niche Slack groups for people to share their challenges and advice on various common issues, such as the challenges of homeschooling.
“I was very, very clear with parents or anyone with care responsibilities that there’s no rulebook here,” says Sasha. “You can take a day off because you have to homeschool your kids. We had to relax things when needed, and not be pedantic in times of such uncertainty.”
Moonpig sent its employees (and Moonkids!) care packages, arranged cooking and painting classes, and even distributed an advent calendar
When the pandemic hit, Sasha was relatively new to Moonpig. She had been working on a new people strategy, and had to start from scratch as work went remote. “I was planning for a world that wasn’t there anymore.”
The company has now finished a piece of work that articulates its values and behaviours as it returns to a hybrid working model. It has hired around 100 people remotely since the pandemic began. The onboarding process is better than it used to be, says Sasha, as remote working forced them to work harder at it.
“We did quite simple things such as buddying and new starter workshops. You have to almost bring in people in cohorts so they bond together.”
Moonpig’s management also set clear objectives for new starters very early, so they can hit the ground running. They also have Slack channels to engage with team members. “We sent out new starter packs and boxes of chocolates with messages saying ‘we can’t wait for you to arrive’,” says Sasha. “It’s small touches to make sure they understand the type of place they’re joining and that they feel included.”
The company employs production workers in Guernsey, and had to balance the fact that those workers had a much different experience to office-based employees. The company wanted to give people the choice to work as much as possible, rather than forcing people to go in. People were happy to work, says Sasha, though at one point, only two people were allowed in the factory at a time.
No-one at Moonpig was furloughed, Sasha says. It was important to make all workers feel safe, she continues, and to be upfront about what might be expected to fulfil their roles. “We’ve made sure all roles are treated equally. Those that need to be on-site got all the perks that we offered the remote workers, and those that were fully remote were expected to continue connecting and collaborating with colleagues.”
Now, Moonpig is looking to the future. How the company uses the office has changed forever, says Sasha; the company has proved that it can continue to grow and even deliver an IPO completely remotely. “Our CEO did the stockmarket opening from his spare bedroom. We’ve proven that you can run a business fully remotely. When you have that as a benchmark, you really need to identify why people are coming in. That's been very freeing, I think. As long as we stay true to our values and keep communicating, it will be really good for us.”
Images: from Moonpig
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