Lara Sweet, Snap Inc’s chief people officer, is well-versed in the world of business.
Having spent the past four years at Snap — where she was promoted to her current role in May 2019 — and over six years at AOL, Sweet is all too familiar with the challenges associated with running an international company.
But the past few months have, understandably, been different. The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down, with businesses — those which have so far survived — having to adapt at record speed; many with fewer resources than Snap.
“We had challenges by the truckload and quickly realized that this was going to take a coordinated, cross-functional effort,” Sweet tells Growth Quarters.
Understandably, timing was of the essence — and the challenge facing Sweet multidimensional.
To respond as quickly as possible, Sweet says the team met daily as they needed to understand the multitudinous guidelines put in place by the different national and international authorities, learn to work remotely, and communicate with a global team.
“Finally, I think a big priority for us was addressing requests for mental health and wellness support,” she notes, adding that the situation essentially paved the way for significant changes in leadership and different ways of working.
The impact on employees
If one positive has come out of the pandemic it’s that, in general, employers have largely woken up to the fact that mental health and wellness are incredibly important.
It’s also helped to highlight pay-based inequalities between senior roles and more junior positions — let’s face it working from home is an entirely different experience if you have the ‘luxury’ of being able to set up base in a spare room.
Those with children, or caring for others, have also endured several challenges as the lines between personal and professional became increasingly blurred and parents had to double up as teachers.
The uncertainty — and the wave of mass redundancies across several industries — has also played a part, sparking leaders to become more transparent with employees.
Overall, COVID-19 has humanized the world of work, but working in 2020 hasn’t been easy and HR professionals have been handed the difficult task of dealing with individual and collective issues and boosting morale.
So, how has Sweet managed to do this?
How to boost team morale
Sweet says it’s important for HR professionals in every company to empathize with employees: “You have to listen deeply and understand what your team is facing.”
- Communication is key at the best of times but even more so when you’re dealing with distant or remote teams. “You have to ensure people stay aligned on priorities,” she notes, adding that it’s essential that everyone’s clear on what they need to do in order to progress as a group.
- You need to be supportive. You need to acknowledge the situation and prioritize employees, letting them know that they’ve been heard and seen. Also, keep in mind that no two people are the same — or dealing with the same circumstances. “We’ve provided additional support and training so our team can win from home,” Sweet adds.
- Foster connections. It can be so easy to feel like you’re no longer part of something when you lose daily contact with people. To overcome this, Sweet says departments should create opportunities for teams to simply come together.
- Laugh. Even though individuals will be facing several trials and tribulations, it’s important to create happy moments. “We’re all carrying so much right now, so it’s good to take a moment to release some of that tension and encourage a few moments of levity,” she adds.
Overall, the pandemic has had a profound effect on how Snap interacts with employees, paving the way for increased pastoral care and support.
The company has also substantially changed its view on remote working and is now more open to offering more flexibility to its employees, which can expect to work from home until at least January 4, 2021.
“There has always been some skepticism about large-scale working from home,” said Sweet.
“The success our team has had during this extraordinary period has caused us to imagine a new way of working. I don’t see us becoming a company that works from home completely or permanently as we still crave the creative spark and inspiration that comes from interacting with our teammates, but I do believe that we will be much more flexible about remote work options in the future,” she concludes.
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