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The global pandemic has forced companies to radically change how they work, and this also means finding new ways to stay connected and look after each other. We spoke to two members of our COMPASS wellbeing team, Rachel Winzer and Tina Gibbard, about how COMPASS is trying to do this…

Working virtually can make it challenging to understand how employees are feeling – what are we doing to help? 
Tina: Prior to lockdown we had the flexibility to partially work from home but it was a big shift to all be 100% at home. We need to ensure people don’t “fly under the radar” if they aren’t coping with the new world: it’s all too easy to put on a brave face in Zoom meetings. The team has a wide range of ages and living situations – flatmates, children, living alone – which all present different challenges and opportunities in lockdown.

We try to sensitively check on each other’s wellbeing in a few ways. Firstly, managers try to have weekly check-ins with each of their direct reports. We ran a survey to understand how people were feeling and discussed the results at a company meeting, sparking additional ideas for what more we could be doing. We’re also piloting a listening platform where anyone can make suggestions or comments about the company, life-work balance, wellbeing, or anything else they want to share.

As a wellbeing team, what have you changed over the last few months to adapt to the new way of life?
Rachel: We aim to focus on day-to-day and foundational wellbeing. This means understanding individual as well as company-wide needs, and finding tangible ways to reduce stress levels with activities and tools. During the last few months of unimaginable change, we have introduced more ways to support each other on a daily basis, increase connectedness, and know that we are not alone. We have also taken the opportunity to dive more deeply into how we can improve work-life balance as a team.

What has helped people most and why?
Rachel: A large majority of the team reported being greatly helped by increased conversations with colleagues and opportunities for social interaction. For example, we’ve organised more frequent team meetings, set up virtual ”tea times” and run a “secret Easter bunny” gift swap, which have all created a ton of joy. Our latest social initiative is a highly competitive month-long “COMPASS 2020 Games”, with teams of colleagues participating remotely in physical and creative tasks. We also share stories and photos from our days on community-driven Slack channels. This helps to show that our greatest form of support is each other. We strive to live our values and mission, we lean on each other and we share our successes and failures.

The team has also been helped by initiatives focused on coming together to learn new skills to reduce stress – including mindfulness training, yoga classes led by the amazing Claudia (also a wellbeing team member!) and team subscriptions to a meditation app. The New York team members meet every day at 4pm to do a 10-minute meditation together, and it is something we have all stuck with for almost three months. As well as the meditation itself, what helps is the sense of community we get from setting all else aside to come together once a day.

At COMPASS our vision is a world of mental wellbeing, what does mental wellbeing mean to you?
Tina: For me, mental wellbeing is largely a balancing act which aims for harmony. I have longstanding issues with anxiety and depression which surface a little too easily if things are out of balance. By harmony, I mean spending enough time doing work that I find enjoyable, exercising, eating healthy food, meditating, seeing friends and family, and relaxing through my hobbies – painting, embroidery, learning Spanish, travelling to new places. Add to that enough sleep, some Netflix and novel reading and it keeps me pretty happy.

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