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One week earlier this year, in spring, I was working in the office with my colleagues. The next week, we were all working remotely. And in the 10 months since then I have only seen my colleagues in person a handful of times.

There are countless blogs talking about the challenges of working remotely in a global pandemic – and countless more with ideas on how to solve them! But this post is a little bit about our journey.

In early April, when we’d been working from home for around three to four weeks, I noticed my stress levels had increased a lot. I didn’t really know how to share this with colleagues. Before I might have shared a difficult moment with a colleague across our desks, and then had a conversation over a cuppa with someone. But working remotely that shared space was gone.

We tried lots of different ideas to give us opportunities to share in the same way with varying levels of success. We tried lunch-meets, more one-to-ones, crossword sessions (we met to do a crossword together), more regular team meetings, tea-time chit chats, and different Slack channels. Some of these worked and some did not.

But there was still something missing. We didn’t have a sense of how people were feeling across the company. We couldn’t tell if generally people were coping well or needed more support. And we couldn’t measure if our strategies were improving the situation for people or not. So I started to research tools that could help us with this and came across Friday Pulse.

How does it work? In brief, Friday Pulse sends out a weekly two-minute survey to ask simply ‘How are you feeling at work this week’. It focuses on happiness, as this is a universal emotion that everyone can understand. You can answer on a 5-point scale from ‘very unhappy’ to ‘very happy’. You also have the chance to thank someone, celebrate a success, and share a frustration or an idea. It tracks our happiness trend week-to-week which gives us instant feedback on how people are doing. And it’s anonymous, so people can answer honestly without concern they may be singled out.

The survey is great, but what has been really valuable is what we’ve done with it. Every week, we have a half-hour meeting in small groups, to talk about our results. We’ve noticed over the two months that we have been doing it:

  • we’ve created safe spaces for people to speak, and have got better at listening to each other;
  • we’ve become more mindful as a team about what is going well and what people are finding stressful. As a result, people are reaching out to support each other more;
  • people are sharing issues that they might have not been brave enough to say before we started to use Friday Pulse – which gives us the opportunity to improve things that we would previously have not necessarily known about;
  • we have more opportunities to recognise the good things we are achieving and remind ourselves of those.

In the next few weeks we will have a longer survey to build up our ‘culture profile’. This will give us additional insight into our workplace culture – what our strengths are and where we have opportunities for improvement.

Using Friday Pulse hasn’t solved the pandemic, made it easier to work with children running around your feet, made it possible to visit loved ones, or even made it easier to go to the gym. But it has given us powerful opportunities to connect together as colleagues while working remotely; to share challenges, support each other in finding solutions, and to remember to share and celebrate the good things at work.