Josh Weathers, Video Producer at WebPT
Like many companies across the country—and the world—WebPT shifted its entire 500-plus-person team to a fully remote work environment in March 2020. Following this dramatic, practically overnight shift, we quickly discovered the unique challenges that quarantine and isolation created. As a result, our marketing team began to brainstorm creative ways to improve employee morale. We eventually came up with a weekly internal video series, WhereWeWork, in which employees showcased their work-from-home environments. Think of it almost like an “MTV Cribs” home office edition.
Each video sparked dozens of comments and positive interactions between coworkers—so much so that demand for a second series arose. We responded with The Feel-Good Files, which focused on the silver linings employees have found throughout the pandemic.
We’ll dive into the lessons learned from these initiatives in a bit, but first, let’s highlight what made the two series unique.
WhereWeWork and The Feel-Good Files: What They Are and How They Came To Be
Before COVID-19, a big part of the culture at WebPT was the celebration of our diversity. We all had different backgrounds, personalities, and interests—and WebPT is very much a “come as you are” workplace. In line with that culture, team members often found special ways to put their personalities on display in and around their workspaces. You could immediately pick up on people’s interests just by taking a short walk around the office, which made it incredibly easy and natural to strike up friendly conversations—even with those you hadn’t met before.
When we found ourselves working from home indefinitely, I naturally started to wonder about my teammates’ at-home setups: Did each individual bring the same creativity to their remote spaces as they had at the office? Did they design a look and feel from the ground-up, or is that what their home office always looked like? It was my first experience working from home full time, and clearly, I had questions. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one curious about my colleagues’ remote work environments—and WhereWeWork became the perfect lighthearted distraction we all needed during such chaotic times.
Around then, I also realized that I was only really “chatting” with my immediate team. It was hard to create opportunities to get to know anyone outside of your specific department. Our personalized workspaces—which had served as built-in ice breakers—were gone (or so I thought). But with each new episode, we saw more and more online interactions and conversations unfolding between coworkers—which we’ll discuss in more detail below. We were “breaking the ice” at scale—across hundreds, or even thousands, of miles.
The engagement we saw with the WhereWeWork series is what inspired us to create The Feel-Good Files. This series launched during a time when it seemed like all the news around us was heavy. The goal wasn’t to divert our minds away from the challenges we were facing, but to remind us that there were still a lot of positive things to focus on.
After we shared our first episode of The Feel-Good Files, other employees began reaching out and expressing interest in sharing their own stories. It was truly inspiring to see people become so invested in each other’s well-being that they were willing to not only be vulnerable on camera, but also share deeply personal stories for the sake of boosting their peers’ spirits.
How We Measured Success
An early indicator that our video series were having the intended effect on employees were the unprompted responses and comments each video generated on our company Slack Channel. Prior to launching WhereWeWork, for example, people would share things here and there—coworker kudos, funny GIFs, links to relevant articles, the usual—but there was never much engagement.
From the outset, WhereWeWork and The Feel-Good Files posts would consistently get 15 to 30 comments and 40 to 60 emoji reactions. Plus, several of the employees featured in the episodes told me they would also receive personal messages the day we released their video. What gave me that real “aha!” moment was when I saw this comment on the company Slack channel just before a new episode went live: “Can’t wait to see today’s WhereWeWork!!! (grabs popcorn)”
Many folks were genuinely excited to see how creative their coworkers got with their at-home offices. For some, maybe it provided a jolt of inspiration to soup-up their own spaces, but I think the intrigue and positive reactions were mostly tied to employee morale. COVID-19 had separated us from our “work families” in an instant. These videos helped bring us all together again. There was happiness in hearing from our old office friends and excitement in finally having a chance to connect with someone new.
As a video producer, I love the storytelling aspect of these two internal series. But because this is my job—and because it was part of a company-wide culture initiative—we also tracked stats to measure the impact on employee engagement. Human resources executives, employee success managers, and business leaders in general may be interested in the following numbers:
- 18 episodes of WhereWeWork: 3,700 views
- 5 episodes of The Feel-Good Files: 900 views
- 52 total WebPTers featured, including two team episodes and a group holiday episode
For reference, WebPT has more than 500 employees across six geographic locations.
There are many ways I believe these videos helped improve WebPT’s employee experience and performance. For example, the team episodes in Georgia and Virginia allowed everyone to see first-hand the geographic diversity of our company. Before that, only a few key executives and company leaders had visited WebPT’s hubs outside of our HQ. Additionally, many of our episodes showcased a different side of our coworkers than we’d otherwise get to see. We shared our vulnerabilities with one another, helping each of us feel less alone. We found fresh ways to put our personalities on display and find commonalities. In WhereWeWork, for example, we learned about the things our colleagues cherish enough to keep physically close throughout the day—and even what kind of music helps keep them calm, focused, and motivated.
Other Ways To Stay Connected and Engaged
While this initiative certainly has roots in WebPT’s company culture, it’s an idea any leader can customize to their own business.
What is something unique about your in-office environment that employees might miss—and how can you creatively bring that to where they are right now? How can you inject a sense of familiarity back into their everyday life? Even in 2021, many of us are undoubtedly still navigating personal and professional unknowns. A bit of friendly reconnection could be exactly what your team members need.
And it doesn’t have to be a video series. Some companies are engaging remote employees and boosting morale with weekly virtual “coffee breaks,” which we at WebPT now prioritize as a chance for teams to just “vibe” about non-work matters. Others are coordinating online group painting lessons and even sending materials to employees’ homes in advance of scheduled class times. Additional ideas include virtual workout classes, wellness webinars, and sessions with motivational coaches and speakers.
We’re living through a challenging time, but there are many ways to boost employee morale, foster connections from afar, and reinforce your organization’s culture. Think of it as an opportunity to come out stronger than you were before. It’s just about finding what resonates with your people.