Whilst the period surrounding the COVID 19 pandemic has been a challenge for many organisations and businesses, we have seen many examples of STEM employers taking positive steps to support their employees and keep them safe during this time. Equate Scotland are collecting case studies that demonstrate good practice and provide examples of STEM companies who have managed (or currently managing) the COVID 19 pandemic.

Our first case study comes from FreeAgent an award – winning accounting software company designed specifically for small businesses and freelancers. Over 90,000 customers use FreeAgent to manage their daily admin and stay in control of their business finances. We’ve asked FreeAgent how they have supported their employees during the COVID -19 pandemic.

How has your organisation or company responded to Covid-19?

In early March we made the decision to ask all of our office-based employees to transition to working from home and officially closed our office on 17th March. Our team adjusted quickly to the new structure and everyone has been able to continue with the same level of productivity.

We’ve worked hard to continue to provide the best possible customer support during these unprecedented times. As well as delivering our usual world-class customer service over phone and email, we’ve created content to share with our customers to help them navigate all the emerging government guidance for small business owners .

We’ve also continued to hire and onboard our new joiners during the coronavirus crisis through remote interviews and inductions and by sending equipment to new hires at their home addresses.

We’ve also continued to hire and onboard our new joiners during the coronavirus crisis through remote interviews and inductions and by sending equipment to new hires at their home addresses.

As an organisation have you found it a challenge to move towards home/ remote working?

Our technology and remote working tools like Slack, Trello and G Suite have made the transition fairly smooth. 20% of our team already worked remotely from their homes, so we had experience and best practices in place to support remote working for the rest of the team. As we chose to move to remote working before lockdown, we were able to transition the entire team before it became compulsory to work from home.

One aspect that has been challenging is ensuring that our employees have a healthy and safe working environment. Many of our employees don’t have a home office or an area of their home that they can use as an ideal workstation. We tried to accommodate these needs by encouraging our office-based team to take home any additional equipment they needed, such as monitors, keyboards, laptop stands and chairs. We provided taxis to help team members with moving this equipment. We also asked all of our employees to complete risk assessments and we have used this information to provide additional guidance and equipment where required.

We’re currently working on longer-term plans for the future, including how we can continue to support employees over an extended period of remote working.

Have you implemented any specific practices or new policies to support employees while they adapt to working from home?

We’ve taken a flexible approach while the team has adapted to working from home. We’ve worked with many of our employees on a one-to-one basis to find a working arrangement that works for each individual.

We’ve also tried to be flexible with the use of paid holiday and are encouraging our team to take breaks and time off work. We have found a lot of people are reluctant to take leave as work is providing a good structure for their day and they’d prefer to wait to use their holidays at a time when they’ll have more freedom. As a result, we’ve tried to strike a balance between encouraging people to take time off and allowing them to carry forward extra holiday days if they need to.

We’ve populated our company-wide intranet with information to support people during this time, including working from home guidance, training on managing people remotely, inspiration for home-based hobbies, tips on keeping healthy and safe and resources to support mental wellbeing.

Have you taken any actions to support employees with childcare or other caring responsibilities?

Many of our employees are parents, so childcare and homeschooling have had one of the biggest impacts on our team. We’ve put a lot of effort into supporting these team members and have a lot of established arrangements in place to allow parents to work flexibly. Some people have adopted different working hours or are working fewer hours than they normally would, but everyone maintained their salary.

We’ve also been regularly sharing online resources designed to support parents with homeschooling and keeping their children healthy, happy and occupied.

Many of our employees are parents, so childcare and homeschooling have had one of the biggest impacts on our team. We’ve put a lot of effort into supporting these team members and have a lot of established arrangements in place to allow parents to work flexibly. Some people have adopted different working hours or are working fewer hours than they normally would, but everyone maintained their salary.

Have you come across any other challenges that you have had to adapt to or manage?

We had a lot of face-to-face social activities planned, including getting the entire team together for a summer barbecue and holding fundraising events like bake sales and quizzes, so we’ve had to quickly adapt and organise a different range of remote activities. We’ve hosted dress up (at home) contests, virtual quizzes, virtual walks and even remote cake decorating competitions. We also sent each of our employees a sunflower growing kit and have a company-wide competition on the go to see who can grow the tallest sunflower!

Ensuring our employees still feel part of a community is one of our top priorities, so we’ve continued hosting our weekly company-wide ‘Town Hall’ on a Friday afternoon via Zoom, where we share company updates, celebrate wins and invite team members to give talks . One of the biggest takeaways for us is that technology is making a significant difference in helping us keep everyone at FreeAgent connected.

One of the biggest takeaways for us is that technology is making a significant difference in helping us keep everyone at FreeAgent connected.

 

If you are interested in working a FreeAgent visit their careers page today. They are currently hiring Software Engineers.

 

If you are a STEM employer and want to let us know how you are supporting employees during this time, get in touch at .