When the risks of Covid-19 became clear in early 2020 – before national lockdowns were even implemented – 80% of our colleagues in Serco Europe were switched immediately to working from home.
Such swift precautionary measures kept cases to a minimum. They also thrust our colleagues – based in Belgium, Luxembourg, France and French Guyana, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland – into an entirely unfamiliar new normal.
The sudden shift to remote working triggered waves of new thinking about work, life and wellbeing, and the value of colleague connections.
“Our first responsibility is to take care of our teams,” says Gaetan Desclée, Managing Director, Serco Europe. “During Covid-19, our message was ‘take care of yourselves and your loved ones’; our priority was reducing work-related pressure wherever possible.”
“Our philosophy is, ‘Think global, act local’,” says Francesca Balducci, Director of Safety, Risk & Compliance. “For colleague wellbeing, it means recognising that everyone has different needs and doing more to identify and support those specific needs.”
As lockdown continued, our European leadership team realised that extended absence from workplace communities and a lack of informal workplace interaction was having a negative impact.
“Many of our colleagues occupy specialist roles – engineers, scientists, mission controllers – on customer sites, embedded in customer teams,” says Francesca. “Many found it difficult to transition from those dynamic team environments to working in isolation.”
The best thing we can do, both for our colleagues and the business, is give them the support they need to live well and the freedom they need to work well.
One of the ways in which the team sought to help everyone feel connected and stay engaged was the ‘Care2Connect’ campaign. During spring 2020, all colleagues across Europe were encouraged to undertake good deeds in their local communities, then share them on a dedicated, social media-style app. For each action published, Serco Europe donated money to charities nominated locally.
A second Care2Connect campaign – focused on colleague and family wellbeing – ran through November and December. Over both campaigns, our European colleagues completed several hundred community and wellbeing actions, raising €10,000 in the process and forming a much stronger Europe-wide community.
“Before Covid-19, our people in different locations rarely engaged with one another except to address work requirements,” says Francesca. “Care2Connect has popularised a different kind of interaction – encouraging colleagues across Europe to share and discuss experiences, forming new friendships and new networks.”
A third Care2Connect campaign, titled ‘getting back to the new normality’, will run through Summer 2021.
“One of the long-term impacts of lockdown is that people are less comfortable leaving their homes, to the point where doing so can be very stressful,” explains Francesca. “We want to help our colleagues feel comfortable re-engaging with the world in person. At the same time, we want to continue to grow our new community and our new international networks of support and collaboration. One of the ways we’ll do this is through Care2Connect. Another will be transforming our offices into physical ‘connecting hubs’ – fun, social spaces for our people to connect and collaborate.”
Alongside efforts to regain what was lost, great care is being taken not to lose what has been gained:
“Traditional attendance will no longer be required,” says Gaetan. “What we have learned above all else is that our people thrive on flexibility. The best thing we can do, both for our colleagues and the business, is give them the support they need to live well and the freedom they need to work well. This is our opportunity to improve their quality of life whilst raising levels of productivity and engagement. It’s a win-win situation.”