Terminus Culture and Employee Engagement in 2020

2020 has pushed all of us to our limits at home, at work, and everywhere in between. Balance is harder to achieve when there’s so much chaos. We’re all trying to find our footing, but it feels like we’re more productive than ever. Is my home the office, or is the office my home (I think the latter)? Knowing when to physically leave the “office” to join my family in the living is tough. It’s always just one more email.

It has been seven months since Terminus went fully remote as a response to the ongoing pandemic. It has taken time to figure out a new normal. For Terminus, one of the most pressing questions was “how do we support our employees during this time?” And, I know we’re not alone. So I wanted to lay out a few of the ways our incredible People Team have helped transition the Terminus culture in the past seven months, and share some insights from our employees that helped us make these decisions.

Employee Engagement in COVID Times

Employee engagement has always been important to me, it was fundamental to our success while scaling ExactTarget, and proved to be our biggest competitive advantage. The same holds true for Terminus. This meant reaching out to our employees on a regular basis, both via Zoom and through our quarterly anonymous engagement surveys. These conversations and surveys provided great visibility into what our employees needed at that moment.

Our survey results showed that our employees were struggling with separating work from home life, and were therefore working more hours and taking less breaks. But, burnout can’t be fixed with just surveys and check-ins.

So, we instituted “Half-Day Fridays,” which allow employees to take Friday afternoons off to do what they need. Some employees used it to take a break to spend time with family, others used it to run some errands, or knock out some larger to-dos. The intention was for them to make it into whatever serves them best. This extra time off led to higher productivity company-wide, so we extended Half-Day Fridays through 2020.

Making Community A Priority In A Remote World

Like many, we also found that our employees were missing the communal feel of the office. We decided to address this on multiple fronts, the first being an increased team budget for virtual events. One of the popular events is “Team Chopped”, where we send employees four randomly selected ingredients and the team cooks together over Zoom. Those with the most creative meals win a prize. We also offered a weekly food stipend through UberEats. It has given Terminus Nation the opportunity to support their favorite local restaurants and take some of the stress of meal planning off of their plates. Additionally, we have hosted virtual company-wide events consisting of water-coolers, happy hours, and lunch-and-learns to allow people to connect outside of their team meetings and Slack messages. 

Time not spent together in an office meant we also needed to be more intentional about communication and transparency. We launched weekly virtual company-wide All-Hands meetings to provide real-time updates, wins, and announcements. We also use this time to bring in guest speakers for fresh perspectives and learning opportunities – the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, and engagement has been incredible.

Prioritizing Mental and Physical Health

Before the pandemic, we offered a wellness reimbursement program as well as Headspace licenses. When it became obvious that things were going to be closed for a while we decided to increase our wellness reimbursement to help our employees create or add to their home gyms. We also increased our available Headspace licenses to offer more mindfulness resources. And, we encouraged everyone to invest time and resources into hobbies and activities outside of work. Partnering with Skillshare gave us a way to support our employee’s interest in learning new skills and hobbies while they are at home. And on top of that, we just announced that as a part of our Q4 offerings, we’ll be including a $250 stipend that employees can use toward a hobby (I personally can’t wait to see how everyone uses it – I already have a few ideas for myself). 

And, we knew that employees’ mental and physical health could easily be affected by a poorly equipped home office set up. When we realized that we were not going to return to the office this year, we offered a $250 “Work From Anywhere” stipend that allowed employees to purchase home office equipment.

Close Your Laptop

At the end of the day, wellness can’t be a one-size fits all approach, but providing avenues for energy management (what gives you energy vs. what drains you) is key. 

As the leader of a high growth company I carry the weight of this everyday. More than ever, this is truly a balance and partnership between company and employee—both need to take ownership over setting boundaries and knowing when to turn it off. 

At the end of the day, one thing has become abundantly clear: new perks and support programs can only go so far. 
So, here’s the resounding advice I will continue to give to Terminus employees in 2020 and beyond: unless the work is truly the highest level of urgency—close your laptop. We’re all working harder than ever. Stay fresh, play the long game. Turns out, the work will still be there tomorrow morning.