It’s often said that a company’s greatest asset is its people. At Oddball, that’s been particularly obvious during this global pandemic. With summer winding down and the world’s new normal still in development, our leadership team took some time to reflect on life at Oddball since Q1 of 2020.
In mid-March, when COVID-19 really started to impact the United States and prompt shutdowns of local communities, Oddball leadership started executing a strategy to weather the uncertainty. The objectives were clear: communicate how we would continue to provide superior support and service to our federal government customers while also ensuring the needs of our staff and their families were met.
To implement our COVID response strategy, we leaned into the strength of the Oddball company culture. As a remote-first company, the Oddball team was already well-equipped to work from home, but these unique circumstances created new challenges. Like many Americans, working from home with spouses, partners, and children nearby was new. Possibly sharing our workspaces for homeschooling or side-by-side with partners during conference calls was different terrain. Here are just some of the actions we took to harness the power of the Oddball culture and ensure physical and mental wellbeing throughout the company remained high during this stressful and anxiety-inducing time:
- Inform Staff – The first thing we did was to pull the entire company together on a Zoom call. This out-of-cycle meeting focused solely on the pandemic and our response. We shared our perspective on how this would impact our work and assured them that Oddball was well-positioned to weather potential shifts in the economy. We addressed head-on that working from home with families around would happen (“yes, you’ll probably hear kids in the background”) and explicitly pointed out that this is ok. We even encouraged all staff to feel comfortable using our company Zoom accounts for personal calls/meetings during this time in order to stay connected to friends and family.
- Enhance Communication – Our company lives on Slack, but with a global emergency, over-communication becomes paramount. In addition to covering the typical company communication lines, we also set up specific Slack channels for staff to share information regarding the pandemic. This includes state-level pandemic information, kid-friendly home activities, and additional at-home social opportunities for employees . One example is an optional Oddball video game tournament in an effort to promote social interaction while abiding by various stay-at-home orders.
- Lean into the Challenge – At our first company all-hands meeting after things started to shut down, and knowing that many of us had our kids at home, we invited our families to participate in our meeting. We let each of the kids get on camera and introduce themselves, but we let them leave before diving into business (aka the “boring” stuff). We also used this time to roll out an internal peer-to-peer recognition program that was already in development. What better way to spread positivity with coworkers than to give and receive praise (and points) directly tied to our core values?
- Stay Active – With limited mobility outside of the home, it’s important to try to stay active. To encourage our staff to be physically active, we held various fitness challenges driven by our employees, including a squats challenge and a biking challenge. We also encouraged mental activity by encouraging people to use this time to increase or learn new skills by using their Oddball education funds towards online learning opportunities. Some individuals even went above and beyond their normal responsibilities to build an internal app to organize and track these Oddball fitness challenges.
- Have Fun – It’s no secret that a little fun makes everything better, and as a “strangely human digital agency”, we leaned into what makes us human to help keep us connected. We sent all of our staff new Oddball-branded bluetooth headphones as a surprise while adjusting to more time at home. We also set up a virtual “Bingo” game where each square was an activity requiring team members to perform acts of gratitude, physical activity, personal productivity, or personal reflection. Our first 10 employees to reach bingo received a personal gift certificate as well as a matching Oddball donation to their charity of choice. We also instituted a very special grand prize: if we as a company completed every square on the bingo card within 4 days, Oddball CEO, Travis Sorensen would shave his head during our next company all-hands meeting, which he did! That’s certainly one way to address the issue of how to get a haircut during stay at home orders.
As our team looks forward to the second half of the year with additional stay-at-home orders a real possibility, much of our strategy will have an increased focus on new employees who are onboarding as our company grows. Many of the actions outlined above were fortunate to leverage the strong existing connections that our employees fostered through in-person company retreats, or catching up on personal time. We have received creative and unique ideas from our people — our greatest asset — and will be bringing many of these to life in Q3 as the pandemic rages on.
Oddball is honored to support our government customers, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the U.S Air Force, in combating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all the front line workers: from doctors and nurses to grocery store clerks and delivery people, who continue to work tirelessly during these harrowing times to ensure the rest of us have what we need to get us through the difficulties encountered daily.
How have you and your organizations fostered connection and support during 2020? What will you do differently in the second half of the year?