During the initial stages of the COVID lockdown, we started Absolutely Refreshed. Read on to find out what the outreach was all about and how it’s impacted our employees’ morale.

When COVID-19 hit our area, we reacted like anyone else:  Fear. Uncertainty. Loneliness. After a hasty transition to working from home, we missed our work teams. As pretty much the entire world has found, in-person interactions don’t always have the same flavor when they’re delivered over a twitchy online video platform. Even though these tools kept us connected as a working team, the sense of camaraderie and friendship wasn’t as strong as usual.

So, we set up Absolutely Refreshed, a special two-month program to help our employees:

  • Stay engaged with colleagues across the organization – something that had fallen off sharply when we moved to telework.
  • Ease into working from home, which was new to almost everyone.
  • Have informal, non-work-related conversations.
  • Relieve some of the boredom of quarantine, especially for those who were staying away from family.
  • Get some relief from the stress and negativity of COVID uncertainty.
  • Relax, interact, and have fun together!

Absolutely Refreshed Activities 

During Absolutely Refreshed, we conducted a regular roster of activities to help employees feel connected and beat the lockdown blues. These included:

  • The Happy Mind = Happy Soul Challenge – A 7-day mental wellness exercise plan; each day had a specific technique to help build serenity and resilience.
  • WFH Corner Photography – Since WFH had become our ‘new normal’, we wanted our employees to feel good about the space they were working in. The goal was to get them to spruce up their working area and then take a picture to share with everyone. As an added bonus, others could get inspiration for making over their own workspaces.

  • Bollywood Quiz – How well do you know Bollywood actors and films? This fun event drew a big crowd and lots of participants. Plus, it was a nice mental escape from the stress and boredom of lockdown.
  • Count Your Blessings – Gratitude is a known stressbuster, so we incorporated this activity into our plans. It was completely directed towards showing (and talking about) the things that we are grateful for. It was a nice antidote to all the sad and anxious news bombarding us. We received some amazing responses in the form of poems, pictures, and articles.
  • WFH Funny Video Contest – Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. And sometimes, you can’t plan for the crazy things that happen! So we encouraged employees to send in funny videos of the WFH challenges they’d never imagined. It was both a good laugh and a reminder that, hey, we’re all in this together.

As much fun as we had coming up with these ideas, we wanted to be sure our fellow employees enjoyed them as well. So, here’s the million-dollar question:

How Did This Initiative Go?

Leena Jacob, our HR Business Partner was one of the key member in organizing these initiatives. She shared the backstory on this whole project – including what we did and how everyone responded.

Q.Given that you were in lockdown, how did you plan specific activities?

A.Prior to lockdown, we had Fun Fridays that were either planned along with our various employee clubs or by the Talent team as an independent activity. For the new situation, the idea was to find activities that could be done virtually. To do this, the Talent team (and club members, if it’s related to their club interest) would brainstorm various ideas, identify how the entire event should flow, set up guidelines, etc. Mailers were prepared and sent out in advance to create excitement. Of course, we worked hard to choose things that our employees find engaging!

Q.That sounds like a lot of work! Why do so much to make Fun Fridays and other activities virtual?

A.We wanted to bring everybody together (virtually), have a fun time, and take a break from our hectic schedules. And Fun Fridays make a good start to the weekend!

Q.How are lockdown Fun Fridays different from the in-person version?

A.Lockdown Fun Fridays are a bit more challenging. For one thing, it’s the first time we needed to identify activities that could be conducted virtually for the entire organization. Plus, we wanted to draw good participation from employees and ensure everyone leaves feeling happy and refreshed. This really required us to put on our creative hats.

For example, physical events in the office would usually have higher participation rates. Employees would pull in their friends and colleagues or just stand around and watch others participate. The fun and laughter would then attract more people to join. But you don’t get this effect during virtual events – we’re not close enough to hear everyone laugh like in the office!

Q.Is it a challenge to get participation from people in online activities?

A.Yes, to an extent. During the WFH situation, the number of calls and virtual meetings has gone up. Employees do sometimes get caught up with deliverables. And, as we mentioned above, it’s not as easy to rope in others when they can’t physically see or hear the fun and laughter drawing them in. Our Talent team and core club members went the extra mile to encourage employees to participate.

Q.How was the response? Were the activities a success?

A.When we started, participation was on the low side. But as we progressed, we thought of different ways to increase virtual participation and our numbers increased.

What Happened After Absolutely Refreshed?

Absolutely Refreshed was a two-month project to boost our employee morale in the face of an almost unimaginable situation. Our goal was to bring fun and friendship into their homes virtually, showing that our ties are stronger than COVID. And this came with a bonus: once we figured out how to run virtual events, we didn’t want to stop! We got into a regular flow of doing weekly activities, usually virtual Fun Fridays. We also re-activated our various interest clubs and helped them develop virtual activities. Our next post will share all the details, so join us then!