What can employers do to recreate the office experience?
Darcy Carvalho tells us how Product Madness has worked to recreate its office culture and values for remote workers – and why this will continue to be important after the pandemic.

“We are a very stereotypical technology business,” says Darcy Carvalho, People & Culture Business Partner at social and mobile gaming company Product Madness. The company was started in 2007 by two business graduates and now has more than 200 employees.

“We’ve always had a people first approach and prior to Covid, we had all the benefits you’d expect: free healthcare and dental, gym membership, free coffee, ping pong tables and a games room. There was a monthly budget for departments to go out for some team building. Nothing was ever formal – it was very friendly and very familiar.

“We have essentially tried to translate all of what we had to a virtual space – adapting what we had in-office to our working-from-home space.

“Our gym membership transformed into a virtual class membership and we have virtual yoga classes that would have been in the office at lunchtime,” says Darcy. “Instead of our in-house coffee shop, we now supply vouchers and the company runs fun virtual activities.”

Encouraging team-building

In terms of liaising with colleagues, she says: Team outing budgets are now Uber Eats credit – every employee receives £40 per month. They agree on a date to order food in, to do a ‘lunch and learn’ with the whole department. Alternatively, a group can order a cocktail bundle via Uber Eats for after work to have that non-work conversation with their peers.”

On a practical level, the company has helped ensure employees have the equipment they need and are familiar with: “When we were not in lockdown or any tiers, the office manager would arrange for someone to go into the office and send someone’s office chair to their house. During restrictions we also allocated a budget of £250 per individual to go out and buy desks, lamps and chairs. People in tech generally have at least two monitors – if not three or four – so the IT team will post out any hardware.

“We definitely see a very large correlation of investing in our people and the overall profits and revenue of our company – the more we invest, the more we make as a business and the better our games are.”

Retaining new starters

A key part of the company’s focus is the retention of new employees: “We’ve had 50 joiners since last March and we currently have about a hundred roles open. I think it’s especially important for us to somehow show those who have onboarded remotely what our culture is like virtually. They’ll never receive the entire picture, but it’s passing on to these individuals that this is what we do when we’re in the office.”

The business is expecting homeworking to continue beyond the pandemic – so recreating that office environment at home is all the more important. Darcy says:

“We have asked our employees what they’d like to do and around 70 percent wanted a flexible approach of two or three days in the office. We do have a small percentage of people who want to go back five days a week and they will be allowed to do so. We are also considering enabling those who want to stay at home permanently to do that – stereotypically, people in tech are very focused and appreciate their quiet time, we think that this has a large part in it. We hope to be able to provide for all needs.”


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