On 28 October 2020, the French government announced a second lockdown. Nonetheless, we were confident that we would be able to continue working in our offices. After the first wave of COVID-19, the offices were totally revamped to implement all the necessary measures to protect the health and safety of our employees. New habits were adopted: teams began coming in according to a rotating work schedule to avoid overcrowding the space, hand disinfectant stations were installed at the entrance and other key places in the building, employees wore masks, and meetings were held online to enable social distancing avoid. All of these habits have since become second nature and are now part of the day-to-day here at Qonto.
Despite the efforts made by most companies, France’s health situation remains unstable has failed to improve, and we had to prepare ourselves for a second lockdown.
First, we had to manage uncertainty: how long will we be in lockdown for? How do we support our teams emotionally? How do we ensure team unity? Can we continue working on ongoing projects remotely? Will we be able to continue recruiting and welcoming new colleagues?
Also, the teams were worried mainly about having to isolate again. Our role as an employer is paramount: to reassure the teams and organize our work as best as we can in order to preserve our teams’ physical and mental health. We must also, as much as possible, keep our operations running to meet the needs of our customers and continue our growth. We must also ensure that the culture at Qonto, as well as the engagement and motivation of our teams, remains intact.
Our teams’ overall experience with the first lockdown has made the roll-out easier this time around, with a few changes and improvements anticipated for the second lockdown. Below are the 3 key measures that Qonto has implemented as part of its COVID Plan - Phase 2:
- Communication and modifications to workplace conditions
- Support and motivation for teams
- Changes in recruitment and onboarding processes
1. Communication and modifications to workplace conditions
Capitaine : Office Manager (Alicia)
Qonto’s COVID Plan - Phase 2 has been launched. The first major step is to ensure that all the different stakeholders (especially management) are on the same page in terms of the adopted measures and that all information is centralized and accessible to everyone at any time.
At Qonto, we work primarily with Notion (online intranet):
We must also keep teams informed in real time to provide them with as many details as possible on how they can and must prepare in order to reassure them. To do so, Qonto alternates between detailed e-mails and instant messaging on Slack:
This communication shall be maintained for the entire duration of the lockdown. This reminds the team of certain good practices to help this distancing and virtualization of the workplace go smoothly for everyone.
The office layout has been critical since the beginning of this second wave. In addition to the layout and the rules set out since the start of the COVID-19 crisis—such as, for example, limiting the number of people in each space, particularly the dining area (maximum of 4 people per table at a distance of over 1 meter), or more thorough daily cleaning of the space—Qonto is evolving from “optional telework” to “mandatory telework” as requested by the French government.
To support the teams and guarantee the best possible working conditions, Qonto has provided screens, keyboards and any other necessary IT equipment to set up a functional telework station.
2. Support and motivation for teams
It is crucial that we rise up to the challenges of preserving a strong team dynamic, enhancing cohesion, and supporting managers and all employees as best we can through this difficult time. This is especially important for a company like Qonto which, despite the economic crisis, has experienced significant growth, having welcomed more than 100 new team members since February 2020 (freelancers included).
1st Captain: Happiness Manager - (Julien)
Qonto has a plan to keep teams motivated on two levels: “DIY” activities created and organized directly by our Happiness Manager, with regular challenges such as the Qontomoji Championship (emoji riddles) becoming a must-see event for the teams. Photo contests have also been a big hit among teams (pet photos, selfie with a celebrity, the best dish of the day, etc.). Over half of the employees participate in these activities.
In addition to these challenges, Qonto keeps the team in good spirits by creating as many opportunities to gather virtually as possible:
- daily open e-coffee,
- e-afterwork party on Thursdays,
- e-blindtest or other games (Use Your Words, Among Us)
For this second lockdown, Qonto also wanted to provide an even better experience to its teams, primarily through a new partnership with a platform (Nouveaux Bosseurs) that offers two weekly online activities focusing on well-being, physical activity and creativity (meditation, yoga, DIY workshops). These activities help people from different teams enjoy a moment away from the computer together for a more “physical” project. The goal is to help the teams relax and unplug after a long day of teleworking.
These activities have been very successful. Although the number of participants per activity has been limited (and we often see the same people volunteering), seeing this level of excitement and energy in the company spreads waves of positivity to the majority.
2nd Captain: People Development Manager - (Pia)
Sadly, the psychosocial risks are even greater in this new context. The HR and management teams are keeping a close eye on employees, collectively and especially individually, to minimize the risks and prevent potential burn-out as much as possible, as these cases tend to spike during isolation.
Since managers are on the front lines with the teams, they have been given extensive advice on how to maintain communication and team unity. In particular, they are encouraged to organize discussions with their team members to check up on morale:
- Organization of the Daily Meeting, a short meeting in the morning to start the day off and keep team members up to date on the day’s wins and priorities. This is an opportunity for the manager to gauge how things are going!
- Organization of virtual coffee breaks between teams and individually, for an opportunity to disconnect from work for a moment and talk with colleagues informally.
Since the first lockdown, Qonto has been working closely with Moka.Care, a digital platform that connects employees with psychologists and certified coaches for private face-to-face or virtual consultations. Other players have also begun offering psychological support for employees, including certain occupational health organizations and even the health insurance provider Alan, which provides free hotlines.
Finally, for this second lockdown, the entire HR team has mobilized (including recruiters) to ensure personalized follow-up for every team member. An HR representative will speak with each and every Qonto employee to touch base and ensure that everything is going well in terms of workload, remote collaboration with other teams, mental health and well-being.
The objective is to determine whether or not certain adjustments are necessary (office equipment, team organization, return to the office, etc.). Of course, this follow-up will also help provide feedback on the way Qonto is handling this second wave overall.
3. Changes in recruitment and onboarding processes
Captain: Lead Talent Acquisition - (Marjorie)
Qonto’s growth has continued upward despite the crisis: new customers like our 100% online service offering, available at a competitive price, with a number of services to make banking and finance management easier for self-employed professionals, micro businesses and SMEs. This success places a significant demand on recruitment, and Qonto has 50 or so positions to fill by the end of 2020.
To respond to this need, the recruitment team must adapt to the current context and deal with two challenges in particular:
- Wide-reaching communication and letting people know that Qonto is recruiting
- Adaptation of its recruitment processes to ensure the lockdown is no hinder to progress.
The first challenge is one of communication: the Marketing & Communications team has been working tirelessly to ensure extensive press coverage on the subject, and the recruitment team has been posting regularly to social media (mainly LinkedIn) to advertise job openings. Our messages have been modified on most platforms and in our e-mails to candidates advising them that the lockdown has had no impact on our recruitment efforts and that we are taking action to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
The second challenge is the adaptation of our recruitment processes. Our goal is to reassure potential candidates, who may be feeling more uneasy about a career change during this period. Indeed, the uncertainty over the next few months has everyone on edge. In response, the Qonto team has brought a sort of “human touch” to the process to help candidates see how they fit into Qonto’s culture more easily.
First, all interviews are scheduled as videoconferences in order to maintain a sense of connection despite our inability to meet face to face. An interview guide was developed during the first lockdown and was quite popular among recruiters. The goal was to offer advice on how to conduct a successful 100% digital recruitment process. The team went one step further and proactively sent photos or videos of the offices to the candidates, unable to visit them in person. Once again, such actions help the candidates to imagine themselves working at Qonto.
Finally, the onboarding program was also adapted in light of the current situation. Every two weeks, Qonto organizes a group welcome event to kick off a rather intense week of integration activities. For the first morning, the new recruits arrive in person to collect their IT equipment. All of the remaining sessions are virtual.
In conclusion, this second lockdown is unfolding more smoothly in terms of organization and logistics thanks to the lessons learned from the first lockdown. Nevertheless, all businesses—but especially new companies or those in a period of growth like Qonto—must remain vigilant and ramp up efforts to keep teams motivated and engaged over the long term.
Although our teams have exhibited an incredible ability to adapt quickly, we look forward to a return to business as usual so we can all be together again. 💜