Taking the Pulse of Employees


Every Monday morning, I receive an email that asks me how I am feeling. Because it’s Monday and because it’s morning, I am grateful that I am offered options in the form of emojis, so that all I need to do is click on the one that closest describes how I am feeling.

I might be asked other questions. Perhaps the email will ask me if my time is fully allocated and if I am aware who my mentor is. It might ask me to rate what I am struggling with (with options provided), or it might just thank me for my participation and allow me to get on with my day.

The system, called Pulse, was conceived, according to Synthesis Director Tom Wells, as a way to “help us to gauge any trends that may be surfacing within our team, but also to allow us to pick up on any anomalies within individuals or teams, which can then be actioned through the most appropriate channel”.

Later, as Head of People, I will receive the results for the whole company and I will be able to see not only who is struggling, but who is thriving, and also how we are doing week on week. The system provides me with insight into how people are coping, where the pressure points might be and where to focus.

Although the “Pulse” initiative was started before COVID-19 was imaginable, it is during this time where it has become invaluable to Synthesis as a company. There is little doubt that one of the unintended consequences of the lockdown and of remote working, is the mental and emotional health of employees. A major concern across industries is the possibility of a mental health crisis following the pandemic. In reaction to this observation and in reaction to demand, Synthesis has moved Pulse into a closed beta-testing phase in order to be able to customise it to clients.

A system like Pulse cannot exist in a vacuum. It has to form part of a broader strategy. At Synthesis, we followed a holistic approach which included some of the following:

• We engaged COVID-19 expert Dr. Anton Meyberg to provide short daily updates and facts about the virus, along with a weekly in-depth interview based on questions from the team.
• The already established system of Mentors and Employee Advocates was kicked up a notch in order to check up on staff.
• A channel called #Care+Ona was established where daily challenges are posted. Some of these competitions would involve families and children to create a feeling of community, even in isolation.
• Virtual team coffee, board games and whisky nights were arranged.

An interesting recent survey conducted on Pulse, asked staff to rate their greatest challenges from a list provided. The results (see below) indicate that the majority struggle with being able to “unplug”. This allowed HR and Marketing to work together to provide tips, ideas and insights as to how to assist. It also warns us that should we not deal with this, we could expect potential burnout and other possible ramifications.

There is no perfect strategy to dealing with the multiple unintended consequences of COVID-19 and all it has introduced to the world. That said, it’s imperative to not lose sight of a company’s greatest and most important assets, it’s people. And the best way to do this, in our experience is to take their “Pulse”.

Employees were asked what their biggest challenge is with remote working:

Employees were asked if they would prefer to work from home or the office when lockdown is eased:

Row Labels Count of answer
A combination of the two 61
Work from home 39
Work from the office 2
Grand Total 102

Weekly emotional check-in:

By Howard Feldman, Head of Marketing and People, Synthesis

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