Advertising and ad tech companies are rallying around their employees as their entire workforces move to remote setups.They are experimenting with #WFH Slack channels, virtual group exercise classes and photo contests for the best work-from-home selfie. Some sick employees are even getting food deliveries on the company’s dime.

With people under lockdown, companies are trying to keep office culture intact, spirits high, ease mental and financial strain and have a little fun during a time of unprecedented stress for workers.

Creating a virtual office culture (with pets and kids)

Pets and kids are the newest additions to the workplace – and many employers are embracing them.

Executives are normalizing the presence of kids. Innovid execs are hosting meetings with kids on their laps or showing off their pets.

Goodway Group hosted a half-hour “Family Fun Friday” for employees with kids. It included “music, magic and laughs,” said Jillian Pap, Goodway Group’s people experience director – and a much-needed lighthearted break for taxed working parents.

At agencies F&B NY and The Media Kitchen, employees bring their kids or a glass of wine to end-of-day check-ins. During virtual lunches at PubMatic, employees showcase pets and kids as they eat lunch together, said HR VP Lorrie Dougherty.

Vox Media is hosting a daily story time for parents with kids, courtesy of its parent employee resource group. CEO Jim Bankoff recently joined via Zoom to read stories to families.

Jellyfish offered the services of its IT team to parents who needed to install software for their kids’ online classrooms, said Chief People Officer Marie Raimbert-Galtier.

LiveIntent created Slack groups #the-bark-side, #thedailybaby, #parentsofliveintent and #WFHTipsandTricks, where people can stay positive and productive, said Global Marketing SVP Kerel Cooper.

The New York Times’ advertising team held a “pet parade” for everyone to show off their pets, said Sebastian Tomich, SVP and global head of advertising solutions.

AdExchanger’s editorial team also set up a #wfh-pets-and-kids channel populated by the office’s cats, dogs and kids – all thriving under the new setup.

Efforts to embrace employees’ new work-life balance include practical tips too. Merkle, for example, created an internal microsite with learning resources for parents whose kids are at home – along with a host of other content. Vox Media compiled recommendations for at-home activities, such as virtual museum tours and free online classes, for parents to peruse.

Helping employees stay healthy

What better way to bond virtually with co-workers than take high-intensity interval training classes together? At Cubeiq, employees meet virtually for twice-weekly workout classes.

Some PubMatic teams also set aside time for virtual workout classes. Or a manager will set an “exercise-from-home hour” where everyone is encouraged to take a walk or get active, CEO Rajeev Goel said.

Engine Group started a meditation series Zen@Home. The optional 15-minute sessions offer tips to get through their day with better mental and physical health.

Momentum Worldwide shared access to remote mindfulness, nutrition and fitness experts to support employees, said Chief Talent Officer Jennifer Frieman.

LiveIntent created a teledoc service that offers in-home COVID-19 testing for qualifying employees who swab themselves at home; the tests are sent overnight to a lab for results.

To give teams a break, SpotX’s employee experience specialist will ask questions or do quizzes to help employees get to know each other better. For example, staff submitted baby pictures and had to match the pictures with each employee.

Innovid employees listen to a shared Spotify channel.

Happy hours count as staying healthy, right? Recognizing the importance of socializing, Merkle and other companies host virtual coffee and happy hours.

For after-hours bonding, PubMatic’s HR team hosts a virtual trivia night. SmartyAds encourages teammates to watch TV series together in the evening.

Laughter is often the best medicine. SmartyAds HR told employees to consider using ridiculous virtual backgrounds in Zoom while in meetings to razz co-workers.

‘Expense that’

When SpotX’s head of PR felt under the weather during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the company covered her food delivery until she felt better. The gesture warmed her heart as much as the matzo ball soup, said Communications Director Tammy Goodman.

Merkle distributed printable artwork so people could spruce up their video conferencing backgrounds.

Infutor gave its US employees a $100 Amazon gift card to use it however they saw fit.

While many companies would naturally foot the bill for remote working equipment, such as keyboards or monitors, Facebook, befitting of a deep-pocketed advertising company, gave every employee a $1,000 bonus to equip themselves for their new normal. It also said it would give everyone a top ranking in their performance review, making them eligible for their regular bonuses.

Communication is key

For all the perks and fun that HR is putting together for employees, one of the most critical ways employers can go above and beyond is simple: overcommunicate.

At LiveIntent, that means all-company meetings with executive Q&As every other week, as well as biweekly updates about COVID-19 and the state of its business, Cooper said. Leaders hop onto other teams’ stand-up meetings to lend support to adjacent groups.

Most companies said they are increasing the cadence of their communications to employees. Executive teams are chatting more frequently, and more departmental heads are meeting to collaborate.

With the business situation changing so rapidly, employees value companies that keep them in the loop most of all – with bonus points for companies that cheer them up with work-from-home photo contests, CEO story time and virtual happy hours.

This article was originally published here and is credited and shared with interest during the COVID-19 challenges.