When COVID broke out in early 2020, Alysson Wilson, Director of People and Culture at Framework Homeownership (Keep’s parent company) found herself, together with CEO Danielle Samalin and a skeleton crew of company leadership, caring for the health and wellness of more than 50 people, both at work and outside of it.
Before having much time to think, Wilson and her cohorts sprang into action to brainstorm and research how to best support the physical and mental health of the Framework staff during a crisis. They made quick decisions to close the office and meet with the entire company weekly via Zoom. Several months later, when a second wave of stress and confusion came along with the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, the team created additional measures to care for everyone’s emotional well-being, too.
“Our priority was, people are not OK, how do we name and normalize what’s going on? How do we give people things that feel completely overly generous in a work environment but that probably are really needed right now?”
The strategy was to truly live by the Framework mission to keep calm and create time to take a breath. How did we execute this? Below are just the official protocols our company adopted during COVID-19 … so far:
- Work from Home Mandate – Framework’s first COVID-related mandate. Out of concern for the health of our employees, it was mandated that our employees work from home as opposed to in a public place, be it the office or a coffee shop.
- Weekly Staff Meetings – We have a weekly Keep It Together all-staff meeting which we start off with a breathing exercise, followed by a share-out or employee spotlight, and words from our CEO. It keeps the employees at our company connected to each other and provides an opportunity for everyone to check in.
- Sacred Time and Flex Time – This started as an idea for a formal way for people take time for themselves during COVID-19. Employees can mark Sacred (no meetings) or Flex (busy but available) on their Outlook calendars. It also allows anyone to say, at any point, “I’m not OK, I don’t have the mental ability to be focused on work right now, and I need to take some time offline.” Staff is also encouraged to work according to their own personal schedules, to make time for self-care and to care for family members.
- No Meeting Fridays – According to a survey in May, Framework employees felt they had too many meetings before COVID and even more during it, but with the added fatigue from Zoom meetings. To address this, Framework opted to keep Fridays clear of company meetings, for all staff. This provides a time every week when no one is missing anything and everyone can focus on their own tasks.
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act – This was a federal response to COVID, which issued a slew of mandates for companies and agencies staffed at 500 or more, including two weeks off of work effective at 15 days of employment. Though Framework had fewer than 50 employees when the Act was passed, we chose to adopt its measures.
- Bill Assistance Program – To address the needs of those with added expenses due to working from home, such as increased heat or internet usage, Framework established a bill assistance program, along with a one-time stipend to pay for supplies.
- Days of No Work – Periodically, we have impromptu office closures to give everyone at the company much-needed, entire days of rest.
From the perspective of a new year, Wilson looks back with pride.
“I got to do my job in a way that matters to me and that’s really in line with my values,” she explains. “It feels like we proved the hypothesis that if you take care of people and if you give employees freedom, they do really good work.”
If anything, the biggest challenge, she laughs, “is that our employees work too hard. Danielle (our CEO) and I just keep asking ourselves, how do we get people to stop working so hard?”
For more on how Keep taps into its core values, dive in here:
- Fresh take: How Keep prioritizes equitable and inclusive research practices.
- Launching the Keep Home App and other highlights from our first year.