In an endless stream of administrative job postings, one titled “Office Experience Coordinator aka Happiness Hero” stood out, especially amidst a global pandemic.
I couldn’t believe such a role existed, or one that could be more perfect for:
But, what is an office experience coordinator supposed to coordinate if we’re not experiencing life in the office?
On my first day on the job, I didn’t report to our office in Montreal. Instead, I set up the laptop that had been delivered to me at my dining room table and began the onboarding process remotely.
To the credit of my colleagues, it really was a smooth operation. It felt no different than the in-person orientations I’ve experienced at the start of other jobs. Everything was streamlined and efficient. Coffee breaks and meet & greets expertly scheduled, training built-in very thoughtfully. But how do you really train for an office administration position when there is no office? I realized very early on that I was forging a new path - this job wasn’t just new to me, but would be new to everyone who was adjusting to our remote working reality.
As a Happiness Hero, my job is first and foremost to make sure that the team is indeed happy. We treat people as people and we care about our people. Really care. So my first challenge was to build a rapport with all these lovely people without having ever having met them in the office or worked alongside them in the flesh.
In an instant (message)
Like many companies that are working remotely right now, we rely on Slack to help us connect with our colleagues. Not only do we use Slack to talk about work-related topics but we also use it to connect on a human level. We started numerous new channels like Riddles during Quarantine, Foodies (where we share recipes and meal pics), Gamers, Sports, Gardening, and Art & Creative Outlets. We host a weekly Game o’ Clock where we catch up and play online games all together like Among Us, Heads Up, Scribbl (think Pictionary), Gibberish, etc.
These instant messaging channels sprung up at a time when we needed to maintain and adapt our company culture and closeness from afar. I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I really do feel connected to my teammates even if I’m alone at my computer.
When I first started, some of my co-workers asked if it was weird to be beginning a job without being in an office. It truly hasn’t felt odd. I’ve always believed I can do the best I can with what I have, wherever I am.
It works for Tinder
In fact, I think I have stronger bonds with people because I’ve had no choice but to interact exclusively on the Internet. I’m not a shy individual but it could be awkward to walk up to someone and ask about their life, interests, etc. if they’re not as keen a sharer as I might be.
From my keyboard, I have the liberty to giddily include GIFs and talk about all sorts of things that provide me greater insight into their personalities than a few run-ins at the watercooler ever could.
Not only am I getting glimpses into their disposition, I’m actually a guest in their home and them in my mine.
I’ve met many cats, dogs, plants, and babies digitally. I’ve seen how and with who people live and gained more insight into my new crew than I ever could have in the office. As a Happiness Hero, it’s a rare opportunity and could not make me any happier.
Working from “Om”
I started a daily meditation channel where a group of us take 10 minutes out of our day to listen to guided meditation together. Personally, I am a big fan of Headspace so that is the platform we use while I share my screen and audio. I hope to continue this mindful practice in a conference room once life in the office resumes.
We have a 15-minute workout every day to ensure our teammates are taking breaks and getting up from their desks and stretching. If we were in the office, we would be more likely to get up and move around, go for walks, chat in the kitchen or stop by someone’s desk while putting in some steps. Self-care is so important in general, but especially during these months of social isolation.
One meeting to rule them all
A big part of keeping our staff engaged and connected is our weekly staff meetings. I’ve worked in places where a company-wide town hall would occur every so often. A monotone rambling of stats, numbers, and achievements washing over the staff all the while we’re thinking about lunch or the myriad of things on our to-do list.
At Jonar, we have a weekly assembly where Jon, our CEO, updates us on what’s happening across the company. This staff meeting would normally be done in the office with all of us gathered together in one spot, but the video conferencing version is all I’ve known.
Jon doesn’t talk to us, he talks with us. It’s an interactive exchange where everyone is encouraged to speak up and they often do. Once he is done, he hands it over to me to lead a staff activity. These activities are not just typical icebreaker stuff, but well thought out and planned with my HR counterparts.
They always involve something impactful, educational, or just plain fun. These activities were a tradition long before I started, so it’s no easy task to come up with creative ideas and new concepts to keep everyone engaged. Especially over computer screens!
While these weekly meetings are important to keep everyone connected, they do come with challenges. In-person, you can read people’s body language but while working from home, you can’t really read head & shoulder language. With 50+ faces in tiny thumbnails spread over a few clicks worth of screens, it’s a challenge to see if people have checked out or not.
Speaking of seeing, then there are staff members that for a variety of reasons choose to turn off their camera (distractions in the background, unstable Wi-Fi, etc.) and remain present solely with audio.
During my short tenure so far, I’ve worked to overcome these challenges by finding different ways to get quality facetime. I dubbed something called Quarantheme inventions where we sent the team off into smaller groups using Breakout Rooms in Zoom to come up with product ideas to overcome challenges we’ve faced during social distancing. I’ve tasked them to personalize a virtual background using the design website Canva. In an effort to recruit more participants in the meditation group, I had all 50+ of us sit through a 10-minute beginner’s meditation session.
Culture during COVID-19
One of the things that appealed to me most when I was thinking about applying for a job at Jonar was something I read on the company website: “We’re always pushing the boundaries of what we know and what we’re comfortable with. Tackling big problems and facing difficult jobs isn’t so scary when you have a team behind you that’s always got your back. At Jonar, we’re more than just a bunch of co-workers. We’re friends. We’re a family. We’re a crew. And that makes our work even better.”
COVID-19 has changed how and where we do our jobs. Organizations across the world have had to find solutions to make remote working possible. Jonar is no different. Where we are different is that management has put in an incredible effort to maintain and grow all of the in-office customs and pleasantries.
I’ve been at Jonar for eight months and during this time, I’ve attended several webinars hosted by Fortune 500 companies about how to navigate remote working during the pandemic. What has brought me so much joy is how Jonar stacks up against these big companies and how we have raised the bar for employee engagement and wellness.
Not only was I lucky enough to find my dream job but I was fortunate enough to find it during a time when other companies are laying off employees, introducing salary cuts, implementing hiring freezes, etc.
This is a company with heart. Heart that can be felt even through a computer screen and should be a model for other organizations to take note of.