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The Pandemic & Me: Bede Gaming

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

The pandemic has affected everyone is so many different ways. There have been opportunities as well as limitations but we've all had to adapt quickly to this new way of life for business.

In this series, Footprints Consulting interviews a number of different people across the region. They represent all stages of the hierarchy, a breadth of sectors and provide insight into how their companies are dealing with our "new normal".

In this edition, we catch up with Eileen Wood, People Specialist at Bede Gaming, a software supplier to the online gambling industry who were recently acquired by German conglomerate, The Gauselmann Group. Bede employs around 230 members of staff in offices across the UK, Canada and Bulgaria.

FC: How would you describe your role as People Specialist in Bede?

EW: I look after everything to do with the attraction and retention of staff, ensuring we capture great talent and keep them happy and engaged throughout their career at Bede.

FC: Have you had to adapt drastically to restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic?

EW: We’re very lucky at Bede, we’ve always had the option to work remotely when needed - so we’re well equipped to do so. Everything we need to do our jobs is online, which has made the transition to 100% remote working pretty seamless.

FP: What changes have you had to make?

EW: We’re a people focused organisation, whether it’s our clients or our employees we really value interactions and welcoming people into our space. We’ve missed not being able to hold meetings and interviews in our offices, but we’ve learned to adapt and engage better through our video conferencing tool Google Hangouts (now Google Meet). It’s always been a crucial communication tool at Bede, but now we have much more of a focus on how we emulate the benefits of face to face interactions.

We’re also trying to listen a lot more, the pandemic has been such a fluid situation and has affected each of us differently. We want to ensure we have our finger on the pulse and know how we can support our staff.

FC: How has it affected staff?

EW: Obviously the pandemic has affected everyone differently, but as a team I think our staff have really missed the interactions, fun and collaboration that our offices cultivate. You really take for granted those moments you have making a cuppa in the kitchen, or chatting over lunch.

It’s also been a huge adjustment, despite always having the option to work remotely when we need to, it has felt like our wings have been clipped. Working remotely has always been a great way of ensuring you can remain productive around the demands of life outside of work, whereas now we’re trying to remain productive whilst juggling life at home. We’re lucky that our leadership team understands this though; they too have been juggling homeschooling, ​learning to cook​ and work.

FC: What are you doing to keep in contact with staff?

EW: We use some great tools to stay in touch with our staff, Slack being our favourite! So they’ve been pretty crucial to stay in touch. We also resorted to an old favourite throughout the pandemic and sent out ‘positivity postcards’, which were really well received by staff. We’re all so focused on being online and connecting digitally at the moment, we felt it was a nice way to cut through the noise and connect with our staff.

FC: Have you had any mental health issues with staff or yourself?

EW: We have a very open approach to Mental Health at Bede, so staff know they have our full support if things get too much. The pandemic has certainly presented some new challenges, but we work with staff members individually when they need our support and find ways that work for them.

I think the biggest challenge has been separating work and home life. We’ve lost the ability to compartmentalise and leave work at work and home at home - now they’re all in one place!

FC: Has it forced you to change any HR/engagement practices?

EW: We’ve definitely had to adapt, particularly when it comes to engagement. Managing home life alongside work can have a huge impact on that. However, the biggest challenge has been adapting our recruitment, we’ve always favoured a no frills face to face chat but now we’ve had to move it online. It’s always been about the paper (CV) as well as the person for us, and sometimes video conferencing can make it difficult to get a sense of someone's personality - especially if they’re nervous! We have enjoyed exploring tools and methods though, there will definitely be some that are here to stay.

FC: Do you think it’ll change HR practices in the future?

EW: I think it is going to have a huge impact, certainly for organisations who weren’t as digitally forward. Being forced to adapt has forced many organisations to understand the benefits of flexible working, digital tools and trusting their employees. We have been lucky enough to experience this pre-COVID-19, but now it feels like the norm.

FC: What positive changes do you hope the pandemic will force businesses to make?

EW: I think organisations will now be more open minded with their recruitment and working practices, the restrictions of location are disappearing and organisations can now unlock a lot more potential when it comes to talent & productivity.

FC: How do you stay motivated at work - strict routine or break when you need to?

EW: It’s been a challenge finding my groove, the first few weeks I tried everything I could to differentiate work mode and home mode; the yoga phase didn’t last long! I put a lot of pressure on myself to find the perfect routine that would ensure maximum productivity, but in the end I found that keeping to the routine just added to my daily tasks. I’ve found that being intuitive to how I’m feeling works a lot better for me, if I’m losing focus I'll go for a walk or do some exercise. If i’m having a particularly productive day and really in the zone, I won’t stop my day just because it’s 5.30pm, and I'm not too hard on myself if there are some days where I’m not as productive. I think it’s all about balance, we have to remind ourselves we are in a pandemic, so it’s okay if there are days where we’re less productive.

FC: How are you coping with the cross over of business and personal life?

EW: It’s not been easy at times, especially when work is a bit crazy. Having my own workspace has definitely helped, my partner has been furloughed so it took a while to adjust to having someone in the house who wasn’t working.

FC: What have you surprisingly missed about “the old ways”?

EW: I think the interactions, if you’d have told me a year ago we’d be working from home for 5 months and talking to our family, friends and colleagues over video calls - I’d have laughed. It’s great we can do so much online, but you just can’t beat a face to face chat and hug with your mum.

FC: Is there anything you wouldn’t go back to?

EW: As I have said, we’ve been lucky enough to benefit from flexible/remote working at Bede - but I think it’s non-negotiable for organisations now. Working environments where being at your desk and clock in/clock out times are definitions of your worth, seem almost Draconian now.

FC: Have you got plans to go back to the office and if so, when?

EW: At the moment we have no fixed plans, we’re monitoring the situation day by day. The safety of our staff is paramount to us, so we won’t be rushing back unnecessarily. We’re keen for office life to resume for all of its benefits and to see our staff in the flesh again, but there will be no pressure for anyone to return until they feel comfortable doing so.

FC: How do you think HR in companies can better reach their staff when not in the office?

EW: I’m a huge advocate of Slack & Teams, they’re a great way to stay connected. I think the best approach though is to be as open as possible, keep informing staff where you can and give them the means to contact you easily should they need to. I can be on a video call within minutes of a staff member messaging me, I think having the ability to do that really counts.

FC: How optimistic about the future are you?

EW: I’m optimistic that things are going in the right direction, looking back on the last five months we’ve overcome a lot as a nation, a workforce and a family - and I think we’ll continue to do so. I think we’re all living in hope that 2021 will be a much better year.

Thanks Eileen! It's great to see how a modern HR model empowers workers in a hugely successful business. We know you have since returned to your north west roots and are now bringing your refreshing take on HR & talent acquisition to the Kairos Group. We wish you every success and know that you'll continue helping businesses adapt for the future.

Our next guest blog in this series brings some great insight from the finance sector. Keep your eyes out for the next installment.

How are you dealing with the "new normal"? What are your tips for flexible working or extreme adaptations? Let us know in the comments.

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