Business in the Community's Sam Evans speaks to Megan O’Neill, Internal Communications and Engagement Executive at Power NI, about engaging remote staff and how the organisation is making work a little more fun
As we know there are many advantages to working from home, no commute, wearing slippers in meetings, always being there when Amazon arrives. However, one thing that keeps cropping up with companies is they find it so harder and harder to engage staff. Remote working and very little volunteering opportunities has made staff engaging a real uphill task for businesses. One business that seems to be bucking this trend is Power NI. I spoke to Megan O’Neill who runs the ‘Blues Busters’ team dedicated to making work a little more fun.
Tell us more about ‘Blues Busters’? Who runs it? What is its purpose? How long has it been going for?
At Power NI we have had a team of Blues Busters since around 2006. The Blues Busters are a very special team of people from right across our business who work together to make work fun. It is loosely based on the FISH! Philosophy from a Seattle fish market where fish mongers realised they felt more motivated and more productive when they were having fun throwing the fish between them.
As a company we acknowledge the importance of keeping our staff connected and rewarding them for their hard work. Our Blues Busters help us to do this through monthly fun events – it could be a simple competition, a delicious treat or a cash prize; all adding fun and a bit of light relief to the working day. While we have been working remotely for the last year the Blues Busters have really had to rise to the challenge of the ‘virtual’ world and they have really impressed us with their creativity. The BB team currently has 15 members who work collaboratively across Power NI to come up with the ideas and then deliver the monthly events.
Myself and my colleague Gwyneth Compston, manage and support the Blues Busters through their monthly planning sessions, event organisation and staff communications. We recognise that the team go above and beyond their everyday responsibilities to make work fun for everyone else, so we also organise annual team building sessions and treats for the team to help make sure that they feel rewarded and enjoy fun together too.
Tell us some of innovative things the ‘Blues Busters’ are doing.
The team have come up with some amazing ideas this year to help beat the blues during Covid-19. For the most part, we have had a mix of employees working from home while others have been in the office but more recently, we have mostly all been working at home. Last year when we still had staff working from our Antrim and Omagh offices the BB team created the ‘Blues Busters Airbus’, which took staff on a journey to different locations celebrating the local food and culture. They had a Disney day, where everyone (including senior management) was encouraged to dress up and enjoy some fun during their working day, they also ‘visited’ Paris and Australia and even sent each other virtual postcards. Our Belfast Blues Busters also came up with an amazing idea last year which also helped to support local businesses across NI – our ‘Lockdown Lucky Dip’. This had a positive effect on our staff and each week we encouraged them to think positively about what new hobbies they had been doing during lockdown, what restaurants had they been ordering from as well as to tell us about what local shops and suppliers they had been supporting. We picked some weekly winners at random and then arranged for a lovely locally supplied gift to be delivered to their home. It was so successful that we did it again at Christmas and throughout the year we had over 800 staff responses and helped to support over 50 local businesses.
If you had to pick a favourite idea of the ‘Blues Busters’ what would it be.
Oh there’s just too many to only pick one, but if I could give a top 3 it would be:
- The TikTok Olympics – this is where we challenged staff to create TikTok videos and post them on our internal social network site, Blink. Staff of all ages got involved and it was nice to see friends and colleagues who you hadn’t seen in a while due to working remotely. Some of the videos really made me giggle and certainly lifted spirits!
- I also really enjoyed our ‘more miles, more smiles’ competition where we challenged staff to get out and about and submit their weekly step total to win some cash prizes. This one had a great response from staff, and it was also nice to know we were encouraging people to get active and exercise while they were at home.
- My third choice but one of my favourites was ‘The Blues Busters Cash Call’ – yep, using Cool FM’s amazing money giveaway idea we advertised a generous, tricky to remember amount internally to staff in January 2021. The main idea behind this event was ‘Blue Monday’ and in order for staff to enter they had to submit a joke or a positive quote to be in with a chance of winning. We received over 200 entries and were blown away by the level of excitement we created. The lucky winner was from our Belfast office but, he wasn’t our first call of the night! We were able to record the call to the winner and hosted it on our intranet site for everyone to watch, gaining such a buzz from staff all over the wider organisation who tuned in to see who won the cash call.
Why do you think it’s vital companies engage staff?
Our staff are what keep us going as a business and it is important to us that we make them feel valued, connected and appreciated. Blues Busters is our way of really showing our staff that it is ok to have fun while you work and that has never been more important than over the last year. Our most recent Blues Busters event, ‘Share the Love’, in February encouraged staff to nominate the colleague they couldn’t live without. Over 200 staff got involved, sending a special word of thanks to their friends across the business; helping to keep them connected, feeling valued and sharing the love. Blues Busters events not only bring fun to the organisation but also promote collaboration across teams and keep people motivated. In a recent Blues Busters survey, staff used words like ‘included’, ‘excited’ and ‘appreciated’ when describing how our events make them feel – and to me, that makes it more than worthwhile!