How News UK protected and connected employees during lockdown

News UK won the ‘internal communications’ category at The Drum PR Awards 2020 with its employee wellbeing campaign in response to lockdown. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveal the challenges faced and strategies used to deliver this successful campaign.

The challenge

News UK is a 24/7 business, reaching millions on digital radio, while The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times reach 43.4m on digital platforms every month. We have people based in London, Peterborough, Manchester, Scotland, Dublin and ROI.

Our strategy to protect and connect colleagues followed the abrupt moment of change forced upon us all by coronavirus. Its implications changed the way colleagues lived their lives, altered their ways of working, and compromised their wellbeing. Our objectives were to maintain our vital services without interruption, while protecting our people, helping them cope and keeping them connected.

The strategy

Our initial priority was to make sure clear information was shared with our people. Gold and Silver Emergency Response created a clear plan, informed by the latest government advice and leaders from each of our business units and locations. In line with this, we up-weighted all regular digital communications - with leadership communicating daily at first to make sure staff had the latest information.

The second part of our strategy was to ensure people stayed informed on operational implications – but were also given the tools to cope in their new normal. This included launching a ‘ways of working’ survey and a mental health check-in to ensure voices were heard and issues were identified.

The campaign

New initiatives were launched to connect people within the business, including a daily ‘News United’ email, sharing inspirational stories and Wellness Wednesdays – led by our existing Wellness Working Group – providing a series of weekly digital events across themed on nutrition, mental, physical and financial wellbeing.

On local levels, weekly Huddles were introduced for teams to hear from leaders and shine a spotlight on all the amazing work being done, and monthly Town Halls offered opportunity for people to openly ask questions of our leaders.

This was a cross-disciplinary project that involved all teams around the business that includes HR, comms, exec, editorial, commercial and marketing teams.

We also undertook a simple weekly digital mental health check in offered to all staff, with those identifying issues being contacted for 1-2-1 support. We introduced and heavily promoted Wellness Wednesdays - led by our existing Wellness Working Group - providing a series of digital events across themed on nutrition, mental, physical and financial wellbeing. Events included:

  • Cookalong with vegan chef represented by The Fifth;
  • Dear Deidre on how to maintain relationships through lockdown;
  • Times Money Mentor on investment, mortgages and money.

We also ran a series of focused events through Mental Health Awareness Week, including coffee catch-ups to help people make connections across the business. We also organised regular interactive online exercise classes including running club, 2 HIIT and 5 Yoga classes each week

We refocused our Learning & Development offer, adapting programmes to run remotely - freeing our people to make time to learn during lockdown with learning paths across different departments and introducing new training on managing remotely and coping with change.

We ensured our diversity and inclusion networks continued with newsletters and virtual events including a company-wide interactive quiz for World Cultural Diversity Day.

The results

Each week, 320 staff attend our HIIT, yoga and virtual running classes. Monthly, 5,000 people engage with our wellness content, from mindful running tips, to advice on recognising mental health issues. 610 hours have been invested in Wellness Wednesday workshops - covering everything from relationship advice with Dear Deidre to managing your money with Times Money Mentor.

Feedback from colleagues included:

“They have made us all feel comforted in the knowledge that they are there for us if and when we need it.”

“Since lockdown, News UK has put its employees first and has gone above and beyond to support its staff which has reassured and motivated its commercial department during this tough period.”

This project was a winner at The Drum PR Awards 2020. To find out which Drum Awards are currently open for entries, click here.