Owner: Kath Blackham
Industry: Information and communication technology
Kath Blackham’s digital agency Versa had already embraced flexible work when COVID-19 hit, and the pandemic quite simply reinforced the company’s belief that “happy people create outstanding work”.
Versa was founded in 2017 and by 2019 had permanently moved to a four-day working week following a successful trial. The business made a decision to close its office each Wednesday to improve mental health among the team and the results were profound.
“Staff were healthier, happier and more efficient,” says Blackham, and Versa added more clients, rather than losing them.
The agency says it grew its revenue by 46% and tripled its profit.
This put Versa in a position of strength when the pandemic took hold in Australia, but it didn’t rest on its laurels.
The leadership team stepped up its efforts to keep the team connected while working remotely and created a system that involved: daily check-ins on Zoom; random breakout meetings with different staff members on Tuesdays; a buddy system to replicate those lost chats over coffee; breakfast cook-offs; group yoga sessions and the occasional virtual Friday night drinks.
Then there are the Taco Awards. Each Versa employee can give up to five taco nominations to their colleagues each day and the team member with the most tacos at the end of the week gets to spin the Taco Wheel for a prize.
Combined, this people-first culture allowed Versa to help its clients meet the challenges of COVID-19, including new demands for bots and artificial intelligence products for corporate and government contact centres.
“We ramped up work we had already begun in that space and hired more sales staff as we quickly built a reputation for delivering fast, high-quality work that improved customer experience for our clients,” says Blackham.
New team members may not have met their colleagues in person, but Versa’s approach meant they could still get to know each other.
Equally, the buddy system and regular check-ins provided additional support for team members who were isolated or juggling working from home with their children.
Blackham is focused on her team’s mental health and wellbeing and she believes other business owners should be too.
The focus at Versa, she says, is on “helping our work family achieve their life’s work”.
“My staff work high-pressure roles in emerging tech where there is no instruction manual for success, so I made my duty of care to my team my priority,” she explains.
“The freedom and trust I place in them contributes to pride in the agency and a healthier agency culture.”