The affordable housing provider’s intranet was crucial for keeping people connected and providing a ‘safe space’ during the pandemic

VIVID is one of Hampshire’s largest providers of affordable homes, providing services and support to 72,000 customers in the South. It has over 32,000 homes across Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire and West Sussex with an ambitious target to build 17,000 homes by 2030. At the very heart of the organisation is a commitment to help customers through their financial challenges brought on by the cost of housing, life circumstances and housing sustainability.

As a company with a strong social conscience that nurtures a family-like culture, it’s important for its values and to be lived and breathed in everything it does – both in the community and across the organisation. When the pandemic hit in 2020, VIVID wanted to ensure that all received the practical and emotional support they needed.

Putting people first during the pandemic

To provide its people with the necessary assistance and resources, the organisation looked to its ‘VIV’ intranet, which uses the Engage intranet platform from Sorce. VIV was a hub for information, news and support, however, the pandemic put VIV into the spotlight like never before. The organisation recognised that with the majority of its workforce now working remotely, VIV needed to become a regular ‘go to’ place that would help its 900 employees  remain socially and emotionally connected while providing much-needed mental health support.

“The pandemic enhanced the need for digital agility and connectivity, and for us, this meant using VIV to bring people together, allowing them to collaborate while ensuring they felt part of one big supportive family”, says Sandra Lowman‑Simpson​, Internal Communications Manager from VIVID. “VIV not only needed to provide information, news and updates during a time of rapid change, but more than ever, it had to become ‘The People’s Intranet’ in which the employee voice was prominent and both emotional and mental health support were front of mind.”

VIV comes into its own

To ensure everyone was connected and up-to-date with the latest news during the pandemic, VIV became a hub for everything employees needed to know. Information, which included vlogs from people around the business as well as the chief executive, were regularly shared. VIV is accessible from laptops as well as through an app on mobile devices, meaning that all VIVID’s employees could access VIV from anywhere and at any time.

Emma Prince, Digital Communications Specialist from VIVID says, “As the pandemic evolved, it was really important to provide a transparent and honest exchange of information, especially during times of sudden change. And so, VIV quickly became the home for everything our people needed to know about what was going on across the business and society in general.”

People’s voices were welcomed with frequent blogs from employees across the company. More than 70 employees  from all parts of the organisation – from back-end support staff through to senior managers – regularly uploaded content from their own business divisions, and continue to do so.

With mental health top of mind, VIV became a key wellbeing support resource, making it a safe space for employees to voice their opinion, connect with others and reach out for help. And the intranet proved key to tackling stigma around mental health and other taboo subjects, with VIVID’s team of ‘stigma busters’ initiating and encouraging conversations to combat lockdown burnout and loneliness.

Prince comments, “We increased our focus on mental health support, signposting people to internal and external services, and encouraging open conversations about mental health and other issues affecting society.”

Supporting belonging and honest conversations

VIVID is proud of how its intranet evolved during the pandemic to become the ‘go to’ for information, collaboration and support services, while ensuring its people felt a sense of belonging during a time of isolation. By bringing employees together through VIV, VIVID saw a 28 per cent increase in intranet page views in the first year of the pandemic (March 2020-March 2021).

Employee engagement with VIV’s mental health content also increased by 85 per cent during the pandemic and there was also greater engagement with mental health articles – a marked increase of 85 per cent compared to the same period the previous year. Plus, there was a 25 per cent increase in engagement with mental health blogs, and comments on mental health content increased by 31 per cent.

Lowman-Simpson says, “During a time of global anxiety and uncertainty, our people appreciated honest conversations around mental health and many opened-up, sharing their own personal experiences via the intranet. Our team of stigma busters, were also busy initiating difficult conversations and are continuing to keep these conversations alive.”

The journey continues

VIVID continues to develop the intranet, looking at different ways to keep everyone connected to its values and purpose, while providing a strong sense of belonging, such as by using VIV to engage employees with the company’s charitable initiatives. By sharing and receiving  content, such as the CEO’s monthly broadcasts, this ensures VIVID remains a transparent and friendly place to be.

Lowman-Simpson adds, “The wellbeing of our people, customers and wider community is a top priority. And so being able to evolve VIV in support of this is so important. The intranet is now fundamental to the everyday employee experience, and we can confidently say that VIV has well and truly become our people’s intranet.”