During lock-down we’ve all found ourselves exploring new hobbies - Blocket, Sweden’s premiere e-marketplace platform, has been there to provide.
During May, almost 109 million visits were made to Sweden's largest marketplace, Blocket. The figure is a top listing and the second highest in Blocket's more than 20-year history for a single month. The sales rate for second-hand goods was also at peak levels during the month with popular products to buy were garden equipment, bicycles and boats.
“We see a great demand for things to do with 'hemester'. Things for the home as well as an active lifestyle are also good. Many people are buying training gadgets right now, ”says Block's CEO Pernilla Nissler.
Behind this growing platform are people. People who work tirelessly, in increasingly difficult circumstances, to meet the skyrocketing demand. We spoke to two leaders from Blocket to explore the human side of Blocket’s growth, how they have engaged with their teams and how they’re getting the most from technical teams who had no traditional work from home policy.
“We are Always Leaning on Our Values”
Andreas Bengtsson, Chief Offering Officer at Blocket, places significant stock on the values at Blocket which he believes enabled them to swiftly respond to the market and continue business as usual.
“We responded fast and executed on WFH before the government asked us to. We took that decision in the morning and we were at home in the afternoon. We were leaning on our company values - one of which is to take responsibility. Everyone is enabled to work from home so we took the responsibility there.”
Responsible for Blocket’s core marketplaces, business development, product development and revenues, Andreas has 50 direct reports and over two years experience with the company. For him, the importance of keeping staff engaged while they work distributed has been key. A big win for him and Blocket, was the quick decision making around what digital platforms they were going to use to communicate through.
“We quickly defined the two platforms we were going to use - Slack and Whereby. There was no confusion. These were the two.”
This decision was a savvy one. With no unified front on which tools are being used, teams will silo themselves - and that can be damaging to moral at even the best of times.
Research from project management software provider Wrike shows that a general sense of chaos can contribute to feelings of dissatisfaction. It found that 18 percent of millennials, 12 percent of Generation X workers, and 8 percent of baby boomers had quit a job out of frustration due to lack of operational efficiency at work.
Blocket’s single-minded focus on their core value of taking responsibility extended outside of the confines of their own business.
“We also asked ourselves, as a business, what can we do to help Sweden and the communities around Sweden during this crisis? We made Ad’s free for those who were posting in Public Health space. We also did the same for some hotel chains, who were of course struggling, they got the opportunity to show their rooms as long term rentals.”
This created a great sense of purpose and a great point of engagement for Blocket employees who can see their company taking positive steps in the wider community during crisis times.
Challenging Working From Home Mindsets
Andreas Ornerstig is Tech Lead at Blocket. The person “between the product and the tech team”, Andreas works in an experimental team which pulls resources and talent from other teams to work on projects.
For his team, which currently consists of 6 developers, 1 PM and 2 UX designers, had tried a few different home working policies before the advent of COVID-19.
“We didn’t have a global working from home policy before, but we had something we had tried in a few different technical teams before. Mainly it had to do with lowering the threshold for being working remote.”
Before COVID-19 working from home was done out of necessity or circumstance. For some, working from home may have even been a welcome break from the commute. But as many people now realise, the reality is quite different. Working from home can be quite a challenge.
But why? Research in occupational health psychology suggests one important answer which is all about self-control – the ability to suppress intruding thoughts, behaviours, and emotions which are not relevant or helpful for achieving a goal. Indeed, working from home effectively requires an entire mindset shift - something that Andreas is keen to address through seamless communication and an ‘always available’ mindset.
“It may feel strange at the beginning to always have the camera on, but it’s really important.
You have to think of it as still being your desk at work. Just because you’re broadcasting your home through a camera doesn’t mean people are going to suddenly start staring at you. By being there all the time, it’s super easy for someone to knock on your room and ask a question.”
Changing that mindset was an early challenge, but everyone got on board quickly with that. The whole thing is about making yourself available. Going into the future it’s important that this remains.
“Say for example you’re a team of 4 working on the same project, 3 of you are in the office and one of them are at home. I believe it’s still important that project focused communication continues through digital platforms because it brings the entire team together.”
Enabling and Encouraging Discussion
Unprecedented. It’s the only word we can use to describe the changes brought on working life. And traditionally, we human beings don’t handle change well. The loss of control, the loss of agency over where, when, and how we conduct ourselves during isolation will take a serious toll on many people’s emotional well-being.
For many, it’s the leaders in our lives who have the biggest impact on our workplace well-being.
“We’ve put a lot of thought into this and acted on it equally.”
With two concrete additions to their already expansive suite of activities, Blocket have moved towards a focus on keeping their employees active and healthy.
“Sweden is a little bit peculiar in that it’s okay to get out, it’s okay to do things. We have focused on that. We encourage leaders to do one-to-ones while outside and moving around.”
Also created by the Blocket team was a crowdsourced Google Map extension that shows the location of Blocket staff. Fuelled by the idea of connecting people, this extension showed the location of staff who wanted to take part making it easier for them to find each other if they needed a bit of company.
“We have a great people and culture department - we also have a wonderful CEO who is a massive people person. People are just throwing ideas around, some of them are picked up and it’s up to us to encourage.”