How Best Workplaces™ Respond Differently During the Pandemic: Holistic Wellness

Holistic Wellness
Holistic Wellness

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While the pandemic created unique challenges for people in different ways, Best Workplaces were well-positioned to provide flexibility, show respect, and listen to employees as their lives at work and at home were disrupted. They took a more holistic approach to promote employee wellness, by broadening their focus beyond physical and environmental safety, to encompass job and financial security, and psychological and emotional support.

In the fourth part of our series taken from our 2020 Insights Report entitled Trust Enables New Ways To Work, we look at how our Best Workplaces took a holistic approach to caring for the needs of their employees.

Fostering Holistic Wellness

When employees feel genuinely cared for and see that management is taking care of them, loyalty and commitment become stronger, and employees are willing to reciprocate and go the extra mile in return. This reinforcing loop helps the organization navigate immediate challenges, and also positions it for faster recovery in the long term as trust builds, and feelings of pride, respect and fairness grow.

Based on our analysis of survey results, the elements that emerge as key factors in fostering employee wellness include Camaraderie, Caring and Support.

Camaraderie exists when employees have meaningful relationships with their peers, including feeling welcomed when they join the company/team and being able to count on others to cooperate.

Caringhappens when employees feel that management provides a safe, healthy place to work and shows sincere interest in them both as an employee and a person.

Support means employees are provided with the resources and equipment to do their jobs, are offered training and development, and feel appreciated for their contributions.

As the pandemic continued and work-from-home requirements were extended the absence of casual social interaction in the workplace became apparent, Best Workplaces quickly understood that they needed to do more to keep colleagues connected virtually, and to support employee and family mental wellness and resilience.

They worked hard to ensure that people had the resources, information and connections needed to stay engaged during this time of uncertainty. Drawing on their inclusive leadership, Best Workplaces got creative in providing Support for employees working remotely and facing anything from loneliness and isolation for those living on their own, to a sense of overwhelm for those sharing workspace with parents, spouses and children.

Some types of support can be provided uniformly to all employees, like providing access to mental health services through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or sending family care packages. But our Best Workplaces also understood that there are times when a personal touch may be needed, hence, they encouraged managers and Human Resources teams to be understanding and provide flexibility, so as to be responsive to group and individual needs.

Spotlight on Best Workplaces 

Concerned about increased stress, longer hours and additional workflows, PCF took a holistic approach to support employee well-being, including their financial, psychological, emotional, physical and environmental needs. In addition to creatively sourcing for and expediting the urgent purchases of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks and sanitizers, PCF purchased 650 UV sterilizers to disinfect school supplies and toys. It also engaged 16 professional cleaning contractors to regularly disinfect all 360 Preschools, seven Senior Care centres and the headquarters. Additional staff financial support included providing a one-off special bonus in March 2020 for each employee in recognition of their significant additional efforts in the face of drastic staffing restrictions, and overtime pay or credit at 1.5x the normal rate. For staff who were stranded overseas, PCF revised their group hospitalization and surgical coverage, to remove geographical limitations in the event that they needed medical attention.

foodpanda demonstrated care in a variety of ways, including providing financial support to help employees create a conducive home office, setting aside a budget to continue with team bonding for social support, sharing information about resources for physical and mental wellness, and providing an additional paid day off for employees to switch off, rest and relax.

Staff well-being was a top priority for Signify, especially for their frontline employees who interacted with contractors and migrant workers. To support the physical, mental and emotional wellness of staff and their families, the company provided a laundry allowance to clean work clothes, hosted a series of wellness webinars by a trained psychologist, offered online yoga sessions, virtual team building and family activities, and delivered surprise gifts to show appreciation for its employees.

Amgen Singapore instituted a practice for each virtual meeting to start off with quick stretches, and stretch breaks for meetings lasting more than an hour. It also established ‘Meeting-Free Mondays’ to allow staff to conduct focused work without disruptions. Amgen Singapore also extended their support to employees’ families by delivering a series of six themed care packs containing essential hygiene products, healthy foods, and family-friendly items.

To support the financial wellness of their employees, Certis provided additional one-time wage supplements, ranging from $100 for all employees, to $1,000 for frontline workers. Promotions and pay increments were continued and bonuses were brought forward to June to support their employees during this crisis. This was made possible in part by their CEO taking a 15% wage cut, SVPs & above taking a 10% reduction in salary, and a wage freeze for the entire Senior Leadership team. 

Across the globe, DHL Express quickly committed to keeping all of its people employed, with no pay reduction. All employees received their annual salary increases and bonuses on time, despite worrying business performance. A one-time 300 euro bonus was also given to all employees globally, to help alleviate financial worries.

Micron pledged to have no layoffs for 90 days, and provided a one-time $500 reimbursement for team members to purchase whatever they needed to set up a home office. It also implemented a COVID-19 Assistance Payment scheme and invested in an employee-supported fund that provided grants of up to $5,000 to individual team members based on needs. To ensure employees’ wellness, COVID-19 safe packs and round-the-clock telemedicine services are provided to all team members and their dependents.

To support Malaysia-based employees unable to commute to Singapore for work due to the closure of travel borders, and to motivate the lean manufacturing workforce in Singapore, HP implemented work incentives for their manufacturing operators. It gave production crew a Completion Bonus and provided lodging and per diem allowance to Malaysian employees who stayed on in Singapore to support production. HP continued paying production employees who were stranded in Johor Bahru due to the movement control order (MCO) and therefore unable to work, and redeployed other stranded Malaysian employees to HP’s manufacturing site in Penang, Malaysia

Looking Ahead

As organizations consider the safety and well-being of employees going forward, there will likely be an ongoing set of physical and environmental controls and mechanisms in place, including the use of PPE, social distancing, and split team schedules. But workplaces should also build on the experiences and learnings of the past year, and continue to attend to the broader, more holistic needs of their employees.

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.