COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown encouraged the trend of remote working. Companies, big or small, across nations immediately focused on protecting their most prized asset – employees. In fact, they started putting their employees’ physical, psychological, and emotional safety ahead of productivity issues as the idea of employee well-being took center stage.
In this effort, many companies are setting the right example by launching an employee-friendly policy to support seniors and employees with underlying health conditions to avoid physically coming to work. The policy is extended with health benefits too. Starbucks is one such company that is committed to the health and well-being of its partners and customers. As a part of its larger mental health initiative, Starbucks has partnered with Lyra Health to provide mental health care resources to its employees in the US and extended the benefits to their eligible family members. These benefits include free 20 sessions (videos/in-person) a year with access to a health therapist or coach.
Stress and anxiety are a normal part of everyday life at home and work. With pandemic, it has been a major concern for all. To build a strong relationship with employees, Mphasis introduced wellness apps, WFH wellness tips, pulse surveys, and stress-busting Tryouts games.
Anxiety has emerged as a prime area of concern, and therefore we have trained counselors on board as a part of our Mental Health Train initiative, who conduct anxiety management session for our employees. – said Srikanth Karra, Chief Human Resources Offices, Mphasis
Salesforce India has been doing the same in their own unique ways. With a hundred percent of their workforce working from home, numerous programs such as Wednesday Wellbeing, Fitness benefits, and home-office allowances for employees were launched.
Big brands also started reevaluating employee benefits to include plans that focus on employee well-being. Ally Financial, like any other company, had its plan ready, but that also prepared them for unintended consequences. They took a close look at the current health care benefits and modified it to include free telemedicine consults, access to free mental health professionals, expanded childcare support, 100% coverage of diagnostic testing and virtual doctor visits, and two weeks of paid leave caring for a family member with COVID-19.
COVID-19 also forced companies to rewrite rules of the employer-employee relationship. After all, it takes much more than a laptop, and a few conference calls to build successful teams. Without work from home policies, firms are working harder to keep employees engaged and productivity high. A Utah-based company called Canopy provides tax software for accounting. Considering that they never had a ‘work from home’ culture, they were certainly caught on the wrong foot. With over 100 employees working from home during the pandemic, they were forced to get creative. Quick adjustments to processes and reimbursements to make their homes’ work-friendly’, wellness programs, and regular communications made the transition easier.
When companies are still coming to terms with the right protocols of working from home, IBM made the first move. Firms must be agile to respond to the new reality, work creatively with empathy and compassion, and reimagine ways to stay productive. For instance, IBM’s work from home pledge speaks about respect when people are not ‘camera-ready’ kindness and empathy towards unexpected introductions to extended family members. This may be a creative and simple message, but it speaks directly about the firm’s commitment towards the safety and health teams.
As the pandemic spreads its gloom across the world, it is heartening to see positive initiatives coming out of it. Big firms and corporations started to pitch in and made employee well-being and their safety a priority.