We asked a range of employers in Ireland about their initiatives to support the wellbeing of staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As Covid-19 restrictions continue, more of us are working remotely than ever before. In this unusual time, it’s important that people cultivate a healthy work-life balance at home, but employers can also play a large role in supporting the wellbeing of their staff.
We spoke to nine companies to learn more about the efforts they have been making in this regard.
Bristol Myers Squibb
At Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), occupational health and wellbeing lead Gabriela Rebreanu is driving initiatives to help employees “feel connected to the workplace while working from home”. These include running regular webinars for mental wellbeing and working from home, and moving on-site gym classes to three weekly online sessions.
“Just a year ago we launched BMS’s first Mental Health Ambassador Programme and this still runs even in a working-from-home capacity,” Rebreanu said. “So, if people feel overwhelmed or need support, they can reach out to these ambassadors, along with the occupational health team.
“Just recently, the sports and social and CSR teams partnered on an event called the Big Quiz, where nearly 200 of our workforce across Ireland competed in an online quiz from the comfort of their sitting rooms. Prizes such as online vouchers were awarded.”
Software company New Relic told us that along with providing the necessary equipment for its workforce and allowing employees to take time off that wouldn’t impact their sick leave or holiday allowances, it is “encouraging employees to work with their managers on an ongoing basis to do what they need to take care of themselves and their families”.
“We are also seeing New Relic’s values and culture shine as employees find clever ways to connect with each other,” the company said. “They are staying in touch and breaking up daily work routines by hosting virtual happy hours, meditation and yoga sessions, lunches, coffee chats, jam sessions, Slack chats and video calls.
“We have also established a bi-weekly internal Glint survey that serves as a check-in with our employees across the globe to help us further understand how we can help them throughout this time.”
As a company focused on remote-working and collaboration tools, Dropbox has also been helping its employees to stay well while working from home. Cliodhna Thompson, a member of its benefits team in Dublin, said that “the Dropbox culture we value works anywhere”.
Thompson highlighted new programmes and increased use of existing programmes at the company, such as flexi-working and flexi-leave policies and mental health resources. Staff have also set up some new internal Slack channels, including a home wellness chat and a group for sharing food recipes.
“Our leadership team has made every effort to ensure employees feel like they can take breaks in their day, have the home office set-up needed and is sending regular reflection emails so everyone stays informed and knows they are supported,” she added.
Accenture Ireland’s director of HR, Lisa Rose, said that staying healthy while we work remotely should be a priority.
“It’s important to remember that no matter what your situation is, it can be challenging to maintain a positive attitude whilst working remotely in the current environment. Keeping a positive attitude allows us to be our best self, both personally and professionally.”
To encourage that among Accenture’s teams, she added that communication is vital. “We are taking a high-touch approach and holding employee listening sessions and using the insights we gather to tailor our physical and mental wellbeing initiatives to support our people.
“Our organised virtual sessions are on a range of topics from managing mood and emotionally supporting children and family members during uncertain times, through to managing sleep and staying fit and healthy. Now, more than ever, we need to lead with compassion, be flexible and care for our people and each other.”
Though the company was familiar with remote working to some degree before Covid-19, EY said that having its entire workforce working remotely on a full-time basis is “something completely new”. The company has been taking a “holistic approach” to wellness, it said, guided by three pillars: mind, body and life.
“Each week, all employees receive notification of the various resources that are available to them,” EY said. “These include live workouts on a daily basis with EY Exercise, live seminars covering various topics such as financial planning, nutrition and sleep, a mindfulness and meditation series, and access to wellness podcasts and webinars.”
EY is also encouraging staff to make use of its employee assistance programme, where they can avail of free and confidential counselling and therapy sessions by phone or video consultation.
PwC said that its approach to employee morale is to provide a variety of resources through its wellness strategy, focused around four key principles: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.
Its strategy involves weekly seminars provided by Laya Healthcare, from coping with media and the news to nutrition advice, as well as one-to-one support for employees, giving them access to confidential sessions with psychologists, parenting experts and dieticians.
“At PwC, we are also offering a variety of fitness classes virtually, including mindfulness, yoga and HIIT,” the company said. “Our aim is to ensure our people feel supported and have an outlet to ensure they’re keeping well while working remotely.”
As a pharmaceutical company, Amgen needs to look after employees who are working from home and those who must remain on site. To that end, the company has implemented strict physical distancing measures at its facilities to ensure employee safety as they continue to provide “vital medicines” for patients.
“We, as an organisation, value and appreciate our most vital asset – our people. And it’s very important to us that they know that,” the company said.
The team at Amgen has been providing virtual health and wellbeing seminars, providing office equipment and ergonomic supports to staff, enhancing its social media tools – including Yammer – to connect people, running virtual gym classes and asking its health insurance provider to give medical and other supports as needed to employees.
Verizon Media’s approach to employee wellbeing at this time centres around communication. Chief executive Guru Gowrappan and chief people officer Andy Nebens host regular all-company updates and Q&A sessions, bringing in external health and wellbeing experts, too.
Its efforts to support staff include redeployment programmes to facilitate internal resources where they are most required, and allowing employees to learn and develop new skills, as well as regular fitness programmes and resources to help full-time parents, including magician shows and music lessons.
The company added: “Our parent company, Verizon, has partnered globally with Accenture, Lincoln Financial Group and ServiceNow to create People+Work Connect, a coalition platform to connect people to work and work to people.”
Dun & Bradstreet
And for the team at Dun & Bradstreet? The vital focus is staying connected, the company told us. Its people leader for Ireland and the UK, Barbara McGill, said: “For us, creating a positive virtual working environment comes down to making sure that our teams have the opportunity to stay connected – to our clients, our communities and their colleagues.”
To achieve this, McGill explained, the company has increased its number of virtual Open Mic Sessions and has introduced a new series to accompany it, called Open Office Hours. This allows employees to “join informal Q&A sessions with subject-matter experts from across the business on relevant topics”.
“We’ve worked with the instructors of our on-site lunchtime fitness classes to offer a virtual option to our employees so that they can participate from home,” McGill added. “We’ve hosted a couple of virtual happy hours with our Dublin team, including a Friday quiz, and some teams are even organising ‘virtual cuppas’ to take a 15-minute break and catch up.”