A COVID-19 Guide for Business Partners and Leaders: Impacting Employee Wellness

In a time where we feel powerless to the external forces that are quickly shaping our lives, we’re also faced with solving novel problems at work with no precedent to guide our decisions. This is also a time where a leader’s action will have an instant and long-lasting impact on the employer-employee relationship. Through our Business Partnering Impact Program network, Rita Cincotta and I recognised that many business partners and leaders required focused connectivity during this time of disruption to leverage each others ideas and thinking. More importantly, we are all dealing with similar business issues and risk challenges – we need to be proactive in our networking efforts if we’re to wrestle back some control.

The idea for the “Business Partners & Leaders: COVID-19 Support & Solutions E-Forum” was hatched and to focus our e-forum, we surveyed participants in advance to understand which topics are the most relevant to them. The top 3 relevant focus areas were:

1.       Employee Wellness Initiatives;

2.       Internal Communications; and

3.       Connecting The Workforce.

The first in a series of e-forum, we discussed the topic of Employee Wellness Initiatives with leaders. Given the lightning speed in recent weeks adapting our work practices, the Business Leaders openly discussed the issues during this time in relation to their Employee Wellness efforts. Whilst several industries were represented, there was commonality in the kind of problems they were trying to solve. 

As we dissect Employee Wellness Initiatives in this post, we’ve leveraged an employee wellbeing framework presented in the Aon 2019 Asia Pacific Employee Wellbeing Study. This will help us frame the outputs from the e-forum session using the following four categories:

  • Physical Wellness
  • Mental Wellness
  • Social Wellness
  • Financial Wellness

Physical Wellness

1. Physical safety

Are your teams and colleagues well set up to work from home? Are they aware of how to set up their physical space to ensure their safety? Provide them a guide that assists them to do this – worth reinforcing the importance of maintaining a safe environment.

2. WFH practices

Remind your colleagues and teams about good working from home practices such as ergonomic safety, regular breaks, exercise, healthy meals and benefits of fresh air and Vitamin D!

CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE – did you know? Safety First: Cofounder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky has announced they will provide free housing for 100,000 coronavirus responders around the world.

Additional Information: A highly informative article from The University of Sydney, Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, and Associate Professor Kate Edwards – How to stay fit and active at home during self-isolation.

Social Wellness

1. Maintain structure and routine

Schedule (in advance) your team huddles, virtual coffees, virtual team lunches and Friday night virtual drinks (and commit!)

2. Connection

Maintain the connection with your entire personal and professional network – use any number of platforms available to have a “face to face” connection. Reach out to a colleague from another city or office – check in and say hi.

3. Engagement

Focus on specific activities to maintain employee engagement levels – employ an employee listening strategy: listen attentively, listen often. Prepare video messages from different members of exec and broader leadership with their words of support and company updates.

CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE – did you know? Entrepreneur Mark Cuban announced that any of his employees will be reimbursed for any lunch and coffee purchases from their local, independent small businesses. 

Additional Information: How To Be Alone, But Not Lonely, Despite The Coronavirus

Mental wellness

1. Amplify Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Benefit

Contact your EAP provider and put yourself in the shoes of your employee – experience the service your staff may receive. Is it a positive experience? Review what your EAP provides and consider whether support needs to be increased. Be sure to frequently communicate this benefit using various employee communication channels.

2. Psychological Safety

Have you set up a virtual safe space where your team can freely contribute ideas and thoughts? One e-Forum participant shared insights into how their organisation has set-up a designated email address, where employees provide feedback about their work experience during the coronavirus and how it can be improved.

CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE – did you know? Starbucks has extended its mental health benefits. They’ve partnered with Lyra Health and providing Starbucks employees personalised, confidential mental health care, 20 free in-person or video sessions every year for partners and each of their eligible family members and access to a provider network of mental health therapists and coaches.

Additional Information: Beyond Blue – Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak

Financial Wellness

3. Don’t Assume: Educate and Inform

Employees may have a partner or spouse who have lost their job during this crisis and seriously impacting their financial situation at home. Consider running an employee financial wellbeing webinar. Focus on keeping it short, pragmatic and relevant. Program details below.

4. Assistance from government stimulus packages

Share information provided at a state and federal level in relation to grants, payments and subsidies. Also connect with your company’s default super fund and ask how and when they are communicating to your employees during this time – leverage their support and expertise.

CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE – did you know? S&P Global has expanded care leave and minimum sick leave to two weeks, supported global work-from-home arrangements by providing a technology subsidy to accommodate the WFH environment.

Additional Information: Financial wellbeing expert Paul Gordon, co-author of Spenditude (co-author Janine Robertson), runs an award-winning corporate financial wellbeing program “8smartHabits of a Financially FIT Human program”, aimed at educating and re-shaping your employees attitude to money during this unpredictable time.

Final Thoughts:

Ensure you amplify your Employee Wellness initiatives now and beyond this pandemic – employees will value a holistic approach to protecting them during this time. Remember:

  • In times of change and disruption, communicate employee wellness benefits in a structured and consistent way.
  • Illicit employee feedback and measure the take-up rate of these benefits.
  • Importantly, measure which wellness benefits have the highest perceived employee value, enabling you to direct resources to the right benefits.

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