10 October 2020
Preparation is half the victory
Don’t you just feel a sense of accomplishment after the budgeting period is complete? You have everything planned out and you just need to action them in due time. BUT WAIT! What if a global pandemic had to happen and all your planning doesn’t make sense anymore? This is 2020.
We always plan our upcoming wellbeing initiatives before the year even starts and early on in 2020 we had to adjust to the new reality, revamp the whole wellbeing program for the year and act fast. Everyone was going through different emotions and we needed to be there for each other, but how? We had no way of researching what other companies were doing or finding the best practices and advice from experts as everyone was experiencing this first hand.
As a team we were constantly meeting to brainstorm and support each other. We reassessed our wellbeing strategy to evaluate how we can best adapt to the current situation and overcome its challenges, whilst ensuring that we are supporting our people’s wellbeing in the best possible way. Our focus was to feel their pulse and invest in efforts that truly make an impact on their lives.
We are one of the largest companies in Malta, with a diverse team coming from all walks of life and holding different positions. Some are client facing, others office workers and our biggest challenge was to make sure no one is left behind. It is impossible to reach 850 employees at once so we decided to segment our efforts and have a number of initiatives that targeted specific groups of people.
While the majority were happy to be working from home, in all that confusion and insecurity, our front liners continued to give the best service to our customers following the new measures, ensuring they protect themselves, our customers and their families at home. To show our gratitude we sent them a small token of appreciation to their homes.
Mental Health was our main priority
With all the uncertainty going on around the world, we felt the need and responsibility to emphasise the importance of Mental Health to our employees. If COVID-19 has taught us anything it is that the mental wellbeing of our people is of prime importance. Everyone dealt with the pandemic differently and quite a few experienced an increase in stress and anxiety.
We constantly reminded our employees of the free psychological support from qualified Mental Health practitioners at Richmond Foundation that they can benefit from at any time. The service is anonymous and employees have the opportunity to talk about their stressors, be it work-related or about personal matters. We also collaborated with Dr Ian Refalo, a certified Psychotherapist who has ample experience in therapy related to anxiety and stress, and has also hosted webinars for our teams to create a safe space for them to address and discuss anything that they are going through.
We soon noticed that remote working employees were struggling to truly rest during their off days, and it was often the case that some kept working long hours because the line between work and life became increasingly blurred. To counterbalance this, we introduced a GO company holiday, whereby the majority of our employees would be on vacation, resting and recharging their batteries. Being a business that operates 24/7, some needed to work on that day – therefore an extra day of leave was added to their leave balance so that they can enjoy their rest day another time.
To ensure that our people do not spend the whole day with little to no movement, we partnered up with local athlete Leanne Bartolo and provided daily 20-minute virtual exercise sessions. For the mindful lot, we collaborated with yoga instructor Elise Schembri to provide online morning yoga sessions twice a week for two months. Nothing better than a good stretch to start the day!
To really cover all segments of our diverse workforce, we also focused on recreational activities for our employees. Ranging from online gaming tournaments such as Call of Duty Warzone, FIFA and League of Legends, to a virtual art class with local artist Zack Ritchie where we tried to infuse the idea of creativity and online interaction. Moreover, there is no better way to connect as one team than through music. That is why we teamed up with The Travellers for an exclusive GO event, whereby they took us through the whole process of song writing and basic beat and chord progression of their songs. Currently, we’re collaborating with Jugs who are helping our teams with virtual team building events and activities to reconnect and bond as a team over some fun challenges whilst sharing a few laughs!
Communication during a global pandemic is vital and it is often the case that the simplest means of communication are most effective. Beyond our intranet system, emails and MS Teams chats, we explored the medium of SMS and launched a wellbeing message campaign with regular tips or life hacks, and motivational/feel-good messages.
Speaking about communication, we wanted it to be two-way and listen to what employees have to say. Although we have an open-door policy… actually now it’s MS Teams, so open MS Teams policy, we still wanted to grasp how employees are feeling and what is on their minds. Therefore, the HR team was in close contact with employees, doing check-ins and getting feedback on their remote working experience. We wanted to take it a step further and we to get more information about what their preference was about the way forward for GO. Capturing all these thoughts and emotions through a survey was not easy but the result was evident – the importance of having the flexibility to balance between working from the office and working remotely was a top priority for our people. Our approach is going to enable employees to work a maximum of 3 times a week from the office, should they wish to do so, or work completely remotely if their work allows them to.
Resilience is key
It is not simply about adapting to a new norm but transforming it in a way to make your life even better than it was before. It is vital that we provided constant support to our people, through guiding our leaders on how to adapt to a remote first environment and empower all people around them whilst always making sure that no one is left behind. We did not stop there, we further educated our people particularly on topics such as burnout, employee stress and team wellbeing. We also held health and safety awareness sessions and provided tips on our intranet on all things related to COVID-19.
It’s vital that we address mental health at work for those with existing issues, for those at risk, and for the workforce as a whole. At GO we believe in a workplace where everyone can succeed and we also believe in the role of employers, employees and businesses in creating thriving communities.
This year’s World Mental Health Day comes at a time when our daily lives have changed considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and we would like to emphasize the importance to talk about our emotions, keep active, eat well, ask for help when in need and take a break when things become too much.
Written by Maria Cutajar
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