COVID-19: What measures are employers taking?
The COVID-19 outbreak has brought an unprecedented impact on businesses and workers around the world.
But as companies focus on sustaining their businesses during these challenging times, employees’ health and safety have been at the top of employers’ priorities as well.
And with the outbreak showing little signs of slowing, many companies are taking no chances by implementing measures such as working from home, staggered work hours and even social distancing, to ensure their employees’ health and prevent an outbreak in their workplaces.
Employees find themselves being thrown into the deep end of adapting to remote working and adopting technology such as work collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Slack to ensure productivity and communication.
HRM Asia spoke exclusively to different employers to find out what are some of the measures and technologies they have implemented during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The company has made mandatory global work-from-home policies, including in Singapore and across APAC.
- It has limited, postponed and suspended travel and gatherings and its global events.
- For key meetings and events, it is making them virtual so many more can participate.
- Employees are encouraged to take advantage of Cisco’s mental health offerings and maintain open communication with managers. Ensuring the wellbeing of employees and their families remains its top priority.
- It also organises weekly Global Calls with all employees on topics such as mental health, as well as medical advice and Cisco’s response to the pandemic.
- In-house Cisco Webex technology that helps employees stay connected and productive, while also staying healthy
“At Cisco, our employees are the highest priority, and their safety and well-being are paramount. As we navigate this challenging new reality, we stand behind all of our people and their families,” said Deborah Woollard, Vice President, People and Cultures, APJC.
“Working remotely is a natural part of our work culture and has been ingrained in our work DNA for years. We are fortunate to build the amazing Cisco Webex technology that helps all of us stay connected and productive, while also staying healthy.
“Across Asia and globally, a mandatory work from home policy is in place to protect our employees and in line with local regulations. The pandemic is impacting lives in countless ways and we are offering the best available medical and mental health support, emergency time off, and a commitment to full pay for our hourly workers,” she added.
- Social distancing and work-from-home arrangements: It has deployed a large-scale work from home policy in Singapore and across Asia to ensure the safety of employees, and is empowering teams with the tools and the flexibility they need to execute and stay connected.
- Enhanced safety protocols: Rigorous cleaning and access procedures are in place for offices, labs and manufacturing facilities that remain open. For on-site services, the company has defined operating health and safety protocols to ensure that technicians are healthy and remain healthy on visits.
- HP has rolled out an employees’ guide outlining best practices for working from home. This includes guidelines around setting up an optimal work from home experience, using collaborative platforms, and a quick-and-easy guide to maintaining the safety and cleanliness of electronic devices for maintaining a healthy work environment.
- It will also be offering additional programs to assist employees, focusing on wellbeing, working in a mobile environment and stress management.
- For employees who are parents, school closures and reduced after-school activities mean their children will be spending more time at home and having to leverage technology to ensure their education is not disrupted. The company is encouraging them to take this opportunity to play a more active role in steering their children’s learning, including by creating online resources such as Print & Play that has fun learning activities for children.
- Teams are mobile-ready and have the flexibility to be productive wherever they are working. They are encouraged to work remotely and further optimise their experience with the tools they need, from notebook PCs and peripherals to collaborative software.
“Across the world people are confronting new challenges and adjusting to new realities. The way we respond to the situation will have a profound impact on modern life – economically, politically and culturally. Technology is taking elevated role in our day to day lives and is essential in keeping us connected and helping us support one another. Used purposefully, technology is a vital enabler to help us all to stay connected, keep learning, keep working and keep going.” said Ng Tian Chong, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, Greater Asia, HP Inc.
- AXA ramped up its capacity to ensure critical service staff in the affected regions could work from home and moved operations online. Even amidst the disruption caused by the outbreak, the company is able to maintain continuity of service. For example, AXA Tian Ping in China was able to go from 0% work-from home amongst Telephone Service Representatives (TSRs) to over 80% working from home.
- AXA has provided protective masks, health checks and upgraded the team’s insurance coverage. To avoid the possibility of contamination in the office, they implemented an effective rota system.
- A professional counselling service is provided to help staff handle this situation and a hotline is available around the clock to offer consultations on a strictly confidential basis.
- Its IT team helped carry out a company-wide digital transformation. This enabled employees to access to work from home capabilities, including claims and telephone service representatives.
- Its offices around the region are using various methods to engage their teams, such as video conferencing, virtual town hall meetings hosted by senior management and regular updates through internal channels. These help to ensure staff continue to feel connected to the business and each other.
- In Singapore, Lenovo implemented flexible working arrangements several weeks before and encourages employees to work from home.
- The company also put in place measures to encourage employees to practice personal hygiene, including washing of hands, regular temperature checks, and favouring online video conferencing tools wherever possible.
- It is enabling employee productivity and collaboration through tools such as telecommunication tools and software applications to remain connected. And accessories such as noise cancellation headset w/ microphone to keep employees engaged and focused as well as a second monitor to enable efficient multi-tasking.
- Lenovo also offers refresher courses to employees to ensure that they leverage the supporting tools and applications efficiently. Clear and open communication is vital when many employees need to work from home to make sure the team feel connected and happy.
- Lenovo leverages on collaboration and videoconferencing tools to regularly touch base with employees to check in on their well-being while continue with our day-to-day business activities as far as possible.
- Employees have easy access to quality devices and equipment fitted with collaboration software platforms, which enables them to be easily connected in remote arrangements. As employees continue to work from home, it is important to foster engagement to maintain business operations and foster a positive employee experience.
“Lenovo employees’ health and safety is our top priority. We have worked with our benefits vendor to introduce tele-medicine and virtual consultation as added services to our employees since February. While we encourage all employees to work from home, we undertake all health advisory measures by MOM to ensure that our office premise is safe for employees who need to continue working at the office,” said Ronnie Lee, General Manager, Lenovo Singapore.
- The company has been following the guidance shared by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and major governments, and have our business continuity plans in place to ensure critical business operations continue without interruption.
- Since the start of this pandemic, it has implemented remote work / work from home policies for its global workforce and placed a hold on all non-essential international and domestic travel (including all events and conferences).
- All corporate events are now virtual, and employees are using alternative and virtual ways of conducting internal and external meetings, and trainings, to enable everyone to participate and engage while following social distancing guidelines. In addition, the company also offers health and wellness training and tips to its global workforce.
- Employees actively use its own secure connectivity technology such as BlackBerry Spark (Unified Endpoint Management and Unified End-Point Security) and BlackBerry Desktop to establish seamless and robust remote working environments for secure collaboration, encryption and file sharing on-the-go.
- The company also uses its own artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions to detect and prevent cyber threats to end-points and provide seamless, intelligent security (such as secure VPN-less access) at home.
- It uses its own secure, networked crisis communications software, BlackBerry AtHoc, to alert and receive updates from staff.
- Blackberry has made some of its solutions – including some of those mentioned above – available free of charge for 60 days with onboarding support to help companies work remotely, maintain operations and stay safe.
“The mobile workforce has been an upward trend for a long time. Globally, it was already becoming common to take your office with you, wherever you go. COVID-19 has merely accelerated it for millions of organizations globally,” said Stephen Mak, Vice President, BlackBerry Spark, Asia and Japan, BlackBerry.
“Benefits aside, remote working also exposes businesses to increased risk. Already we have seen widespread reports of COVID-19 related phishing and malware campaigns that impersonate government, authorities and businesses, targeting both individuals and organizations. This will only increase the longer we face this pandemic, as organizations, data and people remain vulnerable to those that exploit the situation.
“The key point is, securing apps, devices, and firewalls alone is no longer enough. Establishing highly functional and secure remote working infrastructures has now become an absolute imperative for businesses to maintain continuity while keeping staff safe remotely,” he added.
- All offices across its 35 locations globally are fully operational, with most of the employees working remotely, in line with local government advice. It is continuing to closely monitor developments and follow the advice of government agencies
- The company already has robust contingency plans in place, including business continuity measures to maintain the resilience of its business, and protect the health and safety of its staff, clients, and guests.
- Employees are fully equipped with secure access to its systems, keeping in regular contact with clients and colleagues, while working flexibly to meet business and family needs. It is able to switch to this working model swiftly and seamlessly because of its agile work culture and early investment in reliable and versatile technology that allows the company to do so.
- It rolled out an integrated virtual platform years ago that allows staff to work anywhere from any location at any time using just one log-in. They get full access to the systems they would usually get in the office. For instance, with its virtual desktops, portfolio managers, analysts and traders get exactly the same experience at home or in the office.
- Collaboration tools, messaging and chat applications help the traders stay coordinated with fund managers and operations, while Bloomberg IB Chat and Symphony also allow secure messaging with brokers and counterparties.
- When employees are working from home for extended periods, managers are encouraged to set a stage for everyone to communicate openly, such as organising virtual 15-minute morning team huddles, and foster an inclusive environment by encouraging team members to continue to share their opinions via video or phone calls.
“This is not just flexible working. It is about the deepening relationships with employees and putting trust in them at all times. Empowering employees through constantly evolving technology is what makes this possible,” said Nancy Lee, Head of Human Resources, Asia Pacific, Schroders.
- Its employees have been operating on a Team A/Team B staggered model, allowing for social distancing in its offices.
- Productivity and morale are something that the company is constantly monitoring on a daily level. And it encourages its leaders to have daily check-ins with their teams and individuals on video calls, carry out all regular team rituals such as team lunches, and happy hours over a call. This ensures that employees get the right workspace set up at home as suddenly our homes turned into an office space.
- While homes can be set up for productivity, the company believes that it should not become a 24-hour office. The company is ensuring that its employees finds the balance and have time to reconnect with families and loved ones.
- To ensure constant communication between the teams, employees make full use of online communication platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and WhatsApp to communicate.
“The COVID-19 situation has meant that as a company, we’ve had to adapt, innovate and improve in the way we communicate and collaborate with each other,” said Ng Aik-Phong, Managing Director, Fave Singapore.
- Criteo promptly executed its Business Continuity Plan – securing data centres, client support and internal processes so it can continue serving its clients without interruption.
- Its People Experience team was immediately activated to facilitate a seamless transition to remote working.
- Up to date, its 2,800 employees from 30 offices around the globe were asked to work from home as a voluntary measure and it has cancelled all business travel.
- To help employees handle both work and care-giving duties at the same time, it has intentionally put flexible working hours in place to provide assurance and relief to affected employees. This was especially helpful for teams in Japan and Korea, where work and leisure hours are more clearly defined.
- Communication with employees became more critical especially without in-person interaction. The company share weekly updates on COVID-19 status, health insurance policies and FAQs to local government measures with employees. This is so they are highly aware of the situation at hand in case they are in need of help.
- The company also offered psychological support hotlines for employees who are faced with challenges coping with the current state of work
- Leaders could enrol in virtual training sessions to better manage their teams virtually.
- Team members could also attend virtual trainings to enhance their skills to better serve clients.
- The company continued to hold regional and local team lunches and drinks virtually to engage and have “face-to-face” interaction. Its Japan team recently celebrated Hanami, or cherry blossom season, over a video conference. This was well-received and initiatives like these bring fun into the daily work.
- To minimize crowded commutes, dense workspaces, and potential exposure, employees across its markets globally, have been encouraged to work from home.
- Its Singapore office began with a mandatory work from home trial in early February, followed by full implementation of the Ministries of Health and Manpower guidelines for daily temperature and travel tracking.
- The company took a carefully orchestrated split team approach for four weeks in line with our business continuity plan. This included a complete separation of both teams at work and off-hours, video calls replacing meetings and limiting external parties in our office.
- As the number of cases increased in Singapore and globally, the management quickly decided that to reduce risk and keep everyone and their families safe, it would implement a full work from home plan in mid-March.
- An Employee Assistance Program is also available to all employees and their family members for any emotional and practical support. The company has also been utilising the Employee Assistance Program to host well-being seminars.
- Its HR team continues to share work from home tips and tricks and stays connected with individuals via regular email
- It continues to engage employees through its We Stand Together initiative where colleagues from around the region host a live workout video, training session (photography/visualisation) or yoga session to foster an ongoing sense of community and connection.
- Microsoft Teams has been a part of its collaboration ecosystem globally—during this period. The company has made this platform central to how it works across the office for calls, messaging, sharing documents, working together so that people are not spreading themselves to thin trying to keep up with multiple platforms.
“Despite these unique circumstances, I see our team doing their best, staying committed, and going the extra mile for clients and each other, even when working from home. With each of us setting aside some conveniences to play a part in minimising community spread, we are doing our part to make a difference to the virus trajectory in Singapore, as we are in every market we operate in,” said Vanessa Ho, managing director, Singapore and chair, client services, Asia Pacific, Weber Shandwick.
- As the COVID-19 coronavirus situation continues to evolve, the company is taking a number of precautions, including complying with local and national guidelines, travel restrictions, enhanced site cleaning and holding virtual employee and customer meetings. It continues to follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
- It has implemented work from home practices in support of employees whose children are affected by school closures, where required, or in specific locations to minimize workplace exposure. Its manufacturing facilities remain open with limited access to ensure its customers’ needs are being met.
- Given the dynamic nature of the situation, they are assessing their measures on an ongoing basis to ensure its employees’ safety.
- Zoho has more than 8,000 global employees working from home now.
- It is a work arrangement that it was able to seamlessly implement using its own suite of collaboration tools that enable the company to sustain productivity even among remote workers.
- As a technology company that builds and sells business productivity software, including online collaboration tools, the transition to working from home has been smooth as it is already using platforms that are able to seamlessly support all communication and collaboration work across stakeholders.
- Making sure that everyone feels safe, employees are allowed to work from home across locations as long as there are stringent security and privacy controls in place. To keep the team camaraderie alive, it set up a daily global team huddle and department stand-ups.
- While the COVID-19 has impacted the overall business infrastructure, being a technology company allowed them to have the necessary tools to continue working even when employees are not in the same location.
“We have implemented a process for working from home and adopted robust virtual collaboration spaces for seamless communication and secure access to business data. For Tookitaki, both internal and external stakeholders’ needs must be taken care of,” said Jeeta Bandopadhyay, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Tookitaki.
Tiger Brokers Singapore
- As an online broker in the fintech industry, Tiger Brokers’ robust technology solutions and operational processes allow a flexible and sustainable work environment for all employees in the organisation.
- For a safe and clean working office for employees, they provided Covid-19 care kits such as thermometers, hand sanitizers, surgical masks and anti-bacterial wipes.
- It also keeps employees updated on the latest Covid-19 news daily. The company’s Business Continuity Planning (BCP) will help optimise its productivity and resources deployment in the long run.
- To empower its employees who are working from home, it has improved its video conferencing systems, mobile chatting software and VPN access.
- The company has rapidly adjusted how they work and ensured that they practice social responsibility to minimise the spread of the virus.
- As its business continues to adjust to life in the age of COVID-19, it has introduced additional safety precautions such as working remotely, reducing face to face meetings and ceasing travel.
- It has implemented BCP and most employees are working from home, with skeleton staff working staggered hours.
- The teams are already using communication tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom to hold internal meetings and client calls.
- PRecious Communications is currently managing the COVID-19 outbreak by having 50% of its staff work from home.
- For the ones coming into work, staggered work hours have been mandated in order to maintain social distancing.
- The company is also monitoring all staff’s temperature twice a day.
- Video conferencing and teleconferencing tools have been put in place. So far there has been no lag in terms of work productivity.
- While working remotely is not new to many of its employees, Horangi believes that it is essential for the team to be comfortable about the work environment so that they can perform at their best.
- To continue building company morale, it is now running optional group activities like remote workouts, happy hours, and karaoke sessions.
- To facilitate seamless remote communication, it is encouraging teams to discover new solutions that work for them such as Monday.com, Slack, and Zoom.
- It is seeing the average number of Zoom calls per day go up 300%. Similarly, Slack messages are up 50%.
“At Horangi, we focus on helping our customers and teammates innovate without fear. And we never stop growing the productivity of our workforce, no matter the circumstance,” said Paul Hadjy, CEO and Co-Founder, Horangi.
- Internally the company is prioritising its employees’ health and wellbeing by leveraging web-based conferencing and collaboration technologies to communicate effectively.
- For every meeting the video must be on – it’s important to maintain this connection with its employees
- It is leveraging Slack for group sharing and WhatsApp for more social engagement and article sharing – where employees share personal thoughts and humour.
- Lastly, the company runs individual 1on1s with employees with no agenda – just a time to share any of their concerns and what are on their minds.
“At times like this it is critical that we have that ‘interactive’ element, making sure teams continue to stay in touch to keep morale up and ensure that everyone is feeling well, fully informed and providing support wherever necessary,” said Scott Combes, Chief Growth Officer at SHIELD.
- As a freelancer marketplace, Workana is rooted to remote work so it was not surprising that it was able to turn to this completely and instantly. The company have been preparing and training for this, thus was able to do so with the proper use of collaborative communication tools, structured processes, strategy, and technology.
- Workana use collaborative tools to maintain that everyone is connected as a team. Thanks to modern technology, there are solutions to keeping the team organized at all times, that tasks are done and project status is updated in real-time.
- It also has project management tools to track sales leads, as well as social communication solutions that allow staff to do video conference calls and online training sessions.
- Long before the pandemic, the company has already been taking advantage of technology, and have already observed that remote working actually increases productivity and employee satisfaction through greater freedom and autonomy.
- All staff members are working from home.
- The company also guarantees full salary packages for each member of the team and will cover any and all medical issues that do not fall within the insurance packages allocated to each team member.
- The company’s mission at the moment is to ensure its clients continue to build competitive advantage and relevance and work very closely with them in this journey.
- Employees are communicating at a faster pace and utilizing video conferencing far more now, making productivity scrums very effective.
- In fact, productivity levels have increased as a result of remote working
- F5 has mandated that all employees work from home, which has been in place for several weeks now – ever since DORSCON level was lifted to Orange.
- They have adopted safety and health protocols, such as grounding all non-essential overseas travel, sanitizing office spaces, and instituting regular check-ins with employees.
- Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, F5 had launched its “Freedom to Flex” program last year in a bid to make it easy for employees transitioning to working from home
- They have also bolstered internal and external communication postures to provide employees, partners and customers with a central repository of resources, information sharing, and collaboration.
- The company uses Microsoft Teams, Zoom and SharePoint as platforms that enable employees to collaborate with one another seamlessly.
- They also initiated programs like APAC Learning Week. This allows disparate teams to learn about each other’s area of expertise. The technical team, for example, can learn about the communications and media landscape in the region, while the marketing team can try to wrap their heads around complex technology concepts like security automation in the multi-cloud environment.
- All employees were mandated to work from home
- Company townhalls/announcements are done online
- HR team continues to keep employees updated on measures to adhere to + tips to stay well
- FS Virtual Workouts: every Tuesday and Thursday via Google Hangouts, voluntarily led by one of our Senior Relationship Managers
- Food For Talk!: this is a lunch initiative that took place in person once a month to encourage cross-department cohesion. Employees are encouraged to bring their lunches + a favourite item/animal/person to that hangout
- FS Stout and Friends: Virtual drinks session to relax and unwind + maintain facetime
- Work-From-Home Slack channel: a group where employees share research articles, personal tips, ambient soundtracks to help one another maintain some sanity during this difficult change
- As a digital financing platform, most of its operations are already digitalised and on the cloud
- Some of the technologies employees use are Google Drive, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Contentful, Slack, Zoho
*Stay tuned as more companies continue to share the measures they have implemented.