HRM Asia Special: How are companies returning to the workplace?

We spoke exclusively to companies in the region to find out how they are ensuring a safe return to the workplace for their employees.
By: | June 12, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the world’s largest-ever work-from-home experiment. For the last couple of months, employees have experienced and adapted to a whole new world of remote working. 

And as countries around the world start to reopen their economies and businesses by easing restrictions, employees are now starting to transition back to their workplaces – or at least to some extent. 

Even if they do, things are never going to be the same. Employers have to make sure they help their staff return to the workplace safely. Safety measures, contact tracing, social distancing and even staggered working hours will be the new norm. 

HRM Asia spoke exclusively to companies around the region to get insights on how the work-from-home experience has been for them and what measures they are taking to ensure a safe return to the workplace for their employees.


How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

We are privileged to have the tools available to continue working remotely and believe that this approach will not only support the health and safety of our people, but also allow the communities in which we operate to recover more quickly.

As local restrictions are beginning to lift, readying our physical workplace for return to work will be a gradual process. We have been diligently monitoring global data, listening to public health experts, and tracking local government restrictions. Doing this rigorously is critical to ensure a safe environment. To best support our people during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to embrace a hybrid working environment, where some people will continue to work from home and while others voluntarily return to Microsoft worksites.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

At Microsoft, our top priority continues to be the health, safety and well-being of our employees. Going beyond expanded childcare leave, mental health programs, and training people managers to reach out to support employees remotely, we have accelerated the pace of innovation for Microsoft Teams, adding new capabilities each week to enable people to collaborate inside and outside meetings, making them more efficient and effective while reducing fatigue and fostering a sense of community. 

In times of great disruption and uncertainty, our ability to stay grounded in our sense of purpose and remain true to our identity is of the utmost importance.  We are steadfast in our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

(Attributed to Sharif Khan, GM Human Resources, Microsoft Asia)


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees?

About 80% of our Singapore workforce are working from home today in a seamless manner. This spans the entire spectrum of roles. For instance, about 90% of our relationship managers and 99% of our developers are working from home today. Employees who are able to work from home will continue doing so.

The employee experience thus far has been positive based on a recent poll of over 4,600 employees. 95% agreed that the technology the bank provides allows them to work remotely effectively. 95% agreed that they feel connected and supported by their colleagues and managers. 96% agreed that DBS is actively looking after the well-being of employees.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

We will be providing special face mask disposal bins for staff to ensure the containment and safe disposal of masks; disinfecting high touchpoints at offices every two hours; and applying anti-microbial coating on the button panels of lifts at DBS offices. Employees working in the office will be provided a bottle of disinfectant spray for on-site use, while bottles of disinfectant sprays will be placed at all available meeting rooms in offices. All meeting rooms have been restricted to one person only. On top of safe distancing markers and reminders, the lifts at most offices have also been re-calibrated to reduce the maximum permitted load to ensure safe distancing in lifts.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

DBS has launched our TOGETHER movement as a holistic approach to employee care and engagement amid COVID-19. Employees have been given free access to a mindfulness application tailored to workplace mental wellness as part of the bank’s holistic support for employee well-being. We have also launched a well-being challenge which will run until mid-June to encourage employees to take charge of their own physical and mental health.

Ng Ying Yuan, Chief Operating Officer, Group Human Resources, DBS said, “As a bank, we anticipate that some of the initiatives and platforms that were either introduced or scaled up as a result of COVID-19 to support WFH will continue to be commonly used even as we gradually restart the economy. For instance, virtual meetings, digital learning and e-Townhalls are likely to remain important fixtures. As we move into a new normal of work, DBS is running various remote working experiments to develop its own point of view on the depth and extent work from home arrangements can be deployed across the bank even after COVID-19 passes.”


What measures and technologies will you be implementing to ensure the safety of employees?

We continue to offer our colleagues in the corporate offices flexible work arrangements including the option to work from home. Our senior leaders also continue to check in regularly with their team members to discuss their wellbeing during this period of uncertainty and change, and we ask our colleagues to do a wellbeing check before coming to the office and to stay home if they do not feel well. We have introduced measures to provide a safe, clean and healthy environment for our colleagues. For instance:

• Hand sanitisation stations have been installed around the offices including in high-touch areas such as entrances and exits.

• We follow physical distancing guidelines when in meeting rooms and sit 1.5 metres apart in communal dining areas.

• Thermometers are set up at all entrances for colleagues to take their temperatures before entering the office.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

It has been essential over this extended period of working from home and travel restrictions for our colleagues to stay connected to one another. Some of the tools that we introduced earlier this year will continue to play an important role as our colleagues gradually return to the workplace. These include:

• Microsoft Teams was quickly and widely adopted when we rolled it out and will continue to be a critical collaboration platform as travel restrictions remain in place.

• Hyatt check-in is a digital and mobile-friendly internal communications tool available in more than 25 languages. It enables us to share Covid-19 updates, recovery efforts, and share inspiring stories of care across our offices and hotels. Through this platform, we also regularly provide well-being tips and resources based on our three landmarks of wellbeing: FEEL (your emotional and mental wellbeing), FUEL (how you fuel and power your body), and FUNCTION (how you move and function in work, life, and play).

• Headspace – all our colleagues have complimentary access to mindfulness exercises as part of this first-of-its-kind collaboration between Hyatt and Headspace.

Katie Carter, Vice-President, Asia-Pacific, Hyatt: “Now more than ever, Hyatt’s purpose of care must be our ‘north star,’ especially during this period which has been particularly challenging for all of us in the travel and hospitality industries. Caring for the wellbeing of our colleagues is our top priority.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

Being a technology company with a truly digital mindset, the transition into working from home for our employees at the onset of the Movement Control Order (MCO), was a smooth one. This was supported by our strong Business Continuity Plan (BCP) which had been in place for several years. We made sure that they were equipped with the right collaboration tools to enable employees to continue to be collaborative and productive while working remotely.

Employees were also regularly kept updated on happenings with updates, reminders and advice on taking good care of their health and well-being. To also ensure that employees’ voices are heard, we also launched a WFH survey for feedback. Our findings from the survey were highly positive which proves that our employees were resilient in adapting to change and able to still be productive.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Maxis’ plan for returning to work is guided by the Government’s policies and supplemented by several factors, including the BCP code, as well as our legal and moral obligation to employees. We are currently in the process of transition back to the office, and have in place strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure employees continue to be safe at their workplace.

Before employees return to work, we have asked all of them to make health declarations to assess risk levels. All employees are required to conduct daily temperature checks / health and symptoms monitoring which will be recorded digitally. We have also developed a video to help employees better understand the SOPs, measures and their obligation to the 3Cs (Crowded places, Confined spaces and Close conversations).

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

The support for employees during this period is vital, so we have virtualised some existing support channels while also introducing new ones. An example of a virtualised channel is Maxis’ weekly MoveIt! Sessions now are being conducted online with employees joining in for their weekly Zumba or Yoga. A new tool that we’ve launched recently is specifically catered towards mental health care and provides outlets for employees to seek support and help digitally when needed.

Natalia Navin, Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO), Maxis, said, “Despite the challenging times that everyone in Malaysia is facing, I am proud of how Maxis as a company has dealt with these unprecedented circumstances. Our commitment to the company, to the people, and the output has not changed, and what enabled this was the power of technology and connectivity to help us overcome many challenges and continue life and work.”


What measures and technologies will you be implementing to ensure the safety of employees?

At Dell Technologies, we have been championing work flexibility via our Connected Workplace programme for more than a decade and this is now a key part of the company culture. Even before we announced a global work-from-home policy on March 15, 65% of team members worldwide were leveraging our flexible work policies, with 30% of team members working remotely on any given day. The past few months have not only demonstrated the strength of this policy but also the success in how we have quickly adapted to the changing circumstances while further reinventing and redefining the way we work to maintain high levels of engagement and productivity. 

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace, and what measures and technologies will you be implementing to ensure the safety of employees?

Like all businesses, health and safety comes first along with meeting the needs of our team members, customers and the broader community. As workplaces start-reopening globally, Dell Technologies’ return to site strategy considers local government regulations as well as data science to determine safety and readiness, among other factors. This strategy follows health and hygiene guidance and factors in the future of work post-pandemic. Using data and science, we consider a country’s infection and recovery trends, the availability of free movement, public transportation, and stability of the healthcare system. A team of data scientists in partnership with our security team has also developed risk assessment as a tool to help us ensure that we are aligned with health guidance for team members who are returning to site. Once we get the go ahead to reopen, it will be a phased approach to reopening of the site.

Eric Goh, Vice-President and Managing Director, Singapore, Dell, said, “We’ve built a culture around the idea that work is outcomes-based and not anchored to a specific place or time. Being able to work in a flexible environment is deeply ingrained in our culture, and I believe that this mindset is core to helping our team members thrive at work in a post-pandemic world. Technology readiness, leadership and a resilient culture are key to helping our teams do their best work. We’re also focused on giving our team members and leaders the right tools – HR support, training, office space, flexibility – to manage both their professional and personal lives.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees?

When the pandemic started, IBM was able to get close to 95% of our global workforce to work remotely. We were able to transition well as we have the right tools, methods and an agile culture in place. It is imperative that all our teams can effectively work and collaborate, and to scale the productivity despite working remotely and onsite, or a combination of both, to ensure business continuity.

What measures and technologies will you be implementing to ensure the safety of employees?

IBM has adopted a phased approach in returning IBM employees to the workplace with evidence-based practices and policies meant to reduce the risks, applying one standard across the company: a globally consistent set of policies and standards that are based on public health guidance and other government guidelines.

To ensure the safety of our employees, we have been improving our health, safety policies and protocols and workplace readiness, including social distancing and ensuring right SOPs are in place. We also ensure there is ongoing mutual understanding of IBM and client health and safety standards. To support our workforce readiness, we have the IBM Return-to-Workplace Advisor, which is an analytics application designed to assist in re-opening the workplace, with a focus on employee health. 

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

During this period, there are four re-entry imperatives that we focus on – workforce well-being, working practices, work policies and workforce planning. We leverage on AI tools such as natural language analytics to supplement standardised psychosocial assessments and provide additional insights to support counselling and treatment. This can support open dialogue on mental health and alleviate any stigma head-on while creating a judgement-free work environment.

Neha Pareek, HR director, IBM ASEAN, said. “We will continue to empower our workforce in this time of massive change as we transition back to the workplace. As a 109-years old company, IBM has weathered many crises and we have a proven set of methods, tools and solutions to co-create a smarter workforce plan, with agility to serve our clients and optimise our workforce under the new ways of working – all of this done while putting IBMers and our clients first.” 


What measures and technologies will you be implementing to ensure the safety of employees?

We are currently making arrangements and stepping up efforts to ensure our employees’ health and safety is not compromised as they return to their respective offices and worksites. More essential staff will be placed on duty, with about 30% of our workforce returning to the workplace in a gradual and calibrated manner. 

The arrangements include deploying digital check-in systems at all our workplaces as well as a deep clean of our premises including the changing of aircon filters, cleaning of water points, spraying of self-disinfecting coating on common surfaces such as lift buttons. We will also install dividers for open tables and stagger working and lunch hours to ensure safe distancing. We shared these plans with our employees ahead of the re-opening to give them the confidence to ease back into work.

During the tightened circuit breaker period, some of our operations had been impacted by the mandatory quarantine and stay home notice period for our contractors’ migrant workforce. As circuit breaker measures ease, we will need to ensure that contractors continue to observe proper health monitoring of personnel and undertake safe operating measures as they start to deploy more workers to support us in our critical projects.

Additionally, we also have to work with our enterprise clients to carefully coordinate the gradual return of our support staff to their premises.

(Attributable to a Singtel spokesperson)


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

Productivity levels during work from home have been good, as Aviva focuses on outcomes achieved rather than timing and working hours put in by employees. Morale is upbeat with initiatives like virtual exercise classes, frequent fun through sharing sessions with team members and live chats with senior leaders. 

Currently, most of Aviva’s employees are working from home and may continue to do so for the next few months. Employees can claim for any purchase of office equipment, required at home, via their flex-benefit. Furthermore, cab rides (to office and back home) and lunch expenses up to S$10 (delivery to office/ takeaways) are being paid for those who are currently working in office.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Aviva is a firm believer in progressive work policies and putting employees at the heart of its initiatives. Following this circuit breaker, 70% of employees now prefer a working arrangement with the flexibility of working from home for a few days and going into the office for some days. Aviva is actively exploring work options which take into consideration both its employees’ and the company’s needs.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

Aviva stays up to date with the wellbeing of its employees through weekly pulse surveys that provide a gauge of their emotions, concerns and the support required and received. Sentiment has been broadly positive, with 77% feeling that their health and wellbeing are being sufficiently supported by Aviva. Leaders are encouraged to check in with their team more frequently to uncover any challenges or support needed. Wellbeing tips (e.g. posture, mindfulness) are also shared via internal communications and staff intranet articles.

“We aren’t simply picking things up from before. We need to ‘re-imagine’ the workplace where work and life can co-exist. We need time to adapt and co-create this ‘new’ reality with trust and compassion.” – Anuradha Purbey, People Director, Aviva Singapore. 


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

HP already had WFH arrangements to allow for flexibility in accommodating our employees’ needs prior to COVID-19. Before the circuit breaker started, most employees were working from home as part of our business continuity planning to ensure a seamless transition to mandated remote working. Employees had to learn to operate in a complete virtual environment while balancing their family, physical and mental health, as well as deal with evolving local mandates with COVID-19. Our teams have gradually gotten closer to true work-life integration and found what works for them.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

We have learned that it is possible to be productive from home in many of our roles. We are only allowing limited roles to go back to the office, especially for those who need to be onsite such as our R&D and manufacturing teams. And even for them, we have carefully implemented global best practices and are aligned with local government advisories. We will continue to monitor the situation and will head back to the office only when it is absolutely safe to do so.

With COVID-19 still actively spreading, our policies remain in effect for the foreseeable future rather than extending any travel or in-person events one month at a time. We continue to monitor developments closely, assess risk and evaluate the most prudent way to phase our return to sites. We will continue to incorporate the respective countries’ governmental rules and regulations in our return-to-work policy. This includes restricting access to our sites to essential employees, temperature checks, compulsory wearing of masks, safe distancing protocols and constant reminders on best practices to employees. Employees can still opt to work from home, especially if they have additional caregiving responsibilities or needs.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

We will continue our WFH-initiatives to ensure employees are able to better manage their mental wellness and be their best selves in any situation. HR leaders in each country have implemented robust engagement plans catered to their specific markets. These include:

• Weekly sessions with top US and global experts to discuss topics which include managing personal health and well-being, the science of uncertainty and staying engaged

• Our HP WorkLife Coaching Program provides free short-term counseling for all employees and even their immediate family if needed, while ensuring utmost confidentiality

• Hotlines and resources specially meant to help employees transit back to the workplace

• Monthly Wellness initiatives that focus on physical, mental and financial well being

Sowjanya Reddy, Greater Asia Regional Head of HR, HP Inc, said, “We believe flexibility in the work environment is essential. It’s a combination of mindset, policies and infrastructure to create the right environment where our employees feel supported and can deliver the right experiences for our customers. We will continue to use technology to adapt to the new hybrid working models and lean in, to creating a culture of trust, integrity and respect – all tenets of the HP way.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

All Qualtrics offices globally shifted to a “Work from Home” status in early March 2020, and with the exception of Hong Kong remain closed. We’ve been able to improve on the work from home experience using our own Remote + On-site Work Pulse, which captures regular employee feedback to understand their needs and take action to reduce the subsequent impact on culture, safety, and productivity. 

This feedback helped improve the way teams have connected, better provide for the home work set up, and implement a range of wellbeing initiatives to promote employee wellness. It also drove the decision to provide all global Qualtrics employees the option to continue working from home for the remainder of 2020.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Qualtrics will follow guidance of local government officials and pay very close attention to the experience data gathered from employees using the Qualtrics solution Return to Work Pulse. Knowing what employees are most concerned about helps Qualtrics design experiences that ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees.

Employee insights captured through the Qualtrics Return to Work Pulse will guide the transition back to ensure the safety of all employees. Leaders are using experience data to rethink the at work experience by identifying what measures need to be implemented before teams feel confident returning. 

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

Using employee experience data, Qualtrics has been able to identify and implement the following:

  • A COVID-19 knowledge base that provides support, advice and answers common questions
  • Regular communication from senior leaders 
  • Tips and training for overcoming common challenges, from how to avoid Zoom fatigue through to training around how to manage stress and avoid burnout
  • An extra day PTO to refresh and recharge
  • Provision of equipment to make the work home set up more effective 
  • The option to use their annual experience bonus ($2,000 SGD) to purchase items for their home 
  • Regular virtual social activities and team gatherings

Mao Gen Foo, Head of Southeast Asia, Qualtrics said, “Across the globe Qualtrics employees have done a phenomenal job in seamlessly transitioning to a new normal and in providing the support and services helping other businesses move forward. The employee experience insights captured with the free Qualtrics COVID-19 solutions have helped us support employees throughout the entire process, which means we are in the very fortunate position of not having to rush anyone back too early.”


How are you transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Apart from adhering to government mandates and treating physical safety as an essential requirement, EY is launching an app in some markets to allow contact tracing within its office environments, along with employee pulse checks on a ‘just-in-time’ basis. The latter uses questionnaires on whether employees feel well and who they have interacted with beforehand, and regular on-screen surveys on how they are feeling or finding the office environments once they come in.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

In the realm of wellbeing, making a conscious effort to understand employees is extremely important when planning to transition people back effectively. Measures including event-triggered pulse surveys to understand sentiment and wellbeing, along with other workforce analytics tools to understand how work has changed and the level of interaction between staff and managers, can be important. At the same time, businesses should focus on fostering inclusive leadership, including more one-on-one face time (even if via video call) with staff, versus relying only on group check-ins. 

Through these methods, employees who feel they need to return to the office – due to the lack of a conducive home working environment – can be transitioned first. Those comfortable working remotely can continue doing so.

Stephen Koss, EY Asia-Pacific Workforce Advisory Leader said, “Understanding individuals’ different needs and preferences is critical for ensuring wellbeing and the goal is to find ways for all employees to feel included, comfortable and productive. With employees looking for leadership, it’s a make-or-break time for employers. For organizations that haven’t lived the right values or established trust, the reality post-COVID is that employees are going to vote with their feet. At EY, our organization is aware and managing return to workplaces with utmost care.”


How has the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

Since day one, every action that we’ve taken has been guided by the principle of helping our employees to feel safe, secure and cared for. The first thing we did was to give everyone the option to work from home, letting them know that we trust their judgment when it comes to knowing what they need to do to keep themselves and their families safe. We also put technology and tools in place really quickly so that we could enable a fast shift to remote working for most of our workforce. 

This major work from home experiment has also expanded our thinking about the future of work at Mastercard as we look to permanently adopt some of the new ways of working that we have benefited from over the last several months.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Mastercard has long supported flexible work arrangements – and this remains true today. While most employees continue to work from home, some of our offices in markets like China and Australia, are beginning to re-open in a phased manner, and only when all necessary precautions are in place. Irrespective of when offices re-open, every employee will make the decision on when they feel comfortable returning. 

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

Knowing this is an anxious time, we pivoted quickly to provide our people with resources and benefits that show them that, no matter where they are or what their situation is, we will continue to have their backs. Considering solutions for employees in light of COVID-19, we identified those that would give them the greatest peace of mind — the flexibility of time off, mental health support and comprehensive health coverage for COVID-19.  

In addition, we launched our global, digital-first wellbeing program, Live Well, which supports employees’ physical, emotional and financial security, with a focus on mental health. The platform offers programs on stress management and mindfulness, how to stay active, get better sleep, healthier eating and preparing for retirement. We also provide free, confidential, 24-hour access to counselling for employees and their families, as well as webinars on managing stress, work-life balance and mental health fundamentals for managers.

(Attributed to Amanda Gervay, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.)


How has the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

An average of four out of five UOB employees worked from home during Singapore’s Circuit Breaker period. A pulse survey that we conducted at the mid-point of the Circuit Breaker found that most of our colleagues who were working from home were coping well. In the same pulse survey, close to four in five of our people indicated that they were maintaining their effectiveness while working from home.

During this period, close to 11,000 of our colleagues across the UOB network were logging in remotely daily. They maintained their productivity through virtual collaboration by which close to 125,000 hours were spent connecting with one another on video and audio meetings through Microsoft Teams.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

We are taking a very gradual and coordinated approach to bringing more people back to the office in three phases. In Phase One, our colleagues in critical functions and those who access highly confidential information will return to the office. In Phase Two, more of our people will return to office if their role requires them to do so, such as those in the client servicing and sales and relationship management teams. The final and third phase will start a new workplace norm where our people will come to the office on a rotation basis.

Our colleagues who are working at the Bank’s branches and office premises continue to be on staggered hours, split shifts and shorter shifts to minimise the need to travel during the peak hour commute. Through regular communications and visible markers, we continue to encourage our people to adhere to safe distancing measures including keeping a minimum one metre space between them and the person beside them.

We have also appointed Safe Management Officers (SMOs) to ensure safe distancing measures are being adhered to by colleagues who have returned to office. All safety precautions such as mandatory wearing of face masks, temperature checking, use of hand sanitisers, travel and health declarations, and increased frequency of disinfecting and cleaning also remain in place across all UOB premises.

How are you making sure wellbeing and mental health of employees are taken care of during the transition?

We have launched several initiatives to help our people manage their mental wellbeing. These include an online programme which provides practical steps to build mental resilience and a digital course for managers which provides tangible steps they can take to care for and to manage anxiety in their teams.

We have held two virtual training sessions with Dr John Lim, President of the Singapore Emergency Responder Academy, on building mental resilience which were attended by more than 400 colleagues. We are also working together with the Centre For Effective Living, a mental wellness consultancy, to provide our people with a training programme on ways to support their peers during this period.

Dean Tong, Head, Group Human Resources, UOB said, “With a key priority being to ensure the safety and well-being of our colleagues, we are taking a gradual and phased approach to having more of our people return to office. Colleagues who are able to work from home will continue to do so during this time.”


How has the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

At Telstra we have an active flexible working policy through our “All Roles Flex” programme, which has made the transition to remote working at scale far easier. In the past few months, we have kept our company spirit strong by encouraging constant communication between leaders and their teams, and through online resources like webinars and virtual workouts that have helped our team members remain healthy and engaged. We have also maintained our “Kampong spirit” culture from the home office, encouraging teams to stay close by looking out for one another.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

To keep our people safe, we have made the decision to have all our employees, who have been working from home, continue to do so. For the employees that need to urgently travel to the office, we have introduced measures to minimise the risk of transmission, including entry scanning and wearing of masks whilst inside the building. Temperature screening, social distancing and regular hygiene measures will continue to be observed. To protect our people, we have also provided guidelines and will identify vulnerable employees who have any underlying health issues that may make them more at risk of contracting COVID-19.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

While we continue to work from home, it is essential that we prepare for the mental health aftershocks of enforced isolation. As we slowly gear up to return to the office, we want to make sure that the mental health needs of our employees are met. Through our online mental health support systems, we are making sure that all our employees have access to 24/7 medical support.

We have also developed a COVID-19 Support Package. With an understanding that employees are now facing stress around their health, job uncertainty, financial stress and working from home, this package will give them access to tailored courses in the context of COVID-19. The package also includes remote work support webinars and a comprehensive COVID-19 mental health Q&A service with up-to-date official best practices for workplace mental health during the pandemic.

Marjet Andriesse, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Telstra, said, “It is by extending our reach deeper and truly connecting with people that we can emerge stronger. At times like this, organisations should be doing everything possible to keep team members engaged and healthy.”


How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

As governments around the world start to ease measures and businesses are slowly reopening, we are taking a phased approach to reoccupying our offices with employee safety, mental well-being and health as our top priority. Prior to reopening, all BlackBerry spaces will undergo deep cleaning, offices will be supplied with hand sanitizers and materials for disinfecting – and we are putting measures in place to ensure physical distancing is adhered to.

Whether employees are operating from home or the office, organizations must balance between productivity and security policies to provide a truly secure environment for employees to access the tools and files they need to maintain operations. With staff accessing company data from various devices and locations, the increase in vulnerable endpoints can take a toll on IT teams.

Stephen Mak, Vice President, BlackBerry Spark, Asia and Japan, BlackBerry said, “With these changes in our workplace, we must prioritize data and device privacy as much as employees’ physical health to improve the security posture organizations and empower employees to do what they do best.”

Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore

How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

WFH has provided us with a good learning and development experience. From the initial stage of disorientation to finding order and regularity, we relooked at our work processes to adapt to new ways of working. It helps that digital acceleration has always been a key driver of our business, which made it easier and faster for us to equip our people with the tools to cross collaborate effectively. What is critical is also our people’s mindset and ability to embrace and adapt to change. Their resilience and positive attitude allowed us to continue to make tremendous progress without too steep a drop in productivity.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Similar to the government’s phased approach, we are adopting a cautious de-escalation approach in re-opening our office. As the brewery operations has been ongoing during Circuit Breaker, we are already at a good level of preparedness with strict safe management measures. Now we are focusing on preparing our WFH workforce to safely transition back to the office in the new normal.

We have to mentally prepare them that there are strict safe management measures that they need to observe when they are back. We established a People & Safety Taskforce and appointed Safe Management Officers to implement robust safe management measures to ensure a safe working environment. Our building features will also have to change and we are exploring contactless fittings, installation of acrylic table shields as well as self-disinfecting coatings on common touchpoints.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

We stepped up our communications to engage our people and keep them informed on the latest situation. Department Heads also conduct frequent check-ins with their teams to allay any anxiety regarding job security and provide consistent reassurance that their health and safety is our top priority. As a member of The HEINEKEN Company, our Global People & Health Taskforce has set up an emotional support hotline that is free and available for all staff.

Patricia Lee, Corporate Affairs Director, Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore said, “There will be a paradigm shift on how we work, live and play post pandemic. We are already seeing gradual shifts. What’s most commendable is that our people have shown their passion to succeed and tenacity to thrive in adversity and adapt to the new norm. We have grown stronger as one team, with an amazing display of unity, camaraderie, collaboration and agility.”

Senoko Energy

How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

We have had a seamless transition to working-from-home thanks to a range of proactive measures including regular virtual team meetings, an online resource centre and live panel sessions for the senior management team to address all employees. At the same time, we are grateful and proud of our frontline employees who have been working on-site to keep the lights on in Singapore. We will continue to adopt stringent measures to ensure they are safe.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Our Maintenance team, which worked on a split-team basis alternating between working from home and on site, has returned to their stations from June 2. All health and safety measures that were implemented during Circuit Breaker will remain in place. The rest of our staff who can telecommute will continue to do so. These include the presence of Safe Management Officers to help our employees comply with safety measures, the deployment of the SafeEntry digital check-in system at our premises, mandatory wearing of masks, daily temperature taking, split-team arrangements, staggered working hours, strict social distancing protocols, prohibiting physical meetings and regular cleaning of premises.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

We have established an open line of communication with employees through our online platforms to keep them well-informed and to address their concerns. These include live webcasts and virtual weekly division meetings. We have also launched the Senoko Resource Centre, which encapsulates updates on COVID-19 and serves as an e-learning platform with tips to help employees adapt to the new normal and cope with stress. We also organise bi-weekly social activities, such as preparing Dalgona coffee and workout sessions, for employees to come together virtually to unwind and reconnect.

Joey Kwek, Vice President, Human Resources & Corporate Services, Senoko Energy, said, “As an essential service provider, Senoko Energy is committed to ensuring business continuity in these challenging times to ensure Singapore’s energy security. We are doing everything in our ability to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees, and will continue to provide them with the necessary support as we ready ourselves for the new normal.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

Employees have largely adapted well to it. We stay closely connected through virtual team meetings, feedback channels and updating them regularly. Our team leaders have done a good job in ensuring that productivity stays at a good level and to be aware of each person’s wellbeing. We have flexible work arrangements pre COVID19, and look to increase this in the new normal. We will build more virtual learning platforms such as our “Be Inspired” campaign launched during the lockdown to continue reskilling our workforce.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Safety is paramount, and we ensure that all safe management measures in place are aligned with local government guidance. We continue to require that employees telecommute, and if they do need to return, that it is conducted in a staggered approach. In Australia, we have COVID-19 Operational Manual and ‘back to work’ regular mental health protocols. In China, our ‘Together for Recovery After COVID-19’ campaign generates insights from employees who have returned to work to help us shape future initiatives.

We follow local regulator guidelines, are utilising new tools and have company-wide safety measures. In Australia, employees use digital contact tracing apps. In Thailand, employees use mobile apps to record their temperatures daily, log their movements. Workplace safety measures include staggered work/lunch hours, safe distancing and provision of PPE.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

During the lockdown, safeguarding our employees’ mental wellbeing is a key priority. In Singapore, we introduced a HR hotline, access to external counselling and reduced working hours while WFH. In Australia, our EAP (Employee Assistance Program) services were extended to all 320+ franchisees and their families. These will all remain available for the future.

Paul Choo, Vice President (HR & CSR), Bridgestone, China & Asia Pacific, said, “In every crisis lies an opportunity – an opportunity to grow in resilience, an opportunity for new thinking and change, an opportunity to reflect and review our life’s perspective and priorities, and a golden opportunity to connect more with our families – so as to emerge stronger and better in the new normal.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

It has been very smooth and there are two reasons for that: having employees enabled with digital solutions to work from anywhere and having in place a strong culture, policies and processes to support that. ServiceNow is a digital workflow company and our employees, just like our customers, use these workflows to tap and swipe to get work done, no matter where they work. Technology makes it possible for workers to stay connected and maintain productivity outside of the physical office space.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Only when our employees are ready to return to the workplace will they do so, and at their own pace. Our people have the choice and flexibility to work where they feel the most productive and safe. So, when we talk about returning to work – it is really a ‘work from anywhere’ world for our employees. To reassure employees who may start coming back to the office, possibly a select few from August, ServiceNow is working closely with building management at all facilities and following local government advisories to ensure employees are equipped with accurate information that will enable them to safely return (and commute) to work, if they choose to.

The health and safety of our 11,000-plus global employees, office staff and communities has always remained our top priority. ServiceNow closely follows government guidelines and regulations to keep our employees safe and protected. ServiceNow has also launched two suites of apps to help businesses manage the crisis and safely return people to work.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

ServiceNow has a range of employee mental health and well-being initiatives, including regular manager check-ins and Zoom social huddles to support morale and maintain general well-being. Staff have access to relaxation sessions, online fitness instructors and financial support to buy office equipment for a better home set up.

Radha Shreeniwas, Senior Director, HR, Asia Pacific Japan, said, “Working together and giving people choices is the way forward in this new normal of work. This is how we make the world of work, work better for everyone. Digital workflows can also help organisations practically manage the return to work, whether it be at the office or work from anywhere – from planning, implementing social distancing measures, monitoring the health and well-being of digital employees, and so much more.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

Boomi, a Dell Technologies business, has historically had a connected workplace policy, with approximately 40-50% of our workforce working remotely. Once COVID-19 took hold, we asked all our employees, across 67 locations worldwide, to do so – 100%. The nature of our business allows us to support our customers remotely, so it made sense. This unfortunate situation has proven that we can be productive, supportive of our customers, and grow the business.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

As we transition back to the workplace, we have a measured return-to-site process defined by four pillars: comprehensive risk assessment, site readiness, phased return, and communication. But it’s still region by region, country by country, site by site.

We’ll return with some strong guiding principles on using data and science for health and safety readiness, while also enabling new ways of working. 5G, high speed broadband, software defined networks (SDN), cloud and the integration platforms that tie them together will prompt many to work from any location more often, as long as customer and employee expectations are met.

We’re also assessing staggering shifts, wearing masks, temperature checks and social distancing, with desks spread further apart. We are looking at returning to site for some locations in July, but others not for many months to come.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

In terms of the wellbeing of our employees, from the very first weeks of ‘working from home’ to almost ‘living in the office’, we communicated with our employees transparently and frequently. We conducted an employee feedback survey after 4-5 weeks to ensure we understood how people felt. It was good to hear that people were feeling supported yet needed some flexibility. We’ve provided weekly updates and adapted our approach as necessary.

Ajit Melarkode, Vice President Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), Boomi said, “Our employees are our priority so it’s important that we check in with them often. We cannot continue to serve our customers unless the health and wellbeing of our employees is paramount.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

Since Snowflake is built from the ground up for the cloud, we have the people and technology needed to do their jobs securely from any location. This means our service operates as normal. Our customer support and other teams tasked with maintaining the reliability of our service are working remotely too. Similarly, we have taken precautions to ensure that relevant expert knowledge is available at all times.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

We are looking forward to transitioning back to the workplace as this could mean a return to real-world customer meetings, albeit staggered. Face-to-face interactions with customers, coffee catchups and bonding over lunch are highly valued at Snowflake. Although we can of course meet on online platforms, physical gestures and body language are hard to capture which may result in less interactive meetings.

A cross-functional team at Snowflake ensures updated assessments and news developments pertaining to the virus. Our planning and response team regularly reviews government advice and guidelines to protect the health and safety of Snowflake employees.

Customer events that help businesses learn how to transform their organisations are a vital part of our success and have expanded in recent years to five continents. Under the present circumstances we are managing all such events remotely. Even our annual user conference, Snowflake Summit, originally scheduled at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas from June 1-4, has been postponed, ensuring everyone’s safety.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

Our global team is always coming up with different online social activities (such as yoga and meditation classes) to keep our minds and bodies active and to protect employees from work burnout. These activities are great as they boost multi-regional relationships among colleagues across our different markets. 

Geoff Soon, Managing Director, South Asia, Snowflake said, “Snowflake is committed to doing everything we can to keep our employees safe, our business functioning normally, and our cloud data platform as a service operating as expected for our valued customers.” 


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

The work from home arrangement has been successful for Kofax, productivity has been consistently high, there is a high level of employee communication and engagement among employees, managers, and colleagues during this work from home period. The company’s transition back to the office environment is overall centralized and tightly controlled through the Kofax Office Re-Engagement Team (KORE Team), together with the executive team (SVP HR, CIO, General Council) working on a Return to Office policy/process. The process will be controlled and staggered by the executive team.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Each office that reopens will have a single point of contact who will provide specific instructions on the processes and protocols we will follow when returning to the office. There will also be a designated team leader to answer questions and discuss concerns. Staggered team shifts in place to maintain social distancing, hand sanitizing stations, strict guidelines for the use of office conference rooms, no gathering of employees during breaks, regular office cleanings/sanitation, continued restricted travels are some of the regulations, employees will be required to acknowledge the understanding of the policy and their personal responsibilities upon return. 

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

We remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting the health and well-being of all our employees. Consistent management communication with teams is crucial and we schedule social gatherings on Microsoft TEAMS with on-going oversight by the local HR teams. Many of these practices were in place prior to the implementation of the stay-at-home orders. 

Zakir Ahmed, Senior Vice President & GM – Asia Pacific & Japan, Kofax said, “As employees begin to return to offices, we continue to monitor and adjust as needed based on the specific needs of each office. Every decision is made with the health and well-being of our employees in mind. We are committed to a coordinated and practical return-to-office process to ensure the safety of all Kofax employees.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

Our employees have done very well to cope during this work from home period.  From a results stand-point, our teams did not miss a beat and continued to deliver beyond expectations on many fronts. They leaned in and adapted quickly to the virtual arena, despite many employees facing challenging home situations – be it coping with children undergoing home-based learning, or the lack of space or even loneliness. 

We had launched our “Freedom to Flex” program in 2019 to make it easy for our employees who want to transition to remote working – even before the lockdowns began to combat the spread of COVID-19 virus. As such, a large proportion of our workforce were already equipped to work from home for quite some time, making this process a much more frictionless one. 

We are constantly checking in with our employees through team check-ins, virtual water-coolers, and global employee surveys to check in on their wellbeing and better understand their needs in this current as well as post-pandemic climate. Needless to say, our “Freedom to Flex” program will continue beyond the lockdown period and if our employees are keen to work from home, we will support them in doing so. The way of working has evolved, and it is unlikely that the full workforce will return to work from the office again as we shift towards the new normal. 

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

While the default mode for most of us will be to continue working from home for some time to come, we are cognizant of the fact that there are some employees who have very challenging home situations that would benefit greatly from returning to the office to work.  As such, we will be opening our offices to a very small percentage of employees to help ease their personal situations. Employees will be required to agree to certain safety measures before opting to work from the office space. These measures include wearing face masks in the office, maintaining a physical distancing of 1.8 meters, mandatory temperature-taking, contact-tracing, and staggered team arrangements. In addition to this, all meetings will continue to be conducted on virtual platforms.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

Besides the employee engagement programs and team check-ins, F5 employees globally also have access to platforms such as Headspace to help with stress, anxiety and sleeping difficulties through different forms of meditations as well as Employee Assistance Program with Compsych, where employees and their dependents can call the hotline to seek counselling. Our topmost priority are our people and we are always looking at different means to help our employees navigate such stressful phases of their lives. 

(Attributed to Grace Cheong, Vice President, HR, APCJ, F5)


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

We transitioned to WFH arrangements in all 19 countries we are based in ahead of government guidance. Based on employee surveys and focus groups conducted, we found that our employees continue to feel fulfilled and productive despite being away from the office. 

Remote working is part of our working culture given that we are a global technology firm. However, we recognise that some employees do face challenges with this arrangement. We work with training vendors to offer online training modules for employees to maximise the WFH experience. We also offer online fitness services, opportunities for employees to purchase additional IT equipment, and additional flexibility in working hours for employees with caregiving responsibilities. 

Most employees have shared that they expect more flexibility to WFH post-COVID-19. We are factoring this into our long-term work arrangement plans. 

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

We expect to continue with remote working till the year end. However, we will consider a partial reopening of our offices potentially from July onwards for employees who are facing continuous space limitations and internet connectivity issues at home. We are actively planning the re-opening of our offices for a small number of employees. We will be implementing strict social distancing measures, hygiene measures and tools to provide employees with options to book a desk ahead of going to an office. Further measures are being worked on and will be in accordance to government advisories as they are being rolled out. 

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

Criteo has partnered with external partners such as psychologists to provide remote counselling support in all markets. Psychologists are based in the countries we operate in and all information shared are kept in utmost confidentiality. Criteo will continue to provide counselling support even as lockdown restrictions start easing in many countries. Employees are regularly using this service and find it helpful. Our People team will also continue gathering feedback through surveys and focus groups to ensure we provide employees with the support they need. 

Matt van Geldere, Vice-President, Global People Experience, Criteo said, “Enabling employees to make different decisions regarding their work arrangements should be considered a new form of diversity. Companies striving for diversity in their workforce should be sensitive to the varying needs and preferences of their employees and be flexible in accepting these differences.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

At the start of lockdown, we gave every employee a budget of 500 euros to help make working from home a little easier. We also created a work from home support programme to help boost morale and keep employees connected.

If anything, this situation has shown us just how productive employees can be while working from home. We had a very successful start to the year and went into Q2 full steam ahead. This is being done on a case by case basis, depending on local government advice. We have 500 employees across 16 locations globally, so there’s a lot of moving parts to consider! 

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Our China office is now fully open. Because it’s a large space, we can host the entire team while still following social distancing measures. We’ve also started to open up our Berlin headquarters, and currently have around 10% of employees back in the office. It’s a similar situation for our Seoul and Tokyo offices.

However, we know that not everyone will want to or feel safe going back to the office – so employees are free to work from home for the rest of the year if they would feel safer doing so. Opening up the offices in phases means we can accommodate those who want to be back in an office setting, while still being able to follow social distancing measures. 

We also have a host of measures in place to help keep employees safe and healthy, from additional cleaning to making sure employees wear masks whenever they are away from their desks, as well as partitions to limit indirect contact. We are mindful that offices will be reopening at different times – so we will keep our work from home support program running for as long as it’s helpful, and most importantly reiterate that employees should only come into the office if they feel comfortable. 

Karel Ellis-Gray, VP People & Organization, Adjust said, “Luckily, remote work is nothing new for Adjust – so the transition to working from home full-time was fairly smooth for the majority of our employees. Nonetheless we’ve found it important to step up communication to reassure employees on how we are handling the situation, and this is even more critical now that we’re slowly starting to open up our offices. We want employees to feel safe and informed as we tiptoe towards normality, so proactive communication about what we’re doing to keep employees healthy is key.” 


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees?

Productivity and employee engagement during the work from home period has remained high. When home becomes the office however, it can be easy to over-work, so we’ve been encouraging staff to try and completely switch off outside working hours and maintain a clear divide between work and leisure time.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

We are adhering to the Singapore government’s guidance in terms of work from home and will only transition back to the office when we feel it is safe to do so. When that does eventually happen, we’ll implement the necessary health and safety measures to protect employees, such as mandating the wearing of masks at all times, safe distancing between work stations and colleagues when moving around and regular sanitisation of surfaces.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

The mental health and well-being of our employees is a top priority and we do our utmost to listen to colleagues’ concerns and provide support. Informative, clear and regular communication with teams is crucial to maintain cohesiveness, so we keep employees up to date on local policy changes that may impact them and our business to help reassure them, and to help them stay engaged and focused.

(Attributed to Darrell Wright, Managing Director of Cognito APAC)


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees?

At Accuity, the core values of empathy, inclusiveness, and trust, have made the mass transition to working from home quite seamless. Even before safe distancing measures were announced by governments, being sensitive to concerns about commuting on public transport and trust that a lack of physical visibility will not be an impediment to work being delivered, allowed Accuity to encourage minimal office presence and offer complete flexibility. Communications tools for regular virtual lunches, one-on-one check-ins, and team huddles, as well as a digital internal wellnessHUB with access to remote wellness toolkits and virtual fitness programs, have helped replicate a close-knit office culture.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

As lockdowns ease, the acknowledgement that everyone has different needs, and empathy for individuals who feel working from home is not ideal, means some can transition back first.

In preparation, Accuity’s internal Location Leadership Team and Safe Management Measures Officers are ensuring that those who want to return, can do so safely. Measures include thorough disinfection of offices, intensified cleaning regimes for touch surfaces, making hand sanitizers and face masks widely available, protective screens for reception staff at higher risk, and signages put up to clearly communicate how office space should be used to maintain safe distancing. An app has also been launched for staff to register before coming in, so the number of people in the office can be managed.

Bharath Vellore, Managing Director, Asia-Pacific, Accuity said, “We have learnt that working from home and enabling it, was the easiest thing to do and are in no rush to have everyone back in immediately. Major financial institutions place their trust in Accuity to help them with financial crime compliance and transactions screening – which is business critical. But because we have prioritised our employees’ well-being, at no point has the pandemic affected our delivery capabilities. For those who need to return once we can, measures have been taken to ensure safety. Wherever we work, we must stay genuinely invested in each other’s personal and professional success.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

The work from home period was a good opportunity for us as employers, to gauge how each employee rises to this situation and copes with challenges to deliver results in adversity. As a company, we at Workana have been prepared to work remotely, hence our team adjusted quickly to it. We ensured that communication and collaboration measures were put in place through regular virtual meetings for updates, work dissemination and use of collaborative technologies.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

The decision to move fully to remote work, or to shift to a skeletal workforce where some will be at the office is a decision that we take very cautiously.  We consider practicing social distancing, having more natural light, and extra cleaning in the workplace. We will still maintain virtual meetings as well.  

We believe that work arrangements should not disrupt business operations. Thankfully, we have our processes and technology solutions that are already in place. Based on our experience, we know that any transition will be smooth since we have been accustomed to the use of collaborative communication tools as well as project management, processes, strategy, and technology. 

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

We place great importance to incorporating wellness action plans and ensuring positive work/life balance. Making the time to regularly check in with employees to gain some insight into their personal wellbeing and provide necessary support like flexible working hours or re-arranging their work scope during this period. 

COVID-19 has undoubtedly shaken up how companies source teams and convince many to consider incorporating remote or freelance workers for projects encouraging the hiring of locally based talent. With the shift in technology and with developing trends in how people work, we are pleased that the promise of virtual teams is fast becoming the new norm.

(Attributed to Tomas O’Farrell, Co-Founder, Workana)

Roche Pharma

How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

The existing structures we had in place to help employees work remotely were a good foundation to build upon. Roche Pharma adapted swiftly and introduced a suite of virtual tools to replace face-to-face interactions, facilitate deeper collaborations and enhance productivity. Over time, we saw sentiments shift more positively amongst our people as they adapted and found a rhythm to their remote working.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

We will employ a gradual and phased approach in transitioning our people back to their workplaces and will comply with local guidelines and requirements. Our main responsibilities lie in ensuring the safety and functionality of our work sites, as well as employees’ well-being. Going back to offices is undoubtedly an anxious experience for many. Communications with our people is paramount in such times and we make sure to keep them abreast of developments on a weekly basis.

We have applied an antimicrobial spray coating on high-use surfaces in the office and removed touchscreen panels to minimise the transmission of germs. A Facial Recognition Temperature Detection System will be installed at the main entrance to detect people with higher temperatures and deny entry for those who are not wearing masks.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

We have pulled our field force from visiting healthcare providers early on and provided our employees with tools to ensure business continuity. We introduced funds and programmes that supports mental and overall wellbeing, such as confidential counselling to cope with stress, access to telemedicine and free membership to virtual mindfulness and gym classes.

Shafaq Kamran, People and Culture Chapter Lead, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Singapore, said, “These are challenging times where businesses require people to be agile and adapt as the COVID-19 situation unfurls. The crux that holds us together is the trust and support we lend unto each other, and to that end, a show of empathy goes a long way. A supportive work environment inspires a deeper commitment towards a company’s purpose and reveals the resilience of its people especially during tough times.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

The COVID-19 experience pushed just about the entire world into working remotely, and although most of us went into it unwillingly, most of us have been pleasantly surprised that working from home has been a success. It may be that in the future the office becomes mainly a social hub, dedicated to bringing teams together to meet, collaborate and socialize, and to host clients on key occasions.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

We intend to move back into each office utilising a three-phased, gated approach that will result in a reduced seating capacity in all of our locations to ensure physical distancing. We will also encourage at-risk staff to continue to work from home until the pandemic recedes. We are considering split teams, longer office hours and other scheduling approaches to help our employees to commute during off peak hours. We are also modifying many of our operations polices regarding seating, use of pantries and coffee bars, food service, deliveries and housekeeping.

We will be implementing the use of an app that we will use to log in employee and visitors, and that will provide for contact tracing. We are working with our landlords to review and upgrade as possible the HVAC systems in our offices, including upgraded air filtration.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

As a “people first” organisation, the safety and wellbeing of our employees is of paramount importance. We are very concerned with our teams’ sense of wellbeing, and are taking important steps to make sure it is being maintained. During the last couple of weeks, our HR team has reached out to each of our employees individually, and during these 30-minute calls, each team member is being asked how they are doing, how their working from home experience has been going, and if they have any particular concerns with returning to the office. The information we are gathering is important as we plan for each of our offices to reopen.

David Calkins, Regional Managing Principal, Asia-Pacific and Middle East, Gensler, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic will cause major shifts in how we experience the workplace. When this crisis ends, we may well discover that there have been fundamental changes in the way we work and in the workplace. With Covid-19 being the biggest disrupter, many aspects of the workplace are bound to change permanently. We are currently seeing a high demand on a ‘touchless workplace’ – a workplace that not only is frictionless but also very much ‘touchless’.”


How was the work from home period been for the company and employees? 

Being a technology company, we have been able to transition to remote working seamlessly with 95% of our 30,000 staff working from home. One of the key success factors has been our digital workspace platform, Workspace ONE, which has allowed employees secure access to all business-critical apps, collaboration tools, expense reports, office supplies, etc., via any device. We have succeeded in life’s ‘experiment’ that most work can be done effectively in a distributed environment. This is just the beginning of a much larger effort to shift to a globally distributed and remote workforce on a more permanent basis with at least 50% of work performed remotely.

How is your company transitioning back to the workplace and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of employees?

Our current ‘Work 2.0’ project really seeks to fast track us into the future by reviewing many ways of working that we have taken for granted and turning these policies, procedures, and cultural norms on their head. Influenced by a ‘can-do’ leadership approach and entwined with employee-led initiatives, we are already seeing programmes to acclimatise employees to the new norms such as trainings for yoga, art classes for children, music sessions, etc.

How are you ensuring the wellbeing of employees during the transition?

Whilst technology provides the bedrock to underpin our success, the well-being of employees and having a culture to support this change needs to work in unison. We have openly discussed many topics with our leadership team, ranging from mental health support through to the physical needs of our employees at home, and have actively surveyed our global workforce to make sure our employees needs are heard. As a result, we have undertaken a range of actions. From providing a companywide day off and 10 days of additional paid leave for employees affected in any way by the situation, to 1:1 employee or family counselling services, to our 1:1 manager support program that prepares people managers to deal with an array of complex employee issues.

(Attributed to Linda Hamill, Head of HR, Asia Pacific & Japan, VMware)

*Stay tuned as more companies share how they are returning to the workplace