Employee well-being, especially mental wellness, has been the buzzword since the COVID-19 pandemic required employees to work from home. In response, many organizations in the Philippines have enhanced their employee wellness benefits and implemented new initiatives and practices to include new online communication and listening platforms, regular check-ins with their teams, training for management to lead with empathy and look out for potential signs of mental health issues.
As part of the recent panel discussion on Fostering Inclusive Workplaces that Support Mental Well-being and Work-Life Harmony at the ASEAN Future of Work Conference panel, Evelyn Kwek, Managing Director of Great Place to Work® ASEAN and ANZ, highlighted that focusing on mental wellness to the exclusion of other aspects of an employee’s overall well-being is not sustainable. Companies need to be mindful that people’s holistic experiences of well-being at work, including mental health, financial wellness, sense of purpose, social support, and meaningful connections contribute to their well-being in totality. Furthermore, when one or more aspects are not present, this can, and likely will, have a negative impact on their mental wellness as well.
Many companies already have employee wellness pillars in place, and usually comprise their physical health and safety, financial wellness, mental health, and emotional/social support. However, it is important to note that the concept of well-being in today’s context has evolved in scope and increasingly become a critical piece of employee experience at work. In an on-going research study on well-being, Great Place to Work®’s perspective is that an employee’s sense of purpose also contributes to their well-being—this refers to whether they feel that their work makes a difference and contributes to something “bigger”, and whether their job has special meaning, i.e. it’s not “just a job”. This determines their sense of pride in their job and adds or detracts from their overall satisfaction and even their perception of well-being.
As such, companies today need to look at well-being holistically and not overlook the big picture by isolating and focusing on only one area, e.g. mental wellness. Here are examples taken from our Philippines Insights Report 2021, on how our Philippines Best Workplaces™ and Great Place to Work-Certified™ companies addressed their employees’ holistic well-being:
1. Physical health and safety
• DHL Express found itself amongst the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as a global leader in transportation and express logistics, and with the majority of its workforce considered frontline workers. Frontline staff were provided protection over and on top of what was legally required, with masks, shields, gloves, coverall suits, safety spectacles, alcohol gels, and even multivitamins generously provided. While most non-frontline staff were allowed to work-from-home and provided full support and flexibility, full safety precautions were taken for those that had to work in the office. The management provided nearby accommodation and transport for staff that lived far away while all office staff were also provided meals in view of food establishments not operating as usual.
• Atlassian, understanding the constraints that the new normal placed on ordinary physical activity, encouraged an active lifestyle amongst its staff via a Walk This Way challenge, where teams of four Atlassians competed against other teams to notch the greatest number of steps. The highly successful competition was run a second time in October, this time with Atlassian planting one tree for every 300 steps taken by an Atlassian employee. To make the experience as inclusive as possible, especially for those with disabilities, a walking conversion chart was created to compare other physical activities like archery, biking, yoga, and even fishing to steps taken per minute.
2. Financial wellness
• S&P Global’s fiscal apprehensions were handled thoughtfully in numerous ways. The company made sure that new hires did not suffer financially despite delays to their start dates due to the pandemic, while Performance Improvement Plans and Coaching Plans were extended to give more room for employees and managers to improve and adapt. In addition to adjusting the Performance Appraisal system to accommodate the uniqueness of the pandemic situation, they also paid out bonuses during the first half of 2020 as extra support to all employees. They further provided generous allowances for the purchase of home office equipment to enable employees to better adapt to working from home.
• Synchrony employees who worked from home enjoyed full financial support, such as monthly communication stipends, extended deadlines for reimbursement of benefits, expansion of monthly wellness program to include online yoga or gym classes and a one-time wellness assistance for them to purchase isopropyl rubbing alcohol, vitamins, masks and other provisions for their health. In recognition of potential financial concerns, a special one-time CEO monetary award was given to ALL employees, from rank and file to senior management, along with the advancement of a proration of their 13th month pay.
3. Mental/psychological wellness
• Canva Philippines, understanding the toll the pandemic was taking on people’s mental health, rolled out initiatives to bolster people’s wellbeing holistically and invested resources to improve people’s mental health. This included the certification of 19 mental health first responders in their People Team, moving all of their fitness and wellbeing classes online and executed a number of other engagement activities virtually.
• PSG Philippines utilized all possible channels to deliver clear, transparent and two-way communication with employees while keeping their spirits up with a range of fun activities. Their ‘WeTalk’ series of seminars that was launched in 2019 customized new topics that were relevant to their employees’ needs at the time, such as ‘Yoga for Beginners’, ‘Eating Right’ and ‘Mental Health’.
• Western Union AROC, in addition to enhanced medical support such as flu vaccination for staff and their families, employees of were also provided a free one-year subscription to Headspace for their mental wellbeing. Physical fitness was also highlighted through online workout sessions that were gamified with rewards to increase participation.
4. Emotional/social support
• DHL Express, where fostering team spirit and togetherness proved to be a top priority, numerous activities were held throughout the year, including DHL’s Got Heart Digital Celebration, #DoubleTap4Pride, DHL4HER and Virtual Appreciation Week, amongst others. They also expedited the implementation of ‘Smartr’, a one-stop employee communication and social application, and provided rewards to top users to promote usage and enhance employee camaraderie.
• Ingram Micro Philippines ensured that camaraderie and engagement amongst their employees stayed at their highest via a comprehensive event calendar. Social events in 2020 included Pride Celebrations, ‘Fun-at-Home’ series of events and activities, ‘A Step into Greatness’ virtual celebration, a virtual Halloween Fright Fest (that featured Filipino folklore and mythological creatures!) and a 2-week Rise Up Holiday Fest that culminated in a Star Awards Night with fun activities such as a Lip Sync Battle and exciting raffle prizes.
5. Sense of purpose
• PayPal Philippines, along with deep concern for their employees,also extended care to the community at large by providing grants to 9 NGOs and partnering with community programs to provide food and tech support. Their most unique community outreach program was the #PayPalitForward campaign. Each employee could nominate up to five people that have inspired them during the Covid-19 pandemic, with each nominee being sent USD $50 along with a personal message from the nominating employee.
• In true ‘Bayanihan Spirit,’ GPTW-Certified Companies namely Sutherland, DHL Express Philippines, Synchrony Global Services, Ingram Micro, PSG Global Solutions, White and Case, Canva Philippines, and Sun Life Asia Service Centre-Philippines, raised resources to support the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation and its Covid-19 response program, called ‘Educational Hub’ or ‘E-hub. These three e-hubs are intended to benefit more than 200 Filipino students from these far-flung areas by providing them with access to online education, and more than 30 teachers will now have much needed equipment to empower and help them cope with today’s new way of teaching. Great Place to Work® is committed to fulfilling our brand promise, which is to “to build a better world by helping every organization become a great place to work For All™.” We chose to support this meaningful initiative to pave the way for quality education to be made available For All™, especially Filipino children, as the country shifts to remote learning.
While the emphasis on caring for employees’ mental wellness was heightened due to the pandemic, companies today have come to realize the critical role it plays to attract, retain and sustain talent. Companies will do well to take a whole person approach in designing well-being policies, programs, and practices, and take into account employees’ evolving needs and aspirations.