The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed workplaces and how we interact with one another. Businesses traditionally spend a lot of time thinking about their customers, but they’re now shifting that to employees as well.
We learnt very quickly during 2020 and 2021 that our employees across the globe were exhausted. Shutting off from work was difficult while working from home and the data from our regular employee surveys supported this. As a result, we’ve expanded and enhanced many of our HR practices and our key learnings going into 2022 as follows:
Better managing remote/hybrid work
With remote work here to stay, in various forms, it’s very important that employees are treated equally wherever they are working from. Remote workers shouldn’t be overlooked or feel that they’re less valued than office-based staff.
Businesses also need to be aware that "Zoom fatigue" is a real concern and to focus on quality versus quantity of meetings. We’ve made our weekly global town hall meetings as accessible as possible by releasing them as podcasts. Employees are encouraged to "walk and listen" to recordings as much as possible.
Some people are keen to return to a physical workplace, at least part-time, and should be helped to transition back. Many want to continue working from home but miss the human connection an office provides. We cancelled the leases on some of our offices globally during the pandemic, but when it came to recent recruiting, we found that "zero office" wasn’t actually seen as a benefit. People still want the ability to meet so we’ve made sure that we have office spaces in all key locations.
Taking care of mental health
People’s mental health has suffered badly during the pandemic. According to research by the Black Dog Institute, Australian workers have reported increased mental health issues over the last decade, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Institute describes workplace mental health as an "emerging public health crisis", with mentally unhealthy workplaces costing Australia up to $39 billion each year due to lost participation and productivity. There are similar concerns across Southeast Asia, with a recent survey finding that more than half (54%) of employees were not satisfied with their company's current mental wellness initiatives.
To better support our staff, we’ve introduced impact.com "Mental Health Champions". In APAC this involved fourteen of our people managers undergoing five hours of training in Mental Health First Aid. So, in addition to Private Health insurance and our Employee Assistance Program, our employees were supported and had multiple avenues to reach out for help.
Better parental leave policies
Whilst APAC lags behind many other developed nations when it comes to parental leave, individual organisations are free to offer their own, more generous policies. impact.com now has a global parental leave policy with up to 26 weeks fully paid parental leave, including superannuation in Australia.
This policy means that no matter what country someone is based in, their gender, or their path to becoming a parent (childbirth or adoption) they are eligible for 26 weeks paid leave. This policy will not only affect the lives and wellbeing of our employees but their partners and children as well. To know that they are financially taken care of during such a crucial time is incredible and life changing.
Unlimited paid time off
One of our global programs is unlimited paid time off, to allow employees to be present for important things like their child’s first day of school, to move house or to simply take a mental health break.
Additionally, we offer three company-wide days off per year to recognise holidays such as Diwali, International Day of Happiness and German Unity Day. Our DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) team also works to educate our 800+ people across the globe on the significance of these holidays. These company holidays are always scheduled on a Friday or Monday to enable a long weekend for everyone in the business.
Creating inclusive events
While we set global policies to ensure that everyone has the same rights and entitlements, we also empower country managers to make decisions that are relevant to their country. We have fourteen offices set up in ten countries and employees can choose the days in which they work in the office or at home depending on what is relevant in each country.
Our employees in China have long since returned to the office so it’s about fostering a team environment there. They recently held a running event for employees and also host regular team lunches and happy hours. In Australia, we remain in a hybrid environment and have had a mix of virtual events (we held a virtual pottery class to discover the benefits of art therapy) and real world catch ups. We consider at every stage whether events are fully inclusive and appropriate.
During 2022 it will be imperative for businesses to elevate the employee experience at every level. This includes having leaders who "walk the talk" and can communicate honestly and openly with everyone and live up to the values set at every turn. In the complex new world of hybrid work, I'm proud to see our leaders put the human experience at impact.com front and centre. From my perspective, 2022 will be all about showing up for employees with heart, hustle, humility and truly leading by example.