How Morneau Shepell focuses on employees’ well-being amid COVID-19

The Toronto-based HR technology services company, which supports employee financial and emotional well-being services, also helps clients keep their workforces balanced during disasters and other crises. As COVID-19 hit, it took multiple pages from its external playbook to keep its global staff on track.

Mourneau Shepell

Sometimes a crisis turns an organization inside-out; other times, it’s outside-in.

As COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our collective health and wealth, companies have turned their attention to employees’ well-being—emotionally, as well as physically.

For Toronto-based Morneau Shepell, that focus is its stock in trade.

Roderick Cumming, VP for internal communications and member of the Communications Leadership Council, is at the vanguard of ensuring that the global company’s 6000 employees spanning four continents garner all the benefits that Morneau Shepell’s clients enjoy: mental health, emotional health and trauma support, among other HR and employee well-being services, especially in the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster.

Beyond that, the company website has been offering COVID-19 guidance and information to the public at large, crystallizing the theme that has become universal: “We’re all in this together.”

Cumming notes that he and other top leaders, who meet virtually each day, quickly cemented the business continuity plan—and then posted it to the company website, along with a message from President and CEO Stephen Liptrap.

For clients, Cumming says, Morneau Shepell’s offerings include the following:

Its other communication channel focuses on employees, including a shift in logistics, he says.

Cumming says expanding Morneau Shepell’s work-from-home contingent presented a sizable but workable challenge: “We already had about 1,500 people working from on a regular basis, so we had the technology and the processes in place for that.”

Now about 97% of the workforce is finding space at the dining table or in the den to carry out their daily duties. (Those still reporting to their respective offices are practicing physical distancing, he assures listeners on the call.)

Still, challenges remain.

Working from home is one thing,” Cumming says. “Working from home with your spouse and your children is another thing, so we’ve been looking to provide some work-life balance there for our colleagues.”

For employees, those efforts include the following resources and communiques:

  • A COVID-19 resource page on the intranet
  • A work-from-home well-being resources page—well-being content, as well as mental health resources such as webinars, articles and other formats
  • Weekly employee updates (sent directly to staff)
  • People leader updates (to help supervisors understand and manage their people, as well as addressing HR and payroll issues)
  • CEO print and audio messaging
  • The company’s own LifeWorks total well-being app

A key focus is on breaking down the barriers that can make the virus-imposed isolation difficult on multiple levels for employees accustomed to a congenial face-to-face greeting each morning, corny jokes to lighten a busy workday, and idle lunchtime chatter about the Maple Leafs and the Raptors.

To that end, employees are sharing their own stories, even what their spouses are up to, in aid of keeping the human element at the forefront of their interactions.

It’s all part of prioritizing staffers’ emotional well-being—and keeping the business rolling along.

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