What can businesses of all sizes learn from a company that has successfully looked after its employees from the onset of the COVID-19 crisis to date?

In a recent webinar organized by Shell Business Office Manila on creating the “new norm” through the COVID-19 response of companies, Thomson Reuters Manila Site Lead and Senior Director for Vendor Strategy and Relationship Management Tes Veloso shared strategies on how the company has been able to quickly transition their work arrangements without major disruptions, as well as ensuring that all team members are equipped and engaged to work under new circumstances.

Don’t be afraid to make bold decisions.

“The sense of urgency drove us to what we consider at that time very bold decisions. We closed the site before the lockdown was announced, having decided to move everybody to a 100% work-from-home situation,” Veloso explained.

Veloso and her team were closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines. A must for any situation, given that a world that is increasingly facing a lot of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Having the right information enabled the leadership team to make decisions that they felt was right for everyone. “I am grateful to be working for a company that places a lot of trusts that you are doing the right thing,” she added.

Equip teams to transition to flexible working arrangements.

Veloso shared that it was relatively easy for their teams to transition to a work-from-home arrangement, as everybody had laptops. Beyond that, the company provided assistance to ensure that all team members had what they needed in a new work arrangement.

“We were very lucky that all our teams had laptops, and this made it easier to convert to a work-from-home set-up,” Veloso explained. “In addition to providing employees with internet subsidies, for the time being, we also delivered office equipment to them, including monitors, docking stations, keyboards, and headsets. This allowed our employees to become more productive while working from home.”

Provide teams with the necessary support.

“We have an Employee Assistance Program, focused on mental, emotional, physical, and financial issues for our employees and their dependents. We knew it wasn’t just our employees who were experiencing stress—it was also the people who lived with them,” Veloso explained. “Our employees also had access to telemedicine—doctors who could be reached via phone or online so people could consult with.”

Allow employees to understand the reasons for decisions.

When significant decisions are made, it is important that employees understand the rationale behind it. This helped manage change, some of which were drastic and immediate.

Veloso shared, “We had more frequent townhalls. In one we told the story behind the story. Thomson Reuters Manila transitioned from working in the office to working from home practically overnight. We figured that everybody was probably reeling from the speed of such a move. At the town hall, we told walked the teams through our thinking we told them the story behind our decisions. Sharing the story behind those decisions that was so important.”

Continue engaging with employees through various activities, especially those that give a sense of purpose.

Veloso shared that Thomson Reuters had put together various activities to address different employee needs, underscoring that people are also looking for activities amidst the lockdown. “We had yoga and Zumba sessions online. We ran webcasts on fake news and another one rape culture—we wanted people to think beyond work,” she explained.

More importantly, it’s crucial to continue activities that give a sense of purpose. “We continued with our corporate social responsibility activities. We raised over Php400,000 to fund test kits. We ran a snack brigade, where we fed front liners from Philippine Red Cross. We’re continuing this because as people get increasingly settled down, they find value in doing meaningful things,” Veloso added.

Take time for yourself.

Initially, Veloso felt a lot of stress, feeling the need to be available all the time for both local and global teams. In the early days of the lockdown, this meant working 16-18 hours a day.

“I realized very quickly it wasn’t serving myself or the people I was working with well. I had to teach myself to slow down, to take mental and physical breaks. I acknowledged that since things were not the same, I couldn’t and shouldn’t act the same way,” she shared, adding that she took time in the afternoons for yoga.

“We encouraged vacation time among our employees. Having that time away to refresh and recharge is very, very important,” she shared.

Most importantly, trust your people.

Given what seems like a prolonged situation for everyone in Manila to deal with, Veloso shares that working from home remains to be the most viable option. “We found a way to be able to work from home. In Thomson Reuters, our site is about 80-85% millennials and a few Gen Zs. Leaders asked, ‘Can millennials and Gen Zs work from home, without much supervision?’ What this pandemic has proven is that they can work well from home. We can trust our employees to do a very good job, even without the managers looking over their shoulders,” she pointed out.