A simple message from senior executives encouraged colleagues to prioritize self-care, in whatever form works best for them. Having global leaders share their personal ‘permissions’ on our intranet, such as ‘It’s OK to feel overwhelmed by what life is throwing at me or mine’, normalized this topic and opened up dialogue. The blog generated over 7,000 views and more than 100 contributions from colleagues posting their own notes in response.
Over the past 12 months, our programs have been shaped by these ongoing conversations. Our mental health first aid network was expanded and changes to leave policy were introduced. Back-up care days were increased to 15 per employee per dependent and a virtual babysitting service was launched along with a personal resilience app. A new care leave policy lets employees take up to 10 working days of paid leave to help manage planned and unplanned life moments. These might include difficult home circumstances, unexpected emergencies, short-term medical issues affecting the health of immediate family members or short-term childcare challenges.
C-suites and boards recognize that empathetic leadership and a focus on wellbeing are important as we work our way through the pandemic. COVID-19 brought many challenges, increasing the risk of our workplaces losing talented women. To fight against this, we must keep lines of communication open, listen and lead with compassion, and understand how we can intervene to support those whose experience may be difficult.
We can all be proud of the resilience our colleagues have shown working from home during the pandemic. Companies need to continue to focus on the challenges and opportunities remote work has delivered, and to value strength in diversity in order to be employers of choice.
This article first appeared in the OMFIF Gender Balance Index 2021 Report on March 8, 2021.