Brands dial up empathy for employees during Covid times

From reducing workdays to supporting the kin of deceased employees, here's how companies have been extending more than a helping hand to their employees during these dark times

e4m by Mansi Sharma
Updated: May 7, 2021 9:17 AM
corporate empathy

The pandemic has sensitised people, making them veer more towards empathy. Beyond their regular interactions, they seek aware, informed and empathetic brands for their consumer experiences too.

Empathy from a brand perspective has also evolved, from a general “woke” sense to a more internal, compassionate and real supportive form. 

Scrutiny around whether brands are “walking the talk” is more intense than ever. In the Edelman Trust Barometer, 86 per cent of Indians surveyed say a brand should do, “Whatever possible to protect the wellbeing and financial security of employees and suppliers, even if it brings financial losses.”

"The ubiquity of social media means that any perceived empathy deficits will be met with an immediate backlash,” Kantar mentioned in an article in its last year’s BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2020 report. 

This has prompted a number of brands to take more and more meaningful steps to support the community and its teams in a deeper manner. While certain brands like CRED, PayTM, Zomato, Unilever, and many others have started various initiatives and donation drives to sustain the communities in these difficult times, they have also started making more concrete efforts for their own employees. 

This ranges from medical assistance to more holistic personal and emotional care responses. Certain brands have also extended a helping hand to the kin of employees who have lost their lives in the pandemic.

Supporting with medical initiatives 

Brands like Accenture, Droom, Paytm and Swiggy have created emergency support teams to assist their employees in times of emergency. This includes distinct services, like 24/7 telemedicine support, care-at-home services, enhanced insurance coverage, virtual childcare, mental health support, and support for testing and vaccinations.

Edtech giant BYJU'S announced a Rs 20 crore fund to cover covid-related expenses of its employees. Founder Byju Raveendran stated in an email that the employees can reimburse their medical charges in case they or their family members are hospitalised.

In another noble initiative, along with providing medical and vaccination support, Cars24 CEO Vikram Chopra has assured no-questions-asked financial assistance in case of purchase of any medicine or medical equipment.

Visionet is bearing all vaccination costs for its staff, be they full-time, contractual or at the intern level. The company is already in advanced discussions with private service providers for vaccination, and the drive will start as soon as government approvals and procurement of vaccines are allowed.

Changing Work Culture

Not just paid leaves for Covid-19 patients and caregivers, the companies have also changed their working cultures to suit the modern-day requirements. Many companies have taken effective measures to reduce work pressure and support employees on an emotional and psychological level. 

Visionet CEO & MD Alok Bansal said, “The pandemic has shown how critical it is to embrace our humanity, be understanding and caring — and that holds for companies, too. We cannot leave our employees to their own devices at this time and we are doing our best to make sure 'human' is being prioritized in Human Resources. A pandemic needs more urgent measures and we need to walk our talk. Apart from the vaccination initiatives, something as simple as scheduling  "coffee breaks" with random team members enables me to not only catch up with them but also helps me in knowing them beyond work. We are adapting and translating community and culture programs from the physical environment to the remote workplace and also empowering employees by enabling access to learning and development platforms so that they can continue to skill themselves." 

GI Group India VP & Head HR Upasana Raina highlighted, “At GI, we constantly strive towards improving psychological safety at work. we always believed that the mental well-being of everyone in the organization is key to each person’s individual success that finally ties up into the success of the collective. Apart from ensuring the safety of everyone by planning for 100% of the workforce to work from home, we are also encouraging our employees to take time for themselves to strike a healthy balance between work and family.” 

Deloitte and PwC have created a holiday pool for its employees wherein people can take extra leaves to deal with the disease. Godrej Properties Ltd (GPL) went on a complete three-day leave starting May 05 to help its teams recuperate emotionally. Swiggy has moved to a four-day working week for the month of May, with employees having the option to pick the working days.

Extending Support to Families 

Several brands have dealt with the pain of losing their beloved employees to the pandemic and that has led them to extend support to the families of lives lost.

Borosil has announced a slew of measures to take care of its employees and their kin during the crisis. The company will take care of the education of its employees’ kids till graduation in India, in case of an untimely demise because of the virus. They will also be given two years of the employees' salary.

Urban Company has set up a relief fund named after one of its employees who succumbed to Covid-19. The Mohit Agrwal fund, set up in partnership with Srinidhi Foundation will provide medical assistance and bereavement support to the company’s service partners and their families. Founders and employees will also contribute to this fund. The company has also made arrangements for its service professionals to get them tested for Covid-19 free of charge and is also working on a vaccination program. Food aggregator platform Zomato has also announced that it will continue to pay 100% salaries to its deceased employees family for two years as bereavement support.

These initiatives have led to great organic popularity for brands in the form of employee advocacy along with getting positive responses from the consumers too. This in all likelihood will pave way for greater brand trust and create stronger bonds within the teams and the markets. While the impact on bottom lines might not be visible immediately, no one can deny the trickle effect it will have in the longer term.

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