The topic of mental health and wellness has grown in importance over the last few years, —at the end of 2019, Twitter released hundreds of cultural insights extrapolated from conversations on its platform and found that conversations on mental health had increased 122% over the past three years, while conversations on the body and physical fitness decreased by 75%. Bring in a pandemic, a sudden shift in how we work, drastic economic shifts, and national conversations on racial inequity and police brutality, and the conversation around mental health has become even more critical.
As our Chief People Officer, I believe our firm’s leaders, as stewards of our community, have an imperative to care for of our employees as whole people. That includes what they may be grappling with: racial injustice, depression, caretaking responsibilities, illness, and more. We ask them to spend a large percentage of their time with us, and we have a responsibility to provide support and invest in resources that helps them be their best.
We are living through an unprecedented situation that had been and continues to be very stressful. We know our people are grappling with situations like partners or spouses losing their jobs, the sudden burden of full-time child or dependent care, as well as physical and emotional health concerns.
Our first steps were to provide certainty in a time that was very uncertain by offering honest, transparent communications about where the business was going and how to work effectively at home. We mobilized quickly to maintain continuity of client service via virtual collaboration, and ramped up our communication efforts to ensure people had the opportunity to have their questions answered about issues like the health of the business and the potential for furloughs or layoffs.
We also took tangible steps to make sure our people felt secure in their jobs. Very early at the onset of the crisis, our director community came together immediately to forgo their annual salary adjustments to help create a proactive buffer to support our people and our firm, once again demonstrating our people-first value. Our people are nimble, smart, and pragmatic, and are our best asset in weathering this significant change.
While we cannot make any predictions about the future, to date we have not had to conduct any restructuring or layoffs as a result of the pandemic and we were able to grant 2019 bonuses as scheduled at the end of March.
Once we had addressed our people’s immediate concerns, we knew we had to focus on the added stress they faced. We talk about work-life integration at West Monroe, versus work-life balance, but this was a type of integration none of us had experienced before! To support our new ways of working, we put into place a number of tools, trainings, and benefits. They include:
In addition, we are encouraging our people to take advantage of programs we’ve always had in place, such as:
Our number-one goal throughout this crisis has been to be transparent about the journey we are on, even if we don’t have all the answers. Our people are on this journey along with us, and we need to make sure they know we are going to walk with them. If there is one small silver lining of this crisis, I hope it’s helped us to create a more transparent organization with a greater amount of trust, a stronger sense of community and additional opportunities for meaningful conversations.