#08Creating an environment where associates can realize their potential, even during COVID-19

"Starting next week, we will all work from home."

In 2020, we were suddenly forced to change the way we work when governments around the world asked people to stay home and stay safe from COVID-19. Some associates (employees) worked from home, while some went to the office or worksite—with thorough infection control measures in place—to keep production and operations running. Our teams were more dispersed than ever before, and fewer opportunities for face-to-face communication made it difficult for Terumo to grasp each associate’s situation. How were associates coping with the abrupt change in environment? Did they feel anxious, isolated, or have trouble working? It became a matter of urgency for us to understand the actual situation and provide visible support, and in doing so, create an environment where associates could work without losing engagement and motivation. The following are some of the initiatives undertaken at the Terumo Group sites in Europe and India.

Using quarterly surveys to provide flexible support in response to changes in the situation

At Terumo Europe, N.V. (TE), a Terumo Group company, senior leadership teams have been emphasizing open and transparent internal communication since the early days of the pandemic. They have been actively conducting internal poll surveys to understand what associates have been facing, in order to be able to make the "right" decisions about what kind of support to provide.

In April 2020, approximately 1,500 associates in the Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region overseen by TE were surveyed, with 64 percent responding. The survey mainly asked associates about how they were feeling and what they thought was important for maintaining their well-being, engagement, and productivity. The results of the first survey showed that clear communication from leadership was needed. Associates were looking for reliable information that could ease the anxiety they were feeling as the infectious disease—about which much remained unknown—continued to spread unabated, leaving the future uncertain. For this reason, TE decided to hold bi-weekly leadership meetings and establish a system to enable quick decision-making and consistent follow-up.

After that, the company implemented the survey again in July and November, changing some of the questions according to what they wanted to understand at the time. The results were immediately shared with all associates in TE. In addition, team managers were able to view their team’s results as data at any time and take appropriate actions. Measures that were taken based on the survey results included promoting dialogue between leaders and subordinates, implementing programs to enhance individual resilience, and introducing a system to cover the costs of establishing a work-from-home environment. The most recent survey, conducted in April 2021, revealed that many more associates have become aware of new ways of working. TE is currently in the process of soliciting ideas from associates on how to organize and design the workplace in a way that ensures high productivity and optimal collaboration as they transition to a hybrid mode of working.

COVID-19 has brought many changes to the environment in which we work. At times like these, it is especially critical for leadership to display their potential by providing clear direction and taking action in order to form an optimal support system for associates.

Turning families into strong supporters through internal events

India has been grappling with a difficult situation for a long time due to the spread of COVID-19, starting with the lockdown that took place across the country from March 2020. At one point in time, all of the approximately 50 associates working at Terumo India Pvt. Ltd. (TIPL) in Delhi/NCR Region were working from home. TIPL associates were all staring a new reality. Some call it the "New Normal" some "Next Normal". It was clear to them that the world will evolve in terms of varied experiences whether its Associate Experience or Customer Experience. Balancing their focus on associate safety and wellness while contributing to our Group Mission of "Contributing to Society through Healthcare," TIPL came up with a virtual Associate Engagement Program called "Exploring the Power of WE." Through this vehicle, they implemented several internal support measures that involved family participation allowing them to preserve their familial culture, uplift the spirit of the organization and further embed emotional connections in these testing times.

While working from home, families provide essential support to associates in the form of understanding and physical and emotional care, and this allows associates to feel comfortable and perform their duties to the best of their abilities. To encourage such family involvement, TIPL planned online events that associates could enjoy together with their family members. Several events were organized, including Virtual Family Days, "Inner Picasso" (kids’ painting competition), "Kitchen Ninja" (creative dish-making competition), "Dancing Superstars" (dance competition), and "Best Family Photo" (family photo-sharing opportunity). Each event enjoyed a high participation rate ranging from 60 to 80 percent, which indicated that everyone was looking for a way to connect, even if they were working away from the office.

  • A painting contest held under the slogan "unleash your kid's inner Picasso"
    (The picture used for the banner of this story is also from this contest.)

  • A "best pose" contest to encourage associates get more exercise while working from home

By inviting associates’ families to participate in various activities hosted by the company, family members also feel connected to Terumo, creating a deeper bond between associates and Terumo. Many of the family members who participated in these events expressed their understanding and approval of Terumo’s corporate culture and the efforts the company was making during COVID-19. These words resonate with the associates themselves and help to increase their motivation to work.

Hints for launching new working styles

A year and a half has passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and new working styles are being explored in various parts of the world. It will become increasingly important for organizations to ensure that all of their employees feel connected and move in the same direction, even if they are working at different times and in different locations. Terumo is taking a look at the many initiatives that each site of the group has implemented through trial and error, in order to find clues on the best ways to create an environment where associates can display their potential to the fullest.

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