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Managing human resources through the pandemic

Employee wellbeing as a key issue during pandemic

By Daria Kulińska, head of communications, Tesco Poland, president of the Tesco Foundation and BPCC board member
Header header daria kulin ska 4


Social isolation related to the coronavirus pandemic, and fears for their own and their loved ones’ health cause many people to fall into the trap of negative emotions. In this difficult time, it is extremely important to support employees.

At Tesco, we believe that every little helps makes a big difference and we have cared about the safety and well-being of our team from the beginning of the pandemic. To provide the support we have introduced a special support programme – our Employee Assistant Programme (EAP). We also organise open webinars and online workshops to show our employees how to be mindful in work and in life, and to adapt them to coping with stress, which reduces their effectiveness, and contributes to burnout and depression.

At Tesco, it all starts with the people - employees, local communities and the customers who visit our stores every day. Currently, due to the pandemic and the social isolation, uncertainty, and sometimes even worse financial conditions, many of our colleagues are suffering from a decline in health and their motivation. Long-term, chronic stress, which affects many spheres of life today, can also cause more problems, such as burnout or even depression. Creating a friendly, supportive work environment and an open organisational culture helps to eliminate possible problems and improve not only work efficiency, but most of all the mental condition of the team. Companies need to promote wellbeing and integrate mental health issues into their overall health and safety policy. It is also important to create an appropriate atmosphere around wellbeing, leading by example by the leadership and making employees aware that using mental health support should not be a reason to be ashamed.

Support of specialists

At Tesco, we follow the principle "we treat others as they would like to be treated". Our team consists of several thousand people, working in offices, distribution centres and in stores. Regardless of place of work, from the beginning of the pandemic, we have been caring for the comfort of our employees, trying to provide them with a good workplace as well as health and safety – the fundamental pillars of well-being. In accordance with our CSR strategy, Little helps plan, which since 2017 sets the challenges and directions of Tesco's development, and in response to current needs, in June we launched a free support programme in Poland, the EAP, which allows employees to benefit from impartial and confidential psychotherapist advice.

The EAP allows our employees to benefit from the advice and guidance of specialists: psychotherapists, lawyers, accountants and dietitians. In this way, our team members received support in signing contracts, calculating their taxes – those everyday activities that cause stress, and in matters related to well-being, such as healthy eating or improving physical condition. The solution also makes it possible to relatively quickly identify early signs of depression and indicate ways of coping with stressful and conflict situations, including those related to family and relatives. However, the programme itself is just one element of success in ensuring employee well-being. Actions should be comprehensive and based on a response to the problem, but they must also include preventive measures: open internal communication, training and additional employee benefits to strengthen the team and motivate it to act.

Open webinars and training

In addition to access to professional advice in the EAP, Tesco employees can also participate in webinars and trainings that raise their knowledge and professional competences and cover topics such as ways to deal with stressful situations. For this purpose, we permanently cooperate with external experts (including the ICAS Academy) and develop our own, internal department, the Tesco Academy, which only in last year allowed us to train over 600 people throughout Central Europe. This is important to us, because by enabling our employees to develop personally, we help them achieve success and self-confidence, which is needed to face the daily challenges. Currently, for our employees, the ICAS Academy conducts a series of online training courses in the area of work efficiency and satisfaction, which show how to take care of health and rest well. Meetings on the organisation of remote work and the development of own talents are also very popular among our employees, as well as the cyclical, eight-week mindfulness training, focusing on areas such as relationships, communication, thoughts and emotions. The course allows you to reduce the level of perceived stress, develop emotional intelligence and inner peace, and increase efficiency, sense of happiness and creative thinking, which often block various types of fears and negative thoughts. The technique also counteracts burnout and depression, which have become a huge problem and challenge for employers in recent years due to chronic stress. A large part of the training is also addressed to people who have a multi-sport card, who can additionally consult a dietitian and personal trainer and take part in training, such as yoga or fitness.

Material support

Being aware that the end of the year is associated with additional expenses, and thus also with stress, at Tesco we decided to support our team also financially. This year, employees of stores and distribution departments who, due to the type of tasks performed, cannot work remotely, will receive an additional, one-off bonus of up to 500 zlotys gross for their work in December. For years, before Christmas they also receive Christmas vouchers. This year, they were paid earlier – in October – and were higher than in previous years. The highest benefit was 1,050 złotys and several thousand people benefited from it. Our employees could also use a special double employee discount in November, which allowed them to shop in our stores with a 20% discount.

More information about our activities can be found at www.tesco-polska.pl.

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