With COVID-19 ricocheting back to Hong Kong this month, many businesses had been waiting for the government – which is also the city's biggest employer – to revive work-from-home arrangement for civil servants, setting the WFH benchmark that is typically followed by most other employers in Hong Kong.
But taking a more proactive approach, weeks before the government officially announced the work-from-home measures for civil servants, Sun Life Hong Kong took action for its employees and families.
Non-critical staff were advised to work remotely for two weeks starting from 13 July, while business-critical employees working in the office continued to follow existing enhanced hygiene and safety precautions: These include always wearing a mask in the office, maintain physical distancing throughout the office and avoiding physical meetings.
Sun Life provides two masks per day for those working in the office.
"Our first priority in this situation is the health and wellbeing of all employees. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and provide updated guidance to employees if needed," said Cynthia Sit, chief HR officer at Sun Life Hong Kong.
"We help our clients achieve lifetime financial security and live healthier lives and we want the same for our employees. We are committed to providing our employees with the tools and education they need to prevent diseases and lead heathier lifestyles. Our new measures cover both physical and mental wellness," she added.
To address employee physical wellbeing during the pandemic, from mid-July, permanent employees of Sun Life Hong Kong can book a COVID-19 test at JP Partners Medical for HK$400. The offer is valid until further notice.
In view of the extra costs needed to source health and personal care products, Sun Life Hong Kong enhanced its employee benefit programme, myWellness Choice, in February. The company subsidises purchases of surgical masks, hand sanitizer, alcohol pads and sanitizing tissue paper. Employees will be reimbursed for such purchases made for personal use.
In April, to create an ergonomic and healthy working environment for employees when they work from home, Sun Life extended the list of eligible purchases to height adjustable desks, standup desks, office chairs, monitors and monitor clasps.
To take care of employees' mental wellbeing, Sun Life's recent engagement pulse survey showed that employees are facing different kind of stress amid the ongoing situation. Some employees are feeling anxious due to COVID-19, while some are struggling to manage issues outside of work such as school closures while keeping up with work responsibilities.
In response, the company re-launched its Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in June. Permanent employees and their family members have free access to professional counselling service as well as a wealth of resources related to emotional, financial, legal, family and work-life issues anytime they need.
In addition, with an understanding that a balance between productivity and personal wellbeing has become more crucial than ever, since February Sun Life organised 18 virtual trainings / webinars with a focus on promoting physical and mental wellness.
"The recent engagement pulse survey showed that our employees are looking for additional support in their mental wellbeing. A series of mental health awareness webinars have been planned in July to address the uneasiness and anxiety that our employees are facing now," Sit said.
Six additional webinars will be held targeting at people managers and individual contributors. These sessions are designed to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and promote ways of supporting one another in the workplace. Speakers will also discuss signs and symptoms of distress and effective ways of providing support for co-workers especially during the pandemic situation.