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We’ve always prided ourselves on having a strong and open culture, where our people come together to support each other to be their best. In fact, 97% of our people would recommend Charter Hall as a good place to work.
The COVID-19 outbreak reinforced another aspect of the power of partnerships: the need to foster internal community - especially when people used to working closely together suddenly found themselves working from home.
We adapted quickly. Broadcast emails outlined our overall approach, as working situations and health advice changed. We created @home, a new microsite featuring a range of leadership, learning and support tools to assist our people to establish themselves in their home offices. Our expanded video conferencing and digital collaboration capabilities enabled continuity of business and connection with our customers across the country.
Really great to be in a safe space to talk about our current struggles, get tips and support from my colleagues through shared experiences.
Employee, Connection Room participant
To help safeguard wellbeing and foster connections internally, we undertook a range of other initiatives. Managers supported each other through shared experiences in ‘Managing for Team Wellbeing’ sessions facilitated by the Black Dog Institute, our Connection Rooms created a safe space for people to share their struggles and our teams came together on wellbeing webinars to build personal and collective skills for their mindset. We made sure people were aware that the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) was there should they need it. We even added a tailored manager EAP option and extended our EAP services to tenant customers in need, particularly across our retail network. We also built a vibrant Yammer community with our own employees running cooking classes, art classes and live storytelling for kids.
Sustainability was not forgotten. A trial version of the ‘One Small Step’ app offered tailored programs to help our people cut their carbon footprint, and to make green living simple, easy and fun.
Our social enterprise partner Two Good also ran virtual cooking Masterclasses for teams to cook and then share a feast, virtually.
We quickly recognised that the stresses produced by COVID-19 were particularly significant for those trying to juggle family and care commitments, with disruptive changes not just to daily routines but also working conditions. We offered wellbeing for kids programs for our employees’ children including a school holiday program, and a range of online creative, learning and physical activities. A ‘Working From Home With Kids’ guide supported those juggling home schooling and working.
As it came time to return to our offices, working across multiple jurisdictions meant we had a state-based return to our workplace. We provided guidance, in line with state and national health advice, on how to do that, and guides, tailored to each office, explaining what to expect. Employee surveys during this time helped us understand what our people would need.
Even now, not all our people have returned to our offices, and we continue to engage with everyone across face to face and digital channels through a range of initiatives and activities.
Perhaps our strongest learning from all this has been the value of communities and a sense of belonging. Our people have gained a better understanding of each other from entering their home via video calls and showed strength and resilience in providing each other with the support they needed.