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The importance of non-uniform employee wellbeing strategies: A Zendesk case study

The importance of non-uniform employee wellbeing strategies: A Zendesk case study


Uniform policies are an easy trap to fall into, especially when you have a big team across geographies, Meiyea Neo, Zendesk's Senior HR Director APAC points out.

As a company that develops technology to help improve customer relationships, Zendesk has always considered human connection to be essential to wellbeing, Meiyea Neo, Senior HR Director APAC (pictured above) tells Arina Sofiah. Employee wellbeing has always been a priority for the group — so when COVID-19 hit, it responded quickly by rolling out a number of initiatives that harnessed human connection, even while working remotely and while engagement was virtual.

As Neo believes, a well-crafted wellbeing strategy starts with listening to your people. 

"Over the past few years, each of us faced so many different challenges in the way we live, and work. It’s really hard to appreciate the full extent of the stress of our people if we don’t stop to ask," she empathises.

During the pandemic, Zendesk dialled up its listening, which included doing more regular pulse checks and surveying its people. At the height of the pandemic, it even introduced empathy circles that brought together over 800 employees from across the globe in a safe space to share their experiences, and for leaders to listen. Still, Neo adds that this was part of an overall strategy that required agility as the situation changed, and providing support where it was needed.

No doubt, an employee wellbeing checklist is an effective way to make such a strategy to come to life smoothly.

In crafting the ideal checklist, Zendesk believes in putting people first — this means staying on top of employees’ needs, and working to ensure they feel valued, connected, and supported at work. Over the years, Zendesk has introduced a series of wellbeing programmes to support its employees worldwide.

"The key here is to provide flexibility for our employees to choose what works best for them. As part of these, we provide resources to employees and their families including free mental health support, with our mental health platform Modern Health, and counselling support from our employee assistance programme, LifeWorks," Neo shares.

Employees also get free access to the mental fitness app, Calm. Beyond this, company-wide initiatives such as ‘Recharge Fridays’, also provide much-needed time off to rest and recharge, Neo adds. Last but not least, Zendesk also introduced additional leave days to support employees who are caregiving for themselves or their dependents as a result of COVID-19.

Why employee wellbeing strategies should identify and align with evolving employee needs

With over 5,000 employees worldwide, Zendesk's dispersed workforce makes it crucial to be able to create a healthy workplace culture that resonates with everyone.

"This was particularly challenging when we were all working remotely and in a time where the pandemic was creating new dynamics almost daily," the leader opens up.

"As referenced earlier, we are conducting regular pulse surveys to identify and align with our employee’s evolving needs."

Further, the continuation of the abovementioned 'Recharge Fridays' programme was a result of the "overwhelming feedback" from the group's employees who felt the difference this had on their wellbeing. As the company continues in its next chapter of 'digital first' and full flexibility, it is also committed to embracing a dynamic work style—one that gives its people the flexibility and freedom to be productive wherever and however that makes sense.

Neo recognises that one trap that would be easy to fall into—especially when you’re developing policies for a big team that’s across geographies—is to lean towards uniform policies or initiatives. In that vein, one of the things the group has learned over the past couple of years, particularly, was the value of taking a more agile approach to creating solutions.

Using the ‘Recharge Fridays’ example, while the group wanted it to be a simple programme to implement, it was not possible to have a 'one-size-fits-all approach'. For example, some of the customer-facing teams had to flex in a different way in order to not add further stress by mandating a standard programme that would conflict with the rhythm of the business.

Neo affirms: "This does mean more investment in listening, and designing the right approach to initiatives, but the returns are a much more engaged team that has the right resources for their particular needs."

Looking ahead, one important trend that Neo is seeing is the need for flexibility for employees to balance life and work.

"Some of the workplace changes we’ve made in the past two years will remain, including allowing for flexibility between office and home. We believe that flexibility and choice about when, where, and how we work will play an important role in Zendesk’s continued growth as well as to attract and retain exceptional talent."

Ending off, Neo believes that "companies who are able to create a more balanced and human workplace will be able to stay ahead of the curve."

Image / Provided

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