Alison Bernard: Supporting employees through Covid-19

We are living through turbulent times, and many people are experiencing grief, loss, anger and frustration due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. The division between work and life has never been more blurred, and as employers, we need to respect and support our people and the myriad emotions they are experiencing.

Businesses that continue to invest in their culture and the support they offer people are more likely to have engaged and high-performing employees. And we know that businesses that are great places to work are more likely to weather this storm and enjoy long-term success.

At Dechert, we believe that our culture of community is the key to our success. We value each person and the contributions that they bring to the business and we have embedded gratitude as a practice into our culture so that people feel recognised and appreciated. When we recently introduced a digital version of our hard copy Dechert gratitude cards to send a thank you to any employees anywhere in the world, more than 1,000 cards were sent in the first week.

We know that gratitude is important for the wellbeing of both the giver and the recipient, but our resources go well beyond gratitude. We have a holistic framework called THRIVE@ Dechert that encompasses support for our community and all aspects of their wellbeing, from physical and emotional wellbeing to social connection and financial stability.

When the Coronavirus pandemic started, we knew our community would need even more support. We had a programme in place on which to build and we immediately shifted into high gear to add significant resources and programming in all areas. We have endeavoured to be creative in how we provide that support, so that we reach each person in the Dechert community.

We brought in a parenting coach to lead sessions for our parents who suddenly found themselves homeschooling their children, provided a forum for questions and mutual support, and helped normalize the challenges that many of us have been facing. We launched a new series called ‘The Young and the Restless’, which is a weekly storytime session designed to help working parents. Our chief executive, Henry Nassau, was our first reader and children from across the globe tuned in to hear him read.

We added a programme on managing stress and also hosted a workshop to help our people take control of time and, ultimately, lower stress. In partnership with our employee assistance programme, in some locations, we have weekly support groups and the option to join an intensive programme designed to help people cope with overwhelming life changes.

We made available over 200 extra learning courses covering fitness and yoga, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, Coronavirus and more. We introduced Virgin Pulse, a dynamic online social networking and health challenge programme where our people can track steps and participate in global team-based challenges.

We have hosted regular town halls to transparently address the firm’s finances and keep everyone in the loop on how we are doing. We’ve also invited renowned speakers to talk about racism and help our community learn and grow. We’ve complemented our live communication with toolkits on our intranet that offer extensive anti-racism resources.

Sign up to our newsletters

Receive news and guidance on a range of HR issues direct to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

While we are focused on offering resources and programming, we also believe that our culture of respect, gratitude, trust and empowerment are critical to well-being. The day to day interactions that people have with one another are at the core of a person’s experience and we have endeavored to keep kindness, empathy, and respect at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Ultimately, our goal is to provide support to help all of our people continue to thrive despite all that is happening in the world

Alison Bernard is chief talent and HR officer at Dechert in New York.