Kazan, Russia -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/06/2021 --The Covid-19 pandemic has posed a significant threat to one of the fundamental human rights: the right to physical and mental health. Protecting this right was the job of not just the WHO and the state but also of every single company capable of taking concrete steps in protecting the health and well-being of its staff.
The UN international covenant on human rights states that every human being has the right to the maximum possible level of physical and mental health they're capable of achieving. From 2019 to 2021, this fundamental human right was dealt the most severe blow it had seen in decades in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the WHO, as of early August 2021, almost 200 million people had contracted Covid-19 and almost 4 million of them had died. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus believes that the actual numbers are far more serious as the pandemic has had a major negative impact on the mental health of millions of people. Meanwhile, other WHO representatives note that the world was not ready for the pandemic.
In this situation, the task of protecting the life and health of the public fell to every state, region and business. And this is how the issue was handled by ICL Services, an IT outsourcing company with more than 3,000 employees.
Protecting the company's staff: ICL Services, a case study
Prior to the pandemic, the vast majority of the company's staff worked out of the 5 offices in several Russian cities and in Belgrade, Serbia. Remote work was offered as an extra option to:
- staff who didn't live in any of the cities in which the company has offices;
- staff who couldn't go to the office for some personal or business-related reasons.
By early 2020, about 10% of the company's staff were working remotely. Everything changed when the novel coronavirus started spreading around the world.
Since ICL Services has foreign customers, the company's management knew from the get-go what the worst-case scenario for the pandemic might be like. As early as February 2020, the company upgraded its plan for ensuring business continuity for a possible global pandemic and had considered several scenarios for how the situation might unfold.
The first step the company took to protect the health of its staff was to impose a quarantine for all employees who had come back from a business trip or vacation: the new rule was introduced in early March 2020. Meanwhile, the company's own IT department was working 24/7 prepping for the worst-case scenario: a total lockdown. Employees of the business departments were also working hard: ICL Services' clients wanted to protect their staff by having them work remotely but a lot of them didn't have the requisite IT infrastructure to do so. ICL Services' engineers were quickly rolling it out.
As soon as mid-May ICL Services staff began transitioning to remote work. By April, more than 85% of the company's staff were working remotely. This allowed the company to protect their lives and health and, luckily, during the pandemic not a single ICL Services employee died from Covid-19.
Dozens of technicians continued to work from the offices; these comprised those who supported customer IT systems or were monitoring customer IT infrastructure in a 24/7 mode. These technicians were taking a calculated risk to ensure the company's customers could carry on their operations so that pharmaceutical companies could carry on making medications, retailers could continue supplying people with groceries and consumer goods, energy companies could carry on supplying energy to households, etc. ICL Services put a special action plan in place to protect these employees. The plan emphasises effectiveness over simplicity, the idea being to ensure social distancing and disinfection. All surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons, desks and even the handrails in the corporate buses that bring people to the office are disinfected as often as possible. Antiseptic, mask and glove dispensers were set up in the halls. Access to conference rooms and cafeterias were organised in such a way as to automatically ensure social distancing. Meanwhile, employees were being constantly reminded about the rules of safe conduct.
In 2021, the company also began promoting vaccination in addition to everything mentioned above. Employees were able to get both components of the vaccine at the office along with medical consultation. Employees who got a vaccine jab were given a day off afterwards in case they might experience side effects such as fever or fatigue.
Taking care of mental health
The atmosphere of fear and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic took a serious toll on people's mental health. And the company tried to address that by inviting doctors to conduct webinars for employees and answer questions about the new virus. The company's management regularly held video calls with staff, sharing the latest news with them and telling them about the measures the company was taking to protect its staff and preserve its business. In?2020, every tenth item in the corporate newsfeed (and in March through May?2020 every other one) was about Covid, reminding people of the recommended safety measures, sharing stories about personal experiences of working remotely during the lockdown and offering other similar stories.
In June 2020, after the first wave of the pandemic, employees were surveyed about their general health. About 90% of the respondents praised the company's response to the pandemic and noted that the communications they received from the company were quite relevant and useful.
In addition, the support service staff completely redesigned all their internal processes. Recruitment and assessment, documentation processing, IT support and many other processes were redesigned to accommodate remote work. Managers got pointers on remote interaction in order to safeguard their staff against burning out. Meanwhile, the HR department held online events for staff during the lockdown aimed at helping people feel part of the team, such as quizzes, joint exercises and even Zoom parties.
Safety as an extension of corporate traditions
In pre-Covid times, physical and mental health and safety were always a priority at ICL Services. Employees were always able to work from home if necessary or work on a flexible schedule: the company had the requisite business processes and IT resources in place for that. The corporate medical insurance was sufficiently broad, including dental care and emergency hospitalisation; even before the lockdown, medical check-ups were offered at the offices along with vaccinations against seasonal diseases; in addition, staff also received compensation when they joined a gym and had access to various fitness facilities. These well-established health and safety traditions made it a lot easier for the company to quickly transition to remote work and offer remote support to staff during the lockdown.
About ICL Services
ICL Services is among the top 10 largest IT service companies in Russia and top-100 best IT outsourcing companies in the world; an important part of the ICL group of companies and a key business partner of Fujitsu. Company's core competence is smart people who work in streamlined processes on hundreds of projects. The service catalog contains over 60 services.