When the country went into lockdown, almost overnight, we switched from having hundreds of people working, eating and socialising at the Etihad Campus to asking everyone to work at home.
From the policies to the processes that govern everyone’s day-to-day lives, every single part of the organisation required attention to make sure we were supporting people to do their jobs and to feel safe and cared for.
Protecting and supporting our people was the overarching priority in our response. Understanding the varying care roles that many staff were suddenly undertaking, we waived the unpaid element of the dependant leave policy and took the decision very early on not to furlough any staff. Where possible, people were redeployed to other parts of the business, with staff transferred to 35 different projects – from Hospitality Sales Reps joining Operations Development to Tour Guides joining Reception Teams.
Regular, quality communications were a vital part of our response. From the start, we endeavoured to keep our people as well-informed as possible. Our Leadership Team provided regular updates through virtual briefings and Q+A sessions, and we quickly rolled out new ways to connect with our teams, including podcasts and virtual coffee mornings. A dedicated COVID-19 hub on our staff intranet was regularly updated with FAQs, guides and advice.
Being able to measure how people were feeling was important. Our staff consultation forum, In The City, made up of 15 volunteer representatives, was consulted every week, and we created a dedicated COVID-19 inbox which received more than 150 specific requests.
After over 450 responses to our staff ‘pulse’ survey, we responded to the feedback by increasing our Learning and Development opportunities to provide weekly sessions for all staff and launching ‘City Talks Zipped’ to bring inspiration from world-class speakers.
Cognisant of the rise in mental health pressures brought about by the pandemic, we shared weekly information on how people can access support for their mental health, including counselling services, advice for those dealing with bereavement, specific workshops for managers, mindfulness sessions and more. Our existing internal mental health working group (BeWell), made up of volunteers from around the business, launched a dedicated space on the intranet to house all these key resources. Any staff member who reached out directly to say they were suffering with their mental health was given a one-to-one session with the HR Team and a personalised action plan put in place to support them.
We also provided new ways for our people to stay physically active, running virtual fitness classes from bootcamp and yoga to dance fitness and football skills. And we encouraged people to stay connected with one another through social events such as quiz nights, bingo and talent competitions led by our highly entertaining Stadium Tour Guides.
In August, once the country had come out of lockdown, we opened our offices in Manchester to those that wanted to return. Again, the well-being of our people was at the forefront of our approach, with return being optional and voluntary. Each member of every team had one-to-one sessions with their line manager, and members of the HR team were ‘on call’ and at the office each day to deal with any mental health pressures, anxieties or concerns. ‘Best practice’ protocols were applied to ensure adherence with COVID-19 Secure workplace guidance, including a one-way system, hand sanitiser stations, temperature screening and extra cleaning, plus a desk-booking app to help the facilities team prepare each day.