Howden, the retail broking arm of Hyperion Insurance Group which provides a range of specialist insurance and employee benefits solutions, has outlined the steps that it has taken to ensure the wellbeing of its employees and – as far as possible – it has been able to operate on a ‘business as usual’ basis.
A spokesman for the organisation said that “from the start” of the pandemic, Hyperion CEO David Howden and Howden UK CEO Chris Evans reassured staff that they had no plans to furlough any employees or ask them to take any reductions in their salaries.
The spokesman said the steps ensured that employees could concentrate on adapting to the new working landscape and supporting clients, rather than worrying about their jobs.
Howden also has in place a “RESPECT” initiative which means that a dedicated Employee Group works with stakeholders across the business to ensure that principles towards “equality, diversity and respect” in the workplace are “firmly embedded” within the company culture and behaviours.
The group has also introduced a new agile and creative working practices to deliver “Business as Normal in Abnormal Times”.
The spokesman said: “Employee health and safety has always been paramount. The company closed the Howden UK Group offices ahead of the Government’s instructions and implemented remote working to protect employees, customers and trading partners.
“The company activated this quickly and 90% of all employees were working remotely within hours of lockdown – a move made possible by its operationally strong infrastructure.”
The spokesman said that all non-essential business travel was suspended and wherever possible, teams are now using technology to replace face-to-face meetings.
He said: “The business had been stress-tested, before the recent office closures, and has proven its remote working capability, ensuring normal service delivery.
“The group has invested in IT, telephony and network capabilities to support smart working and rolled out collaborative remote working tools such as Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and other digital tools to keep employees in touch with customers and partners.
“The business also uses the Workplace platform to create a sense of community with employees while they are working from home. It is a popular tool for sharing business updates as well as social posts.”
The spokesman said that looking after the health and wellbeing of employees working remotely has been a priority for the business.
He said: “When lockdown began, employees were able to request any equipment they needed – such as IT equipment, chairs – to work from home safely and productively.
“The HR and Learning & Development teams adapted quickly to provide online resources and virtual sessions to support staff. This included training on working effectively in a virtual world, resilience workshops and wellbeing sessions for parents – aimed specifically at ways to support children. From the start of lockdown, Howden supported a flexible approach to working patterns.”
An employee assistance programme, a mental health app, access to RedArc nurses, a virtual GP service, and private medical insurance are among the benefits available.
The spokesman added that new benefits have also been added to respond to the current challenges that some employees are facing with the launch of a mortgage advice service available to all UK employees.
Daily online exercise classes were introduced free of charge via Workplace. There have also been wellbeing webinars, presentations and videos that were shared via Workplace and Team Meetings.
The business has also introduced a range of social activities have been organised including Friday playlists, quizzes, fancy dress drinks, virtual lunches and coffee mornings.
Howden UK CEO Evans said: “People First has always been the guiding principle of our business and this has been more important than ever during the Covid-19 crisis. We know that many employees within Howden and their families are facing challenges resulting from this unique situation; from having to juggle work with home schooling, unexpected financial pressures, social isolation or managing caring responsibilities.
“We have provided a wide range of resources and tools to support our people and have been very clear that they can work flexibly to help them meet the needs of home and work in the best way to suit them.
“Importantly, we have reinforced that they have job security. We eliminated worries and uncertainty around pay cuts and furlough by announcing right at the start that we wouldn’t be asking employees to reduce their salary or putting them on furlough.
“We want to continue to be a home for talent; we already employ some of the best in the business. We are continuing to focus on retaining, recruiting, and nurturing talent, now and beyond this crisis.’’
Glenn Thomas, MD and Global Practice Leader of Howden’s dedicated Employee Benefits & Wellbeing division, said: “As employee benefits consultants, we advise clients of all sizes on how to build and implement effective benefit and wellbeing strategies. This always starts with putting employees at the heart of the strategy. This is exactly what we do at Howden and why People First is the value that underpins everything that we do.
“Supporting our employees’ mental wellbeing has been a top priority during this crisis. We have used a wide range of communication methods and interactive tools to stay in touch with our teams and keep them engaged. We have also reminded them of the employee benefits available to them to ensure that they know how to access any support and advice they may need. We know that by looking after our own people first they can in turn concentrate on putting our clients first.”
The Howden spokesman said that the organisation is aware that many local communities are suffering during these challenging times. The company has responded with a “concerted effort” to give back to those who need it most, he said, including:
* Offering to make a £50 donation to the NHS charity on employees’ behalf with over £11,000 being donated
* An art competition was organised for employees and their children with the prize being £100 donation to a charity of the winner’s choice
* Donations of supplies have been made to local charities
* Ongoing partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society – for example hosting a Virtual Dementia Friends Workshop