Looking after our people while navigating the new normal

As we navigate the biggest challenge of a generation, we talk with Chloe Stewart-Tyson, our Group Manager of Health, Safety, Environment & Wellbeing, about how she and her team have been supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of our people and our clients.



What have been your top focus areas in recent weeks as a health and safety leader?  

The safety and wellbeing of our people really, not only around protective measures in terms of hygiene, office cleanliness and personal protective equipment (PPE) for those that were working in high risk areas, but also wellbeing. What has happened globally has shocked a great number of people and caused some level of anxiety in us all. Learning that our feelings at this time are normal and being able to talk about this, I hope is helping some of our people. We already had our psychological health program in place so we have provided additional webinars and live chats with our Organisational Psychologist and have also increased our mindfulness sessions which we are delivering online.

We have also focused on working from home and what that means for people. Again not just in terms of set up of equipment, but flexibility and strategies to help people work from home, especially where our employees have young families to look after. 

With the increased number of our offices that are in country lockdown scenarios, this has meant we have been focused on workload, and whilst ensuring job security, we have had to look at our financials. Our Executive and leadership teams have had to make some really tough decisions and will continue to have to do so, like so many employers across the globe. Supporting that cohort is something that I am focused on as we are one big Beca family and everyone takes these decisions personally, it is an emotional time for all but level headed leadership decisions need to be made and our employees have been amazing at supporting these decisions.

How have you been partnering with our clients to focus on health and safety during this time? 

Right from the beginning we shared our pandemic plan with a number of our key clients and had a number of discussions on how they could put similar measures in place. Recently we're working with our ‘essential service clients’ to help them to keep running, so it's the practical measures that we've focused on to enable us to work as efficiently and effectively as possible without increasing the risk of exposing our employees, our clients or contractors to Covid-19.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

The biggest challenge was in New Zealand where lockdown happened so quickly it was a shock to our business. The majority of our International Crisis Management Team’s focus had been in our other countries, but luckily this did give us an advantage as within 24 hours we had everything in place for 2,200 employees to be working differently. 

Another challenge has been to get hold of protective equipment. While we absolutely want this to be prioritised to the front line essential workers, our employees have also been working in these high risks areas and we also need to protect them, we just haven’t been able to get hold of stocks.

What have you learned in the last few weeks that you would like to share with others?

People’s ability to adapt to change is inspiring. Usually we have strategies about the change, have a management plan and have time to debate barriers to change so that we can adapt the plan however with Covid-19, it truly shows how quickly we can change when we need to, and hopefully many companies will survive this or adapt for a better future. There will absolutely be some positives to come out of this, globally, locally or personally. 

It does also show that having crisis management plans in place for different scenarios can help - we literally picked ours up and ran with it.  

How do you look after your own health and wellbeing so you can stay strong to look after the Beca family? 

Yesterday I was described as caring, pragmatic and resilient. An odd collection of words for some but for me, I have worked with people my whole career, briefly as a nurse, then as an HR and HSE professional. You do learn to be wholeheartedly caring but with this comes the practical resilience and de-personalisation of situations otherwise it would be a difficult job to be in. I also walk a lot and during this lockdown period, it has been great to do this with my family. 

See also April 2020