The pandemic unlocked the workplace’s proverbial pandora’s box as new demands were released upon the world; in response, HR teams have attempted to change offerings to retain and engage employees.
Wellbeing and flexibility have been prevailing notions in the new world of work, as employees decide that they want to be trusted to do their work, as well as supported emotionally.
As a global software corporation, SAP has been handling these shifting attitudes. To explain how the company has managed this journey and where it hopes to arrive, Jasmin Mantel, SAP UK HR director, caught up with UNLEASH.
When it comes to defining flexibility within SAP, Mantel comments: “We are a company of over 100,000 people globally, but our commitment to putting employees first has never wavered as we’ve grown.
“We all have different working needs and circumstances, and post-pandemic it’s critical that we’re not only cognizant of this, but that we’re giving our staff the resources and support that will allow them to perform at their best.
“At SAP, flexibility is all about creating an inclusive environment that recognizes that we all need to balance personal commitments with our own work schedules.
“This is why we’ve taken a trust-based approach to day-to-day working and are nurturing a diverse, equitable, and open workplace that gives our employees the ability to work when, where, and how they want.
“This is vital in supporting work-life balance, and consequently, enhancing overall mental wellbeing.”
Mantel notes how SAP adapted to workplace shifts during the pandemic: “Although flexibility and working from home is not new to SAP, the demand for this working model has sky-rocketed over the pandemic.
“Feedback from both staff and prospective talent is that flexible working should now be a pre-requisite for any job role, and that more than ever, businesses must recognize the role it plays in allowing employees time to focus on their health and wellbeing.”
This recognition of the interplay between flexibility and wellbeing will mark a change for many businesses. Mantel continues: “In the past, flexible working was a ‘nice to have’, but it’s quickly become a necessity, and any business not offering it to their employees is behind the curve.
“In fact, we now find that job candidates, particularly those new to the workforce, ask about flexible working policies before salary or benefits – demonstrating where it sits on their list of career priorities.”
For SAP, providing flexibility correctly requires understanding employee needs and concerns. Mantel notes that SAP does this through regular pulse surveys that outline how the company can improve. This feedback is then fed through the company and its policies so it can retain its talent.
Looking specifically at flexibility policies, Mantel discusses: “Our ‘Pledge to Flex’ has given our staff the freedom to work how and where they want to work, boosting productivity and allowing them to choose the most creative work environment for them.”
The idea behind the ‘Pledge to Flex’ program is that employees can support their other commitments without the stresses of juggling a stringent work regime.
Mantel notes: “Our approach has empowered employees to reclaim time to focus on what they value most, all to the benefit of their mental health and work-life balance.”
Supporting the wellbeing of employees
Although remote work was welcomed by many, it does not guarantee an improved work-life balance. In fact, it can lead to employees not properly switching off from their work.
In an effort to encourage downtime, SAP “introduced ‘Never Lunch Alone’, an online platform that allowed employees to virtually connect with others all over the world, giving them the chance to catch up with one another over a coffee or lunch.
“This was great for boosting morale and creating a greater sense of community amongst employees in what has been a volatile and uncertain time over the past two years.
“In particular, for those who began their careers virtually at SAP, this also provided them with a much-needed opportunity to network and get to know others in their teams.”
While wellbeing programs have been in place for many years at SAP, Mantel and the HR team noticed that demand for these initiatives rose dramatically over the last couple of years.
So SAP launched the “‘Are you OK?’ campaign to raise awareness of our wellbeing resources. In addition, we also delivered our mental health first aider program in the UK.”
On the back of this initiative, over 50 SAP employees have become qualified mental health first aiders.
Multiple areas of wellbeing
However, mental wellbeing is just one area where businesses can support: “Employee wellness must be supported from a physical, mental and financial point of view, particularly during times of uncertainty – whether that’s the pandemic or the recent cost of living crisis.
“We want to support our staff as much as possible and have implemented a range of initiatives to do so effectively.
This is reflected in the programs that SAP is using: “We have introduced workplace savings options, enabling employees to save for the short and long term.
“Our employees also have access to Nudge, our financial education partner, and a wide variety of discounts, including a range of gyms through MyGym, helping promote physical wellbeing, and Gourmet society, which provides discounts across a variety of restaurants, making dining out an affordable experience.”
SAP has also introduced a free-to-use consultancy service that allows employees to get financial advice on energy prices, eclectic vehicles, and tips for running a cheaper home.
Continuing SAP’s journey
Despite SAP’s progress in recent years, the company is committed to continuing to improve the employee experience.
Looking ahead, Mantel is positive: “We [SAP] are continuously assessing how we can better enhance our employee experience and create the working environment that keeps them happy and motivated.
“While I’m proud of lots of our initiatives, I’m particularly pleased that we’re making new commitments to previously taboo topics such as menopause or fertility – watch this space!”
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