The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a critical challenge to even the most battle-tested organizations worldwide. While we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel with recent news of promising new vaccines, it is now more critical than ever that organizations not lose sight of the importance of supporting employee health and wellness. Even in the postcrisis era, the next normal is certain to look different than the past.
Part of providing the best employee experience possible is accounting for the impact of changing environments and the evolving needs of the business. At Elastic, we’re always looking to improve our ways of working to better serve our customers and employees in ways that feel authentic to who we are as a company.
We recently shared our insights on how to support employees’ mental health needs and prevent burnout in an article on CIO.com highlighting nine tips for managing mental health across IT teams:
- You can’t pour from an empty cup
- Be vulnerable
- Recognize the warning signs
- Listen to your staff
- Promote resources
- Cut down on virtual meetings
- Get creative about giving employees time back
- Take the temperature of your team, virtually
- Pick a mental health solution
Keeping the glass half full
While the recommendations are for IT teams, we see these as relevant to all employees. Recognizing that everyone is working through their own personal challenges — from entertaining toddlers to sharing a workspace (or kitchen island or coffee table) with a partner or housemate — early into the pandemic, we asked ourselves, “How can we best support our Elasticians?”
Our Source Code has always been our guide when we think about how we create the best environment for our people. When everyone is suddenly living “Home, DINNER” in a very different way, the question “How do you meet folks where they are?” and support myriad situations that we’d never before planned for or even imagined is challenging to say the least. The question quickly became “What is the right thing to do?” With that question at the forefront and uncertainty all around, our leaders across the organization quickly aligned and launched company-wide initiatives to support our global teams.
Our first step was to extend COVID leave — time off above and beyond an employee’s PTO — to be used for caring for sick loved ones or oneself, or for managing kids out of school or daycare. It was our first step to give folks breathing room in the face of all the unknowns. We then quickly extended our $1,000 home office allowance to all employees to ensure that everyone could create a better home working environment. Then, on May 1, we held our first “Shut It Down Day” to help alleviate stress and recognize the extra time needed to recharge. Given the positive feedback, and more importantly, the positive impact to engagement as a result of this downtime, we have continued to offer these days throughout the pandemic.
We followed the extra time off with the launch of Ginger, an on-demand mental health support application, to provide free access to emotional support services, and we continue to offer flexible work arrangements for parents whose children are distance learning or individuals who may be caring for family members.
Creating an even more virtual culture of employee engagement
While we have always been “distributed by design” — certainly an incredibly important feature as we got deeper into the pandemic. It has been important for Elastic to focus on what we can to improve and ensure employee engagement. We re-examined onboarding, launched an employee “summer camp,” and used collaboration tools like Workplace Search to help bridge the transition to an all-virtual environment and make it easier for employees to find the information they need.
Elastic has made it a priority to pool knowledge and resources across teams and maintain transparent communication with employees as we navigate through global office closures and reopenings — and subsequent reclosings. We found that as leaders became more deeply integrated with other parts of the business and one another, the Elastic employee experience improved as policies and procedures were implemented to enable the company to continue to function in the ever-changing environment.
With IT and HR working collaboratively, we were able to continue to onboard new employees seamlessly, implementing new technology and platforms to support their safety while ensuring employees remained connected to each other and the mission of Elastic. We pivoted our week-long, in-person new hire onboarding program, X-School, to fully virtual and turned the experience into a new way for employees to interact as a community and with Elastic’s leaders.
We moved our Global All Hands (GAH) from an in-person, days-long event that takes place in a different city around the world every year to an immersive, all-virtual experience. Over the course of two weeks we covered 144 sessions and 170 hours of content, and launched GAH TV, which gave Elasticians an opportunity to meet and learn from each other in a new and unique way — from bread baking to poetry readings to a live cooking class with our CEO’s family.
Our Volunteer Time Off (VTO) program has always been an important cornerstone to how our employees engage and give back to organizations in their communities around the world. With volunteering proven to combat stress, anxiety, and depression and the pandemic amplifying that need, our Elastic Cares team launched virtual volunteer opportunities and we saw our employee donation-matching increase dramatically for hundreds of NPOs, from anti-racism organizations to LGBTQIA causes.
Looking ahead to the next normal
In the wise words of former First Lady of the United States, Abigail Adams, “Learning is not by chance, it must be sought.” At Elastic, we’re a curious bunch — always learning, evolving, and growing. The past eight months, while extraordinarily challenging in many ways, have shown us again that necessity is indeed the mother of invention and our Elasticians, teams, and leaders continue to rise to the challenge with creativity and positivity. As we enter the era of the next normal we will continue to emphasize mobility and flexibility for employees and provide them with the resources to be successful at work and at home — because we fundamentally believe that building a bright, motivated, and healthy global team is how we will succeed as an organization, together.