About your organisation
For over 125 years we have been guided by the belief that great medicines and vaccines change the world. Our heritage and presence in the UK spans over eighty years.
Scientific invention is at the heart of what we do, and today, we are at the forefront of pioneering science.
What challenges were you trying to address?
At MSD our people are our greatest asset and it is phenomenal to see what MSD (with the help of our employees) has achieved throughout the pandemic. Like businesses, and organisations everywhere we found ourselves having to operate in a new world of remote working whilst ensuring our people and their families were safe, and that they felt supported.
We also wanted to ensure we were all connected as we worked remotely, and as those initial weeks became months communication became increasingly important.
In some cases, where our employees had to physically attend their place of work (manufacturing/conducting clinical trials and in our labs), it was of paramount importance to us that they were able to do so safely.
In addition to all of this, we had planned an office move to our new Head Office in London from our office in Hoddesdon, which had been our home for over forty years, and we were also working on a Global project to ‘spin-off’ part of our organisation, to create a new company for our Women’s Health and Established Brands portfolio.
Trying to vacate our old home and ensuring the move to London was still on track despite numerous lockdowns was a challenge. As was staying on track and meeting deadlines for the new company launch, finalising all the details that such a venture requires.
But throughout all of this, it was of utmost importance that we were supporting our people and bringing them on this journey with us whilst also preserving the MSD culture of inclusivity which we are so proud of.
What was your solution?
Since the start of the pandemic it was critical that we stayed in touch with our people, so they felt supported. We started to hold regular and frequent virtual ‘Town Hall’ meetings across the various divisions in MSD and continue to do so. This helped to remind people that support is available through several channels – not only through their manager, but also through our employee assistance programme. This is a funded programme available to employees which offers a 24/7 helpline to support colleagues in numerous areas including coping with change, mental health, family support, bereavement, and finance. Added to that, we have over 50 trained in-house Mental Health First Aiders available across all our sites who are able to support people who need to speak to someone.
MSD also has an internal wellbeing programme called LIVE IT. This offers support on wellbeing through online sessions and speakers on a variety of topics from coping with stress to financial and dietary and fitness advice. Throughout the pandemic, the LIVE IT team held several sessions in response to employees having to adapt to a new way of working from home and in a mostly virtual environment. The sessions have been extremely well received and included topics such as “Dealing with Digital Burnout”, “Ergonomics and Health Movement”, “Coping with Change” and “Making a Life whilst Making a Living”. Through the LIVE IT team, we also launched an app (iConnectYou) which has a huge amount of health and wellbeing resources that employees can easily access on the go.
Our private healthcare provider also offered extra support through counselling and medical advice for employees. And through our benefits platform, we also launched a wellbeing platform where employees can check in on diet and exercise and arrange to attend a Pilates class, if they wish.
We also arranged delivery of office equipment including monitors and chairs to ensure they had the correct equipment and work areas to carry out their roles remotely.
While we are constantly encouraging our employees to take regular breaks and time off, we have been mindful that many travel plans are still in question and, we provided further flexibility within our Annual Leave Policy.
Our people have always been and continue to be our greatest asset. Their mental and physical wellbeing, and that of their families will always be paramount to us.— Susannah Hodgson, Executive Director, MSD
How did you roll out your solution?
Knowing how much and how often to communicate with our employees has been a key component in ensuring we have all stayed connected. Encouraging managers to have regular check-ins, sending out surveys to understand where we could improve, Q&A sessions at the Townhalls, as well as asking the question ‘Are you OK?’ All of these helped us to understand where we needed to focus.
We have always adopted a flexible working culture and encouraged people to make use of this. The resources we used were largely already in place, but we have certainly learnt to be adaptive and innovative in thinking on how we can improve more in this space.
What have the results been?
A recent company survey around the “Are you OK?” theme, captured responses from over 140 employees in our commercial division. Many colleagues fed back that they felt empowered to manage their priorities, they appreciated the development opportunities provided through short term assignments across other parts of the business (GIGs), they were thankful of the provision of office equipment to work effectively and safely from home and above all they valued the flexibility and understanding of responsibilities in balancing work life commitments.
Over 50% of respondents also indicated that the health and wellbeing resources provided through LIVE IT were helpful or very helpful, with a significant mention of support for mental health. Almost 70% of employees that responded also indicated that overall, they felt supported throughout the pandemic in ensuring a work-life balance when caring for others or home-schooling.
What advice would you give to other businesses looking to do something similar?
Listen to your employees, engage with them and act upon what they are telling you and respond to that.
Throughout the pandemic and with all of the company changes that were taking place, we knew we had to bring our people with us and the key to that was clear, regular communication, but also listening and responding to the feedback that we were getting.