In strong support of its work-from-home staff, which stands at two-thirds of around 650 people, wines and spirits company J Wray & Nephew has reached out to them in providing the tools that they need to succeed from the comfort of familiar territory.
In a unique activity, hundreds of employees of the company that offered the health sector millions of litres of alcohol, among other commodities to cushion the blow of COVID-19 months ago, have had their paths to smooth production eased considerably.
“Some of the initiatives we took during the COVID period up until now are not just initiatives… they will be shaping our new culture in the way we operate, conduct business, interact, how we learn. One of the biggest takeaways from the COVID period is that it has mobilised us to think differently, how we work as a company and what we stand for, and our culture,” stated senior director of human resources Jacqueline Cuthbert.
Like many companies, when COVID-19 hit Jamaica, J Wray & Nephew, a member of the Campari Group, was not prepared. Its managers did not even foresee the coronavirus intervention as anything long term. But, critically, a decision was made to protect its employees as far as possible.
News even emerged that there was a potential case of the virus at the workplace, and right away, it added to the sense of urgency. A rigorous sanitisation exercise, which has been maintained since, was introduced, in a bid to make those at the workplace safe.
But then, too, came the elaborate work-from-home initiative.
“We had to do tactical things when it hit Jamaica,” said Cuthbert last week in an interview with the Jamaica Observer. “We told everybody that they would have to work from home, and the only exception of course was our front line workers in production and merchandising. So the next thing we did was provide employees with masks, hand sanitisation for personal use and work, and that was hugely appreciated. We put in very strong security measures and temperature control, we made sure each employees knew access points in the company through occupational health nurses, so that was the first phase for a first couple of months as the company decided how to maintain production.
“Two months into COVID the company launched a survey among employees and it was very clear that they appreciated a couple of things — that clear communication was given, and secondly, the fact that they could work remotely.”
The survey identified isolation and impracticalities of working at home in terms of office equipment support as challenges. On those two fronts, the company acted quickly.
“We realised from a financial cost perspective, the fact that employees were not going into work, but working from home, we were experiencing some cost savings, so we wanted to pass them on to our employees, we provided every employee with financial support, where they could… we had an arrangement with two or three suppliers, where employees could go into and select office furniture – a chair, table, then we mobilised our Campari Group IT department to ensure that all employees could have a keyboard, monitor, mouse, headset with microphone, up to a monetary value of $50,000. The items would remain under the management and control of the employee,” Cuthbert related to the Sunday Observer.
The company realised that working from home would mean an additional power, or electricity cost to the employee, so it provided each with a certain amount of money per month to help defray Jamaica Public Service Company expenses.
As a bonus too, a lunch package has been arranged for employees working remotely, in which they receive a sum of money which can be used to purchase food just about anywhere, including online.
“We are piloting it across the company just to get feedback. Normally, hot lunches would be provided for employees at the workplace, but now that they are not in office we are slowly rolling out a new approach to lunch. It’s about flexibility for employees,” Cuthbert revealed.
The organisation is also negotiating with leading service providers to secure broadband connectivity for all employees working from home, and is exploring the possibility for the establishment of a dedicated helpline, based upon the survey.
Cuthbert said that at some point a “smart working” system will take charge whereby employees will go back to the office for three days a week.
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