Always having our people’s health and safety is a top priority, our response to the COVID-19 pandemic was immediate. Following the announcement of the first confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Cyprus and prior to the government’s lockdown, we asked all our people to stay and work from home.
Our technology infrastructure, our working practices, our culture and our people’s agility and commitment, facilitated the swift and successful transition to a new day, a new norm; a completely virtual working environment.
From the outset, our aim has been to keep close to our people, provide them with support needed, look out for their wellbeing and build a positive spirit. We continued offering our well being and mental health interventions but in a virtual form; virtual nutritional services, virtual psychology support, virtual physiotherapy services and virtual fitness classes.
We also introduced enhanced flexibility options to support all our people, giving them more control over their work life balance. Acknowledging the increased responsibilities and challenges faced by parents, we offered special flexibility arrangements to all parents/guardians with children under 15 years old. Therefore, for any hours they could not work during the period that schools remained closed, they had the flexibility to work these hours in the months after schools reopened, without affecting their salary or annual leave.
During the period of being physically apart, we remained focused on being closer together and overcoming the challenges as one team, supporting each other, whilst continuing to provide quality services to our clients.
To do this, we established open communication through various channels. Regular informative webcasts ran for all people from the CEO, the Head of People and the Head of Operations, whilst email communication was frequently sent to keep our people updated regarding Health & Safety measures and how the gradual and safe return to the office would take place.
Moreover, a dedicated internal site was developed with useful information around the pandemic progression, tips on working from home, ideas with creative things to do whilst being at home and home made videos from our Partners who shared their own stories on how they were experiencing working from home, inspiring and empowering our people even more. Also, a digital community was created for all our people to share their happy moments, thoughts, concerns, jokes, photos, videos, feelings and anything else we wanted in order to strengthen our relationships even more and bond our team spirit.
Key decisions around remuneration and career progression were also communicated to our people, reassuring them that their jobs and remuneration were secure. At the same time and having as a priority the continuous development of our people, our annual performance assessment and feedback cycle ran normally.
In such a critical and volatile time, it was paramount to gather our people’s thoughts on how they are experiencing the current situation and their input on what else needs to be done so that we successfully navigate our firm and our people through these challenging times. To this end, we ran two pulse surveys covering topics on wellbeing/stress, flexibility, technology quality, leadership and communication effectiveness, teamwork and coaching. The first survey went out during lockdown and the second one while transitioning back to the office. These two surveys revealed high levels of engagement amongst our people with our people feeling proud on how we have responded to the pandemic, demonstrating in practice our core organisational values of care, working together, reimagining the possible and bringing our purpose to life.
In responding to the pandemic, our strategy has been to focus on the medium to long term sustainability of our practice. To this end, we decided to proceed with all of our internships and graduate recruitment mixing virtual and physical participation.
We also used any downtime to invest in the learning and development of our people. Prior to the pandemic we had committed to invest two million Euro over the next four years to strengthen the skills required in the digital era, upskilling our people and services. In this context we had launched virtually the ‘New world. New skills’ program. During the lockdown period, we continued to digitally upskill our people and converted all of our learning and development programmes to virtual. Moreover, we ran a special virtual edition of our Business Skills Programme, aiming to support our people with challenges faced by everyone with the new way of working.
True to our purpose, we remained committed in bringing positive change in the society and solving important problems. During lockdown we offered our people, clients and community PwC’s digital fitness app for free till the end of July. Moreover, since the beginning of March, our website has been adapted to provide materials, tools and advice to our clients and markets, to help them manage the crisis and assist them in getting prepared for the day after. These included three CFO pulse surveys carried out capturing the priorities and concerns of CFOs in Cyprus and also webcasts and thought leadership publications on the economic impact of COVID-19 on the Cyprus economy and our vision on how to restart the Cyprus economy.
As we are transitioning back to the office we bring with us the lessons learned from working remotely – a more agile mindset and new ways of working and connecting in a disrupted and virtual environment, making us stronger as an organisation, as teams and as professionals.
As we shape our strategy going forward, we seek to leverage the lessons learned and engage collaboratively with our people in reimagining our future working practices – aiming to continue strengthening our flexibility, wellbeing and team collaboration practises in our way of working.