Anticipate team needs
As a real estate leader, we have to serve as a role model for our tenants, regardless of the circumstances. As soon as COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, we quickly made the necessary decisions to ensure our employees’ health, safety and physical integrity. We also began preparing for a return to the workplace, aiming to balance compliance with health measures and the experience we offer employees. Moreover, to maintain the Company’s sustainability, we sought to minimize the adverse effects of this exceptional situation on all members of our teams.
Reduce transmission risk
At the outset of the pandemic, we decided to eliminate all non-essential travel, in line with international efforts to limit its spread:
- International travel has been cancelled and is prohibited until further notice.
- All employees who return from travelling must quarantine themselves for 14 days.
After the declaration of the pandemic, additional measures have been put in place:
- In accordance with government recommendations, all employees have been asked to telecommute, with the exception of those who provide essential services at our properties.
As soon as possible and in accordance with government guidelines and health rules, we allowed employees to return to the workplace at their discretion. This flexibility is greatly appreciated by employees, whether they want to work in the office or from home.
Monitor presumed and confirmed cases
The process we have put in place is designed to ensure the health and safety of our employees and their families, while respecting our obligations to keep such situations confidential. Our employees have all been informed of how to report suspected or confirmed cases of infection and have been made aware of the importance of complying with the procedures.
Identify new cases
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, in conjunction with the public health authorities, we immediately investigate to determine whom the employee has been in contact with in the course of his or her work. As necessary, the person receives the appropriate instructions.
Manage transmission risks
If an employee is confirmed positive, protocols are in place to limit the spread of the virus, while protecting the identity of the affected person. Each case is evaluated and treated in accordance with public health guidelines.
Treat affected spaces
Our COVID-19 case management protocols cover a number of specific scenarios. If an employee infected with COVID-19 worked on the premises of a property managed by Ivanhoé Cambridge, the workplace is promptly disinfected thoroughly. In addition, notices are sent to the employees and stakeholders concerned.
Prevention of new cases
Any employees who have been in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 must follow public health directives, self-isolate and monitor their symptoms.
Oversee deconfinement and a gradual return to work
A rigorously planned and supervised return to the workplace will take place once local public health authorities give the green light. A protocol developed by a multidisciplinary committee in accordance with government guidelines has been implemented. A concept test of the protocol and all the measures was carried out at Édifice Jacques-Parizeau in July 2020.
Managers have been given training and support for the planned return to the workplace. Employees are responsible for respecting physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, as well as wearing a procedural mask. To access the workplace, they must also submit a daily statement confirming that they have no symptoms. They undertake to comply with the employer’s COVID-19 prevention and symptom-identification measures and to notify their manager of any changes in their health during the day. No individual considered at risk according to public health criteria is allowed to go to the workplace.
In line with our business continuity approach and with a view to a return to work, managers are responsible for assessing their team’s level of resilience to a scenario involving a loss of key personnel; they must ensure that they have sufficient measures in place. In addition, a directive has been adopted to determine the percentage of a team’s employees who can be in the workplace simultaneously, in accordance with the team’s level of resilience. Finally, as business functions permit, rotating groups and schedules have been determined to limit the maximum occupancy rate per week in the workplace. This will ensure business continuity and prevent widespread transmission to employees.
Safe and healthy environment at head office
Hygiene and housekeeping measures have been stepped up in common areas. Workspaces have been reconfigured to meet the recommended physical distancing. Plexiglas screens and other zero-contact barriers have been installed, and traffic is determined by posted signage. At the same time, the plumbing systems have been checked, the frequency of air changes has been increased and high-quality MERV13 filters have been installed to ensure compliance with ASHRAE standards. Hand-sanitizing stations and mask dispensers have also been added at strategic points.
Concept test at Édifice Jacques-Parizeau – reintegration of business offices
The pandemic has prompted us to think about the office of the future. In 2020, we were able to test the reintegration of our head office at Édifice Jacques-Parizeau, while respecting the health measures in effect. As a result of this exercise, we:
- Developed innovative solutions to ensure our employees’ health and safety, such as IC at the Office, the health reporting tool they use before arriving at the office;
- Enhanced a number of health-related measures to make them more pleasant without sacrificing safety, such as improved traffic flow at the office and information posters reminding employees of preventive measures (masks, distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, etc.); and
- Set a positive and safe example of workspace use for our tenants. With a view to continuous improvement, we are committed to making office life more normal.
Finally, in the fall of 2020 we began renovations at our head office. The new workspace layout will allow us to respect physical distancing, and our employees will benefit from technologies allowing them to return to the office safely, such as contactless doors and Plexiglas between workspaces.
Make employee health and well-being central to our decisions
Situation-specific support solutions have been added to the benefits offered as part of our usual employee experience:
Support for infected employees
All the necessary information on what to do is available to employees. The employee’s Human Resources team and manager will contact him/her to assess the situation and answer questions.
Promotion of Akira, our new telemedicine services
Akira is an online care service that all employees can use to limit the need to leave their homes in the event of health issues that can be resolved virtually. This service is much appreciated by our employees and helps relieve congestion in the health care system.
Three additional flexible recovery days
For employees working at the company at the time of this announcement, these days are in addition to those already provided for 2020. This temporary measure provides an additional way to offset the professional and personal burdens created by the COVID-19 crisis.
Improved reimbursement for professional mental health services
To provide support to our employees and their families, we have decided to double the maximum amount of reimbursements for the services of mental health professionals, namely psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists, clinical counsellors, psychoanalysts and marriage and family therapists, offered under the Company’s group insurance program (for employees in Canada). Through webinars and newsletters, we regularly provide relevant information to employees about the importance of mental health.
Extension of the annual vacation reference period
We extended the authorized period of vacations days, which gives employees more flexibility in the use of their vacation (for employees in Canada).
We maintained our annual flu vaccination campaign in December. A stringent protocol ensured that the operation was carried out safely.
Optimize telework conditions
When we closed our offices around the world, more than 80% of our employees were telecommuting. We have offered them a variety of solutions to optimize their workspace:
- Additional computer tools, such as screens and keyboards
- Accelerated launch of a new videoconference system and production of training videos to ensure everyone can quickly make optimal use of it
- Virtual training sessions on selection of remote work tools
- At the start of the pandemic, reimbursement of expenses incurred between March 16 and the end of 2020 for items to improve the ergonomics of their at-home workspace
- Guides and training sessions to support employees in the organization of their work, such as to improve team productivity or to balance work and family obligations
This regularly updated guide recaps the initiatives in place and sets out instructions and guidelines for a safe return to the workplace.
This concise document depicts all the steps of an employee’s day in the workplace at a glance.
IC at the Office
This tool was developed by the Information Technology team to ensure the occupancy rate of a building does not exceed the capacity recommended by the health authorities. Employees use it to confirm their presence at the office in advance, submit their daily health declaration, undertake to respect the measures in place and obtain their passes.
Short videos explain the different aspects of the new routine to follow when employees return to the workplace.
Step up communications
The exceptional number of employees who are telecommuting, combined with the uncertainty of the pandemic, has prompted us to put in place enhanced mechanisms for remote communication with employees.
Inform employees of developments in real time
- Daily videos that enabled our President and Chief Executive Officer Nathalie Palladitcheff to address employees during the first weeks of the pandemic, followed by regular virtual videos the following weeks
- Regular videos with several other members of the leadership team on the situation in the Company’s various groups and geographic regions
- Launch of a newsletter, first daily, then twice a week, to provide updates on the situation, the measures taken, the impacts on our activities and the directives to follow
Provide platforms for discussion and information sharing
These forums have, among other things, helped develop concrete solutions to certain issues:
- Creation of a special section on the Intranet and a dedicated SharePoint site
- Launch of a COVID-19 group on the Yammer corporate social network and various groups on Teams to share all relevant information about the situation and allow for discussions with colleagues
- Launch of virtual Coffee Chats accessible to all in order to provide an additional place for employees to discuss their realities
- Session during which the Vice Presidents of Human Resources and Information Technology responded to employee concerns
- To combat isolation, creation of a procedure shared with managers to encourage them to be sure their employees speak to at least one person every day
Listen to employees
Through these widely used mechanisms, the management teams have been able to adjust the measures and communication initiatives to reflect employee needs as much as possible:
- Regular surveys, at first weekly and then bimonthly
- Creation of a channel to allow everyone to put questions directly to the President
- Dedicated email address so that employees can also put questions directly to the Business Continuity and Human Resources teams
Offer specific training
Supporting our teams also means equipping them to cope with an unprecedented situation.
The managers have a central role to play in how teams experience remote work. We have designed virtual labs and training sessions specifically to support them in this role; the topics include “Managing remotely” and “Managing emotions and the human/business balance”. Our leadership program took place in a 100% virtual version in the fall of 2020, and this format is also being used in 2021.
In addition to providing access to a wide variety of online resources, we have created a series of interactive webinars with various experts (doctors, psychologists) to provide employees with information and advice on how to manage their physical and mental health during confinement.
Maintain proximity service for all teams
Despite the constraints imposed by telework, we have maintained our activities without compromising the effectiveness of our services to employees and the management teams:
Talent acquisition process
This process has been adapted to continue meeting the organization’s resource needs adequately, whether they are situation-specific or related to normal operations. The interview processes have also been adapted and take place in virtual mode.
Resource sharing between departments
Where possible, teams have been asked to lend some of their members to those teams most affected or most in demand as a result of the crisis.
All current programs and training sessions have been maintained in virtual format.
New employees receive home delivery of technology tools, as well as increased support during their onboarding process. Moreover, we maintained our summer 2020 intern program despite the circumstances. The new interns were also able to benefit from a virtual onboarding platform and home delivery of technology tools, in addition to discussions with Company ambassadors and electronic personal performance reports.
Rigorous monitoring of specialized knowledge
The rapidly evolving nature of the situation requires that we implement systematic mechanisms to monitor various aspects affecting employees, from both a legal and human resources management standpoint. Our ability to anticipate is essential to prepare the steps that will follow deconfinement as well as our long-term vision. For example, we have introduced the following monitoring mechanisms:
• Weekly monitoring of literature on the progress of the current situation and post-COVID-19 vision
• Legal and health-related recommendations for management of detected cases of COVID-19
• Monitoring of the requirements of local authorities in all our jurisdictions.