Human resources

Anticipate team needs

We want to continue to be an employer of choice and a responsible corporate citizen, 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. Moreover, to maintain the Company’s sustainability, we sought to minimize the adverse effects of this exceptional situation on all members of our teams.

Limit travel

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.

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, we automatically notify the public health authorities, which must then identify the employee’s contacts and provide the appropriate instructions.

Manage transmission risks

We contact all identified persons to inform them of the situation and of the preventive measures to take, while protecting the identity of the infected person. The employee’s entire team will be informed and will also be given guidance as to the precautions to take.

Treat affected spaces

If an infected employee has been to the workplace in the 14 days preceding diagnosis, the workplace will be disinfected thoroughly. Notices will be sent to the employees who were on the premises during the same period.

Prevention of new cases

Any employees who have been in contact with someone who tests positive must follow public health directives, self-isolate and monitor their symptoms.

Monitor deconfinement and gradual return to work

We have rigorously planned our return to the office, once it is permitted by local public health authorities. Managers are given training and support for its planning, and employees are responsible for physical distancing and hygiene measures. Employees must also complete a statement confirming their absence of symptoms and at-risk medical conditions to be granted access to the workplace and must undertake to follow the employer’s prevention and symptom-identification measures. No individual who is considered at risk according to the criteria established by the authorities is allowed to return to work.

As functions permit, rotating groups and schedules have been determined to limit the maximum occupancy rate each week. This will ensure business continuity and prevent any widespread transmission issues towards employees.

Hygiene and housekeeping measures have been stepped up in common areas. Workspaces have been reconfigured to meet the recommended distancing, and traffic is determined according to posted signage. At the same time, the frequency of air quality tests has been increased, and the plumbing systems have been checked.

Extended telework is an exceptional and unexpected situation. The effects on the physical and mental health of individuals are numerous and diverse. As an employer, we have a responsibility to provide our teams with the most advanced means and tools at our disposal to deal with this situation. To maintain engagement and to reassure and support our employees, we have taken several important measures.

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.

Three additional flexible recovery days

These days are in addition to those already provided for 2020. This 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).

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).

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
  • Reimbursement of expenses incurred to purchase office furniture
  • 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

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

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 team

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”.

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.

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.

Onboarding process

As a key component of the employee experience, onboarding has also been redesigned for the telework context. We decided to maintain our summer internship program despite the unusual circumstances, and these newcomers were also able to benefit from a virtual onboarding platform, discussions with business ambassadors, home delivery of technological tools 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 recommendations for management of detected cases of COVID-19
• Monitoring of the requirements of local authorities in all our jurisdictions.

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