How HEINEKEN UK engaged colleagues during the pandemic

The last year has taught us many things. How to work at home. How to multi-task. How to be alone. How to dial in. How to unmute! And, then be able to switch off. At HEINEKEN UK we’ve been on a journey that will change how we work forever.

The one thing that’s impressed me, has been people’s passion, flexibility, and resilience. We’ve asked colleagues to stay at home and set up their home ‘office’. We’ve asked our brewery colleagues to come into the brewery during the toughest times. We had to shut our pubs, reopen them, and then shut them again.

How did we do it?

Being agile. We’d already started to embrace ‘Smarter Working’, giving colleagues the flexibility to decide how, where and when they work, so when the pandemic hit we were able to quickly transition to remote working for our office and field based colleagues. We adapted quickly and enabled colleagues to set up their own ‘home office’ with grants for new equipment. In our breweries we set up new ways of working to keep colleagues socially distanced and put procedures in place to test anyone for Covid before coming on site.

Switching off. In combination with this, we’ve introduced new ways of working, like a one hour ‘me time’ every working day between 12.30pm and 1.30pm, where no calls or meetings take place to enable colleagues to literally switch off. We’ve also given colleagues additional days holiday to ensure they take time to recharge their batteries.

Supporting mental wellbeing. The last year has tested everyone’s resilience. We know at times isolation and uncertainty have taken their toll on our colleagues. We provide a range of wellbeing services to help support our colleagues’ mental wellbeing. These include our Employee Assistance Programme, Best Doctors, Bupa, and Nuffield Health – all of which provide excellent mental health support. We also have over 70 Mental Health Champions who are there for colleagues to speak to whenever they’re struggling – they’re not experts but will listen and guide the individual to the help they need.  

Staying active. Coupled with this we’ve encouraged colleagues to stay active and look after themselves. Physical and mental wellbeing are the cornerstones of our colleague wellbeing strategy. Both are intrinsically linked. And we know by encouraging our colleagues to stay active has a positive impact on their state of mind. That’s why we introduced a step challenge earlier this year. We wanted as many colleagues as possible to get involved so all types of wellbeing activities counted towards the total – walking, cycling, dancing, yoga, meditation, the list goes on. Almost 500 colleagues took part and clocked up the equivalent of 66,250 miles, while raising £21k for MIND York.

In addition to this, for colleagues looking for more of a challenge, we reinstated HEINEKEN Race to the Castle this year, where colleagues can walk, jog or run 25, 50, or 100km over two days in the picturesque Northumberland countryside. Last year, due to the pandemic we had to cancel the event, so we were delighted it could go ahead at the end of June in line with Government guidance. It’s the fourth challenge event we’ve run and in total we’ve raised over £100k for UK charities, including the mental health charity, MIND.

Helping local communities. Colleagues have told usdoing good in their community means a lot to them, especially in times like this. That’s why we give everyone three days paid leave every year for volunteering activities. And in direct response to the pandemic, last year we introduced the HEINEKEN Community Fund in partnership with Neighbourly. Through the fund we donated £250k to grass roots charities either local to our sites or nominated by our colleagues.

Communicating more. Making sure we provide colleagues with relevant and up-to-date information and support, has been key to our support for colleagues during the pandemic.We’ve upped our frequency of communications and used Workplace by Facebook to keep people connected. We’ve scraped face-to-face exclusive leadership events, and embraced virtual events with live Townhall sessions. We’ve introduced regular video updates from our management team, which all colleagues can watch live or recorded, and established a series of ‘What’s Brewing’ virtual events to provide a deeper level of information on topics like our summer marketing plans.

Checking in. You may be wondering how we know what’s on our colleagues’ minds. As well as regularly encouraging our People Managers to check in with colleagues on a one to one basis, we’ve carried out online pulse surveys to get in the moment feedback. In addition to this, we’ve introduced live online ‘JAM’ sessions to get real time feedback and discussion in small cross function forums. Outputs have helped shape our thinking and new ways of working.

There’s no denying the last year, and ongoing crisis is the most challenging environment I’ve ever seen. And I’m proud of how we’ve come through it. I know we’re coming out of this a stronger, more resilient business, underpinned by fantastic colleagues and a more flexible ‘blended culture’.”

Jane Brydon, People Director, HEINEKEN UK

Author: Editorial Team

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