We all want to feel safe and supported at work—and, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we need to feel safe and supported in order to be productive. Cultural safety incorporates physical and emotional safety, acknowledging that when either one is missing, we can’t be expected to perform optimally.

We spoke with Hibob’s Chief People Officer, Nirit Peled-Muntz, about her work to ensure a physically and emotionally safe environment for Hibob’s employees as the pandemic and social volatility continue.

Hibob: How do you handle sensitive discussions at work, such as diversity and inclusion?

Nirit Peled-Muntz: At Hibob, we believe that we need to stand united in solidarity with underrepresented minorities in the workplace. This is a matter of diversity and inclusion. It’s connected to politics, but it is also about the way we, as HR, can lead the fight against racism. We’ve released a statement in our social networks. Internally, we are also addressing the situation and how we feel about it. We want our people to feel safe, supported, and that they can have a dialogue about this within our company.

Hibob: What’s your status on heading back to the office?

NPM: We decided to bring only 30% of our workforce back to assure social distance and safety. We continually ask our employees for feedback, and we’re hearing that they feel very safe and productive at home, while also enjoying the option to come to the office. This was also on our minds as we established the return-to-office strategy, because we wanted to maintain a consistent work-from-home feel across the company while allowing employees to interact and work face-to-face when safe and possible.

Occasionally employees express a need to know our long-term plans. Some bigger companies don’t plan to return to the office until 2021. We are still evaluating, but the important thing is to communicate with everyone in the company, while also maintaining a flexible mindset, since we simply don’t know yet what will happen.

Hibob: Tell us more about how you prepared the office for return.

NPM: First of all, the office was thoroughly cleaned. We sent employees instructions on COVID-appropriate behavior in advance, and also posted signs throughout the office. In Israel you need to complete a health declaration before you step into the office, so we created a process for employees to do so via the bob app, including checking their temperature at home before they come in. We also provide temperature check stations at the front desk.

Since only 30% of our workforce is allowed to come to the office, we didn’t need to create a strict structure for seating arrangements. Different people come to the office on different days, so we just ask them to maintain social distance.

We’ve learned that, because this situation is new to everybody, we can’t assume how people will feel. You think certain people will have no issue coming back to the office, and then you find out that they have parents at risk, a pregnant partner, or they are just afraid to take the bus. So we need to be careful not to assume, and instead create a dialogue with our employees based on mutual trust and care for their safety. 

Employees are dependent on their managers and HR for information about COVID’s long- and short-term impact on their work. It’s our responsibility to maintain open, consistent communication that addresses personal and professional concerns. 

Hibob: How are you communicating with furloughed employees?

NPM: We take care to keep in touch with furloughed employees with formal communications from HR or through managers on at least a monthly basis.

When we communicate with furloughed employees, we try to set expectations, to help them understand where we stand and how we see the future. Overall it is important that we don’t create false expectations and we keep the communication authentic.

Hibob: How do you maintain connection and company spirit across your global sites?

NPM: Consistent and strategic communication is key. We communicate everything to everybody at the same time, and that helps to align our different geographies. 

We’ve created a cadence for these communications that helps us maintain consistency and regular information flow, beginning with a pulse survey sent to employees whose results are addressed in all-hands and extended management calls and people manager forums.

We’ve created an all-hands call for our people to receive updates straight from the CEO. It’s an opportunity to ask questions with full transparency. We are also creating more social activities, like a monthly birthday club with HR and the CEO and themed happy hours with at different times across our global locations. These ideas came from those pulse surveys, where employees told us how we could help them feel more connected to the organization and each other.

We continue to listen to our employees’ feedback and create new solutions and programming as we go.

Hibob: What are your priorities in building a culturally safe work-from-home experience?

NPM: I think that if your people are focused and feel that they add value to the business, they will also feel safer. At the same time, our challenge is also to make sure that everybody actually is safe. Looking at the months ahead, we’ll be working to find the balance between productivity and safety of our teams.

In order for everyone to continue working productively, we need to focus on trust: building relationships between employees, management, and HR that built on compassion, candor, and communication.

Shayna Hodkin

From Shayna Hodkin

Shayna lives in south Tel Aviv with two dogs and a lot of plants. She writes poems and reads tarot.