Coping with COVID-19 – Innovative pandemic practices


In the midst of our historic situation, both employers and employees are constantly adapting as the COVID-19 situation develops. The various surveys we have conducted at Mercer tell us that most employers are looking within and at each other to determine possible courses of action. The difficulty is not only in the extent of the pandemic and in the pace of development, but also the unprecedented nature of this event, for which there is no modern historical reference.

The focus of past crises was typically on safeguarding companies’ financial positions. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, this is still of utmost concern. However, there has also been increasing concern from employers regarding the well-being of their employees. This is important as business resumes progressively. Companies that recover fastest will be those whose workforces are safe and well.

As part of our efforts to share the unique practices that leading global companies are implementing to help their employees, we have gathered various innovative and useful policies that we think everyone should explore.

Time off policies

As the pandemic continues, one of the lingering concerns employers have is their employees – or close contacts – who have contracted COVID-19. Current leave policies do not address the time off they need to minimize further spread. Several multinational corporations have implemented special arrangements to ensure their employees are able to manage both their personal and work lives:

  • Increasing paid family/childcare entitlements
  • Free count of sick leave
  • Subsidized family care services

An increasing number of employers have also implemented an emergency paid leave policy to handle COVID-19 leaves separately from their regular paid time-off policy. [1]

Healthcare/well-being policies

Another category of fast-evolving practices involves ensuring the employees’ physical and mental well-being, especially when many countries are limiting the movement of their populations. Many employees are living in isolation or under constant stress, balancing family and career at home. These policies include:

  • Fast-tracking introduction of telehealth service for employees
  • Free online workout classes for employees
  • Care packages sent to employees

Throughout this period, we have also seen employers increasing communications about their employee mental health programs or establishing virtual wellness and socializing moments for their employees.

An emphasis on employee well-being and mental health is definitely a growing trend. In fact, based on the results of our Global COVID-19 survey #6, an increasing number of companies expect both well-being programs and digital health to be key areas of focus in 2021.

Results from a previous survey[2] validate this finding, with close to half of employers surveyed anticipating virtual health and well-being offerings, such as telemedicine or therapy, becoming a permanent fixture in their workplaces.

Financial assistance policies

The last and least common policies employers are implementing are financial support policies. Under such difficult economic conditions, this option may not be affordable for most companies – which is why employees are likely to appreciate this assistance most, as it helps those who are most financially impacted:

  • Complimentary COVID-19 insurance coverage
  • Provision of shopping/food and grocery discounts
  • One-time cash provisions and allowances

Don’t obsess over trying to introduce or adopt headline-catching policies that don’t address the situation facing your workforce. It will be far more useful to listen to your employees’ issues and address them accordingly.

[1] Mercer’s Global Survey #4: How Are Companies Adapting to the COVID-19 Business and Workforce Environment?, Asia-Pacific, 2020.
[2] Mercer’s
Global Survey #5: Which of the Following COVID-19 Business Responses Do Companies Anticipate Becoming Permanent Fixtures in Their Workplace?, Asia-Pacific, 2020.

Godelieve Van Dooren
by Godelieve Van Dooren

Partner, Regional Industries & Products Leader – Asia Pacific