MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Zoom: Employee Wellbeing Boosted with Benefits

Had you come across Zoom before the pandemic hit? I had, but only because their CFO, Kelly Steckelberg, joined us as a speaker at our London MAD World Summit in October 2019. Since then, the videoconferencing platform has taken the world by storm. But that brings it’s own pressures.

In this interview, Zoom’s Head of Global Benefits, Sheila Krueger, shares her insights. 

First, can you tell us a bit about your role at Zoom? 

I’ve worn a lot of hats here since I started in May 2019. As our team has expanded, I’ve been able to now focus on a primary role as Head of Global Benefits. This is my sweet spot, as making sure that our employees have the safety net of benefits is very important to me.

The part that benefits plays in overall wellness can really make an employee’s life so much better. And providing a suite of benefits at a better-than-benchmark premium rate makes it even easier for our Talent team to recruit the best to work with us. When you start from a position of caring, happiness and wellbeing the candidates and employees can tell. 

How does this link to the company’s core values centred on caring, happiness and wellbeing? 

It’s a key driver for our benefit plan. Overall wellness (physical, mental, community, social, and financial) provides the foundation for our program.
For our new plan year, we expanded our benefits to encompass a wider spectrum of our employees. We added a family building benefit, expanded our transgender benefits to meet WPATH guidelines, added a hearing aid benefit, and also started a relationship with a vendor providing access to Certified Financial Planners.
While we are a caring community all year, the holiday season really ramped up our employees philanthropy, adopting families, buying toys, sponsoring meals, and helping those in need. Our Zoomies Care program matches employee donations as well, so the charities our employees care about can have twice as much in their coffers through that program. And the platform itself provides a lot of satisfaction on the social side.

Zoom has really come to the forefront of our minds since COVID-19 hit. I imagine this has been an incredibly busy time for you. What are some of the challenges you’ve been dealing with when it comes to supporting employee wellbeing as the pandemic has unfolded?  

We noticed an immediate surge in mental health benefit usage over prior years. While we had a robust program in the US, we were also able to expand our mental health services across the globe so that all of our employees have the ability to reach out for help day or night.
We created some amazing content in-house, which was published on our Zoom blog. That helped managers and co-workers learn to retain their humanity in a time when there’s so little human contact. That document contained tips about working to connect with others on a personal level during the pandemic.
It needs to be OK to check in with your peers about how you all are really doing at this time. It’s always a good use of time to make those connections with people, and it’s even more important now. It’s especially important to remember that we’re all in the same storm, but not in the same boat. My pandemic pressures are very different from someone with kids or someone that lives alone. It’s critical to remember that!
We added an emergency fund in April 2020 to allow employees to be reimbursed for expenses that arise out of COVID-19 and working from home. This program pays for food delivery, extra utility expenses, extra childcare expenses, and other items that make working from home a bit easier. To bring this full circle, every program that we’ve rolled out during the pandemic touches on one of the five pillars of wellness. 

How are you using the Zoom platform to address these challenges? 

Even before COVID-19, our platform allowed us to meet our colleagues around the globe. During the pandemic, we’ve seen that business use expand to fill a gap as in-person social activities aren’t happening. We’ve had Zoom Open Mic nights, Zoom Trivia, Zoom cooking class, Zoom concerts, and a host of activities, include an on-line murder mystery!

Our Happy Crew (volunteer culture drivers) have scheduled coffee breaks, lunches, games, and lot of events via the platform as well. We had a smashing Diwali event, learning the traditions and also learning how to apply henna!

Our vendors are supporting us by using the Zoom platform as well. We have a global wellness provider who gives access to coaching and activities around the globe, as well as providing webinars on a wide variety of topics to help our employees cope with all of the current stessors…via Zoom. 

What advice would you give to people who are experiencing stress related to constantly joining video calls? 

Lots of tips!! Use your calendar to set your meetings for 25 and 50 minutes, instead of 30 and 60. Take that five minutes to move!!! Stand up, walk around outside or in your living space and take that mental break.

We’ve also started to have open discussions about “ALL THOSE MEETINGS”. What is their purpose? We have started a “Meet Better to Meet Less” initiative that stresses that meetings should be about quality (have an agenda, have the right attendees, create action items) and not quantity (check the frequency and length of meetings).

We are piloting “No Internal Meeting Wednesdays” to allow us time to work on projects and dial back on the internal meetings. It seems that every great time management tip ever written has twice the impact now that it did before. On the other side of that, it’s nice to use the platform for fun activities as mentioned above as well. 

What’s next for your plans to support workplace wellbeing?

We are launching Thrive Global in January to our global team to provide more support to all employees from a wellness perspective. As the pandemic panic diminishes, we’re excited to go back to the drawing board and take a new look at wellness and where we need to shore up any of the five pillars.
As we return to work, however that looks, we want to make sure that we have benefit and wellness plans in place to support all of our employees globally. 
Thank you for sharing your insights Sheila. We look forward to hearing more as your plans progress.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in this piece from CNBC:
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/03/zoom-has-the-happiest-employees-of-2020heres-why.html
About the author
Claire Farrow is the Global Director of Content and Programming for the Mad World and Make a Difference Summits. She also drives the content for Make A Difference News. Claire is on a mission to help every employer – large, medium and small – get the insight, inspiration and contacts they need to make real impact on workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing in their organisation. She has been freelance for more than 15 years. During that time, she has had the honour of working with many leading publishers, including the New York Times