Employee resilience and business continuity during an ongoing crisis

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Safety and resilience of employees are two major priorities as of Oct. 7, while Israeli corporates focus on maintaining business continuity amidst uncertainty and even danger.

Immediately after the terrorist attack and outbreak of war, there were urgent needs such as supporting employees and their families who were affected or hurt by the attack of Oct. 7th, employees who were evacuated from their homes in the war zones and as a result were housed far from their places of work, helping employees who got stuck abroad to return home and supporting employees who were enlisted for reserve military service.

The personal resilience of employees is tightly linked to the wider organizational resilience in times of crisis. Therefore, Israeli businesses now need to manage carefully questions of work-life balance and be aware of how the current state of emergency affects employees’ mental health and well-being.

Why is employee resilience so critical now?
Times of war and crisis can increase a sense of loss of control over one’s life. The workplace can be a positive anchor and help cope by emphasizing and strengthening employees’ notion that they are not alone; that their peers are dealing with similar difficulties; and that their workplace provides them with the support they need during these times. Supportive, attentive and conscious management can help tailor the support to each employee’s personal needs and help maximize the effectiveness of the support provided by the company.

Furthermore, the workplace provides a stable routine, albeit a new one adapted for a reality of ongoing crisis. The ability to set into a routine and focus on doing work and assignments can help employees rediscover their sense of purpose at work, which is a major component in strengthening personal resilience. Again, supportive and attentive management, including communications from senior management, are key to increasing employees’ sense of purpose by helping employees connect their daily work to the company’s core values.

Corporate response and action since the outbreak of war
Caring for employees is considered a top priority in the Israeli society, and as such also on the ESG agenda in Israel. Now during these times of war and state-wide crisis these issues become ever more critical. Business responses were immediate, and main actions included:

– HR hotline for support on issues arising from the state of emergency.

– Mental support, including services such as social workers and psychologists, as well as creating a platform for peer-to-peer support among  employees.

– Employee ventilation sessions for sharing experiences and support.

– Training and support for managers on facing current challenges, attentiveness and responsiveness to the needs of their teams and employees.

– A dedicated Internal communication strategy for this time of war and emergency, keeping employees up-to-date and emphasizing purpose, empathy, and encouraging employees to seek support.

– Support for employees who were hurt, injured or directly affected by the war.

– Support for families of employees who were affected by the war.

– Support for employees enlisted for military reserve duty.

– Support for families of employees enlisted for military reserve duty.

– Programs and actions for increasing the sense of purpose at work and connection to company core values.

– Devising an ongoing strategy for maintaining and strengthening employee resilience.

A striking, yet optimistic story that reflects many of the challenges that companies were facing and had to respond to is that of Be’eri Print, which has become a symbol of the ability to return to full activity despite all they’ve suffered and lost.

Be’eri Print provides services to several business sectors, government agencies and more, and is the main business of Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the hardest hit communities on Oct. 7th. While the print house was not physically damaged, the people were devastatingly affected, and many were not in capacity to return. The area was declared a closed military zone and the company site was immediately shut down. Surviving members of the community were evacuated to hotels, spread across the country. Soon after the attack they began to realize that it will take a long time for the community to recover.

It was an extremely difficult time. Discussions on returning to work were held while not knowing the whereabouts of immediate family members, including the CEO whose mother was still missing. A few key figures in the company were killed, including the CFO and others. Most of the company’s employees were evacuated and now had to travel roughly 1.5 hours each way to get to work.

But despite all these major challenges and many more, they also understood that getting the print house up-and-running again is critical. They believe that Be’eri Print will serve as a steady anchor to lean on, will light the way for the rest of the community and mark its path to recovery. And so, a week later the company reopened and resumed operations with their heads lifted high.

Looking ahead
Maala is currently developing a set of metrics for ESG during times of war and crisis. The metrics will be compiled as an additional chapter for the Maala ESG Index, with the aim of creating a broader picture of how businesses responded to the current challenges. The overview will help standardize businesses’ disclosure on their work during the war in their upcoming ESG reports, and will enable further mutual learning as they cope with the ongoing state of emergency.

A major component of this new set of metrics refers to supporting employees and strengthening personal and organizational resilience. The initial results are expected to be published by the beginning of March 2024.


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