A Global Bank's Way To Welcome People Back Equitably

Jun 7, 2022 7:00 AM ET
Article

IWBI’s Signature Interview Series: Jack Noonan, IWBI Vice President, Asia Pacific, sits down with Peter Simpson, Global Head Safety & Security, Hosanna Elarmo – Sacdalan, Head of Health, Safety & Well-being for Asia, at Standard Chartered Bank to look into the bank’s journey of applying well-being at the global scale to make health, safety and well-being accessible to all – regardless of geographic or socioeconomic disparities

As we transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic, our return to the office encounters different challenges in different parts of the world. While people’s health, safety and wellbeing are top of mind for many organizations, some are still probing ways to apply best practices when their operations cross continents and socioeconomic conditions.

The WELL Health-Safety Rating is an evidence-based rating focusing on facility operations and management, and represents a subset of the more than one hundred strategies available in IWBI’s WELL Building Standard (WELL). The WELL Health-Safety Rating and other programs in the WELL ecosystem are now at work in 110 countries, applied in 3.5 billion square feet of real estate, impacting the health and well-being of an estimated 15 million people worldwide.* WELL is a leading framework for organizations around the world to apply health, safety and well-being strategies at scale, bringing best practices to all markets equitably, and making health outcomes accessible to all employees and customers no matter what markets they are in.

Standard Chartered Bank is one of the leading global financial institutions that leveraged the WELL Health-Safety Rating to prioritize health, safety and well-being for 45 locations across Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. A close look at Standard Chartered’s journey to achieving health and well-being for its global workforce illustrates how a multinational organization used the WELL framework as a roadmap to welcome people back to the office in a more equitable way and communicate to stakeholders at all levels with clarity and confidence. Now the company has committed to expanding its application of WELL strategies to over 100 locations in 42 countries as next steps.

IWBI’s Jack Noonan, Vice President, Asia Pacific, sits down with Peter Simpson, Global Head Safety & Security and Hosanna Elarmo – Sacdalan, Head of Health, Safety & Well-being for Asia, at Standard Chartered Bank to explore how this global institution recognized leading standards, validated its best practices and is shifting behavior toward a culture of well-being.

Q: How did Standard Chartered Bank start the journey with the WELL Health-Safety Rating?
A: At the very beginning, our aim was to have something that will help our colleagues feel comfortable to come back to the office. We had made all steps to make our workplaces clean and safe during the pandemic, but we wanted something that we could visibly demonstrate to our employees so they can feel confident. It’s one thing to say we are safe but it’s another thing for people to actually feel safe and confident to return. A key motivator for our property team to apply for the rating was to be able to communicate not just to our internal customers, our colleagues, but also to our external clients and our customers about what we are doing to prioritize their health and safety.

Q: What’s your experience like through achieving the rating?
A: In many ways, the strategies included in the rating are quite comparable to the ones we had in place. But applying the rating really helped demonstrate the good work that our Facilities Management and Property teams in general have been doing even before COVID – 19, but definitely more so during the pandemic. The process helped us to be organized and do a few more things in terms of best practices so we can now demonstrate to our employees and customers that our strategies meet or exceed a globally adopted standard, the WELL Health-Safety Rating.

it has been very easy and succinct for us to talk about being WELL Health-Safety Rated. Rather than going through “we’ve done this, and we’ve done that”, we can now say we achieved a global recognition, the WELL Health-Safety Rating. That seal on the entrance means our colleagues and customers can enter with confidence. We want a visible sign for our colleagues and customers to know their health, safety and well-being have been prioritized as they return to the office globally.

Q: How receptive are your stakeholders to your communications of the rating?
A: Achieving external recognition has always been a powerful route to communicate about efforts. If you say, “Oh we’re doing this, we’re doing that”, it’s all sort of internal and the message might get lost. But achieving a third-party verified rating, such as an ISO standard or an external index, suddenly gives us a language that external people and external organizations recognize.

At Standard Chartered Bank, our employees are our biggest asset, and their health and safety are top of mind for our CEO and leadership. To be able to give them something that they can easily communicate to employees that we are WELL Health-Safety Rated, and it’s safe for you to come back to the office and we encourage you to come back, it’s been effective communication flowing in our countries, and it’s just been so good to see it flow. The fact that we got the rating across many of our markets and being able to communicate to our country CEO’s and top leadership, something succinct and easy to understand, without questions, that was a win for us.

Q: Do you find the rating helps advance your company’s values?
A: Global standardization is something that Standard Chartered is big on. It’s one thing to be WELL rated in the New York or London headquarters since they are generally perceived to be almost there with or without a seal on the door, but it’s another thing to show that the standard we apply in Singapore or London or New York or Hong Kong is also the same health and safety standard we apply in our smaller markets, some of our more developing countries where health and safety can be quite a challenge. With the WELL rating, we wanted to make sure that our offices in Singapore and Sierra Leone, or London and Lagos are treated the same. We want to make sure that they’ve all got the same level of care and WELL Health-Safety Rating helps us demonstrate that. That syncs with other great things we’re doing in terms of diversity, equity, inclusion, and environment.

Q: Are you able to incorporate your WELL efforts into the organization’s ESG benchmarking?
A: WELL achievements complement the work that we’re already doing at the bank in terms of ESG reporting. We are very much open to pursuing WELL at scale for the purposes of improving our ability to better report on our ESG practice. The ability to benchmark our achievements against other industry leaders is especially helpful.

When we presented the WELL Health-Safety Rating, we were excited to find that much of what we were doing aligns with the WELL strategies. Several leading brands are using the WELL Health-Safety Rating and we wanted to be able to benchmark ourselves and be able to visibly demonstrate that we are doing things to prioritize the health and well-being for our people. The WELL narrative is very helpful with articulating our commitment and achievements.

Q: What are the next steps after achieving the WELL Health-Safety Rating?
A: Going forward, we are very excited with the opportunities to implement WELL at scale, at the portfolio level. This can expand to at least our top 100 locations, if not more. It’ll be a clear demonstration that we care about our staff and customers. We will be working with our Property and Project teams and be able to tell them: guys, with WELL at Scale, we can continue with the WELL Health-Safety Rating but also start including some of the work that we’re doing around sustainability, diversity and inclusion so that we can demonstrate a continuous improvement in WELL. We’re going to be looking at our WELL scores and working on how we can improve and do better. That’s what our future looks like.

*The number of people impacted is based on an industry benchmark estimating 200 square feet per person across total square footage enrolled in WELL.

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