This ethnography research aims to analyze the evolution and measures of one FMCG company during the pandemic situation. The FMCG studied is an American multinational confectionery, food, holding and beverage and snack food company with about 26$ billion annual revenue.
In order to proceed with this research, we have made an appointment to interview the Product Change Manager Hub Lead, who is responsible for directing the product change process in the bakery category. This position interfaces extensively with Consumer Marketing, Customer Development, Finance, Technology, Quality, and all functions within Supply Chain (Procurement, Manufacturing and Customer Service, and Logistics), to deliver projects within the specified time, cost, and quality parameters.
The interviewed leads a platform of twenty people responsible for different projects such as implementing NPDs, geographical expansion of some goods, delisting of some products, or productivity projects where the aim is to save across Europe, among others.
Since the start of the pandemic in Europe, around March 2020, the company recommended the employees to work remotely when possible. To date, they are working remotely until further notice. The office remains open for employees who cannot work from home and have notified of this need, as well as in case of business needs. However, if an employee wants to go to the office, they need to get approval from the manager and follow extended and detailed guideline:
- Employees need to check the temperature before going to work and make sure they are healthy. If they have any symptoms of infection, they should stay at home.
- If employee is healthy and needs to use the office, they need to do a self-check and answer three questions that will be visible at each entrance of the office.
- If an employee had close contact with the infected people?
- If an employee or anyone from his/her household came back from countries with obligatory quarantine within the last 14 days?
- If an employee shows typical COVID-19 symptoms (temperature 37,8oC or above, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, diarrhea or loss of taste/smell)?
If the answer to any of these questions is “YES” – an employee has to stay at home, contact his/her direct manager, HR and sanitary and epidemiological station in Warsaw or the NFZ helpline.
- If an employee answered “NO” to each of the questions, they could go to the room marked as the “Temperature Check Rooms” sticker located near each entrance to the office to self-measure the temperature. They can also use a special table located directly at the reception area on the 3rd floor to measure their temperature. If the thermometer indicates 37.8oC or more, they can repeat the test, and if the result does not change, they have to go home, monitor their health condition, and consult their doctor if necessary
- If an employee’s temperature is below 37.8oC, they can go to the reception desk on the 3rd floor to sign up for the attendance list and to confirm that they have their temperature checked.
- Washing and disinfecting hands is mandatory before the start of working process – they have disinfecting gels in every restroom and kitchen.
- As an alternative to disinfectants, they can get disposable gloves from reception and use them during their stay and work in the office. They can also bring gloves from home and use their own. Put gloves on disinfected hands.
- Use the available part of the office on the 3rd floor. As of 24.08.08.2021 until the official return to the office, they cannot use part of the 3rd floor marked red (the map at the end of the document) and the ground floor, which is closed.
- Keep a distance of two meters from other employees working in the office. They cannot gather in groups.
- There is no need to cover their mouth and nose when sitting at a desk or while eating in the kitchen, if they maintain the minimum two-meter distance from others in these two situations. In any other case, wearing masks is mandatory in all the offices
- Employee may use the conference rooms for meetings of no more than five people at a time, who maintain a space of at least two meters from each other and who wear masks or cover their nose and mouths. Meetings should last no more than one hour.
- Wear masks in the office while commuting or using common areas such as elevators, corridors, kitchens, toilets, chill zones and others. If an employee does not have their own mask, they can get one from the reception desk on the 3rd floor.
- Do not order private parcels to the office address.
- In addition, as of June 1, 2020, new rules apply for courier business parcels, including local, domestic and international. From this day, an employee may only order parcels in urgent or business-critical cases. To send a package by courier, an employee needs to obtain approval from Managing Director. To get such consent, they need to send a short email indicating the need to expedite the package and forward the approval to reception along with your courier request
- Outside guests cannot be invited to the office.
- An employee must follow all basic health and safety rules.
- An employee must remember to clean up desks and conference rooms after they use them.
- If an employee feels bad during their stay at the office, they should go to the hygienic room marked with a special sticker to isolate themselves from other people in the office. As a next step, they have to leave the office and call their direct manager and HR, who will interview them via phone and instruct employees about necessary rules and behavior
- For any questions or concerns regarding safety measures, an employee can always contact the Facility Manager.
The company is focused on the general well-being of the employees. From time to time, everyone experiences situations that affect their general well-being. The FMCG recognized this issue and introduced an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to help all employees be at their best at home and work.
Through the EAP, which is available to all employees and their families effective May 1, 2021, practical information (including physical, financial, legal, and family care resources) and counseling on a variety of topics will be available to them and those close to them, such as their significant other or a family member. Information can be provided over the phone or via email, and counseling is offered at a time and location convenient to the employee.
The key benefits of this program include:
- Employee access to 5 counselling sessions per issue, per year.
- No cost to employee. These sessions and EAP referral services are fully paid for by company.
- Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. At any time of the day or night, weekends, and over holidays, they will be able to speak with one of their professionals.
- Confidential. No personal, identifying information will be disclosed. No one at the company will even know that you have called, unless you choose to disclose this.
- Independent, impartial source of support. Their EAP is entirely separate and is not a representative of the FMCG.
The new program can provide support on a wide range of work and personal issues. Some examples include improving relationships, parenting, childcare, school success, couple’s support, elder care, managing stress, managing life changes, career success, surviving the loss of a loved one, managing workplace pressure, improving esteem and confidence, referrals to local financials or legal resources, pursuing personal interests, maintain physical health, pet care, etc.
In addition to contacting the service via telephone, they can also access information and support via text, email, online chat, and in-person.
The business continues to track the evolution of the pandemic across markets, and the progress of the vaccination programs, which everyone knows from the data we are already seeing, will be a game-changer in our battle against Covid.
While they see vaccination programs starting to roll out in many markets and indeed gather good pace in others, progress remains much slower than hoped, and the company is not where we expected it to be. With a few notable exceptions, infection rates across the region remain worryingly high, with many markets still subject to lockdowns and social restrictions and Government guidance still in place to work at home where possible.
As the company’s approach is to return to the office, the safety of people remains at the forefront of their thinking. This means continuing to adopt a cautious and patient approach to ensure that they do not jeopardize their strong safety track record to date.
Based on the data we are currently seeing on infection rates and vaccine progress across the region, they believe that it is the right decision to extend their work from home guidance until at least July 1, 2021.
The FMCG recommends all their employees get vaccinated (To all those who have no medical contraindications as qualified by a physician) because they believe that safe and effective vaccines are critical in ending this pandemic. That is why they encourage employees and their loved ones to join the National Immunization Program in Poland.
They are even offering educational sessions with experts for all employees in Poland interested in vaccination.
- Locally, they established cooperation with a Ph.D. student and evolutionary virologist, and Ph.D. student at the University of Oxford, who will conduct a series of meetings on vaccinations for employees in Polish and English.
- They continue their collaboration with an infectious disease specialist and former member of the Stanford University immunization staff.
They are also carefully monitoring the possibility of organizing Covid-19 vaccinations in the workplace. They have declared their interest in organizing the vaccinations due to their concern for the health and safety of the employees, especially as a priority for those who cannot work remotely. The approximate date is set for the end of May or early June 2021, but as of today, the government has not yet provided the required guidelines on this matter.
Finally, they have a proposal for those already vaccinated or who plan to get vaccinated as part of their age group. As part of educational and vaccination efforts, they are looking for a few volunteers who will agree to share their image and support their communication activities.
The company expects that due to the acceleration of vaccination, this will bring greater ability to welcome people back into the office. In the meantime, they are working on an updated Return to Office framework, which will guide them on the right conditions needed to enable a safe return to the workplace.
The research analyzed the reaction and adaptation patterns of the chosen FMCG company – the American multinational confectionery, food, holding and beverage, and snack food company. It was identified that the organization’s response consisted of four main parts. Both the first and second parts of the reaction aimed to minimize the chances of employees getting infected in the workplace. The third and fourth parts were designed to create an additional layer of support for the company’s employees.
First, the company closed its office space for most employees to ensure their safety. Second, the organization made exceptions for some employees; however, it has taken a large number of protective measures to ensure the safety of the offline work process. Third, the company provided counseling sessions for its employees on various subjects to support them further. Finally, the firm has been promoting vaccination among its workers by offering educational sessions and encouraging its employees to share their experience with vaccination. Furthermore, the company considers the possibility of organizing vaccinations on the worksite.
Overall, it can be observed that the company provides high standard measures of protection of its employees. The company’s actions comply with the global and local standards of employee protection. At the same time, the third and fourth initiatives implemented by the organization demonstrate some extra effort put into the company’s employees, therefore highlighting their importance for the company. In general, to respond to the pandemic effectively, the company had to become much more flexible regarding its employees’ format of work and its own working space usage. Moreover, the new circumstances forced the company to invest much more in its human capital to ensure its workers’ physical and mental health and subsequent productivity.