Being a working parent during the coronavirus pandemic is a challenge. Becoming a first-time parent during the pandemic can be even more challenging. That’s why Michael Thompson, a managing director at Goldman Sachs’ D.C. office, whose wife gave birth to their first child in July, is so thankful for the company’s family care coordinators, who help support parents and expecting parents through the entire parenthood journey.
“We didn’t even have to call them,” he says. “They do continuous check-ins, asking if we need anything.” Thompson says the wellness team has been “a partner through the entire process,” from I.V.F. and virtual birthing classes to helping couples find childcare with its nanny referral service and backup childcare facilities. “What we found most beneficial is how proactive they are,” he says, “because when you’re going through something like this, and particularly during COVID, there are things that, as a first-time family, we just weren’t thinking about.”
Thompson’s experience is not unusual at Goldman Sachs, which has been a pioneer in its commitment to the well-being of its people. According to the Thrive XM Index, a research report that measures the connections between employee experience, performance, and organizational resilience, that commitment has made a profound impact in the lives of employees, both personally and professionally. In the Index, the company performed particularly well in areas like parenthood, caregiving, connection, and belonging.
In addition to the company’s comprehensive support of parents, Goldman also provides a range of resources for adult caregiving, a telehealth provider and separate medical health advocacy service for all employees and their family members, a referral service that can help with all sorts of life responsibilities, and programs for working parents who are managing remote schooling. In March, the company implemented a COVID-19 Family Leave program, giving employees 10 additional days of paid leave, on top of the four weeks of family care leave instituted in 2019. To date, nearly 2,000 Goldman employees have taken advantage of the extra COVID-19 days.
The company also has a variety of programs aimed at mental health and well-being, with events, a global digital resilience platform, and trainings, including guided meditations designed to help employees build their own “resilience toolkit” based on Goldman’s five “pillars of resilience”: state of mind, strong body, connection, purpose and meaning, and self-awareness.
Ridhima Bhasin, an associate in the firm’s London office, shared what this has meant in her life. “When I needed mental health support, the firm’s Wellness and medical teams went above and beyond,” she says. “My family lives back in India, so the team has become a second family as they helped us through this period until I returned to work full-time. They also assisted as I had conversations with my manager, and have referred me to appropriate services that are covered under my insurance. I am forever indebted to them for the support they provided. Separately, I have started to attend the firm’s mindfulness sessions after our second lockdown here in U.K., and I am very pleased with how they are helping me to cope in this unprecedented time.”
Laura Young, managing director and global head of Wellness, says many of the programs were first developed during the 2008 financial crisis. “That was a major transition point for the firm in a lot of different ways,” she says. “And now, with COVID, we’re worried about burnout, because personal and professional demands are high right now. So there’s been an ongoing dialogue from leadership about how we can best support our people.”
One way of supporting its people, which Goldman has found particular success with, is by creating ways for employees to support others. In other words, by using the science-backed powers of service to boost well-being. Goldman does this through its signature global volunteering program called Community TeamWorks, or CTW, which allows employees to use their unique talents and skills in a variety of ways, including helping nonprofits. In a typical year, CTW will help more than 900 nonprofits around the world. An illustration of how important CTW is at Goldman can be seen in the fact that the program became operational virtually just two weeks after quarantine began in New York City.
And that’s a good thing, because the pandemic quickly put many nonprofits in a dire situation.
This year the needs of nonprofits are especially urgent. “Most of their in-person fundraising events are canceled,” said Shira Oberlander, Goldman’s head of CTW and vice president of Corporate Engagement. “They’re often having to furlough or lay off staff.” And Goldman employees have stepped up, with 7,500 employees volunteering since April.
Some examples include Emma Dobbie, an associate in Sydney who was one of 125 people at the firm to assemble solar lights — via Zoom — for students experiencing energy poverty. In the U.K., engineers partnered with the National Health Service (NHS Digital) to create a public health data dashboard — up and running in 18 days — which helps curate, visualize, and distribute aggregated COVID-19 data used by government, media, and academia.
But it’s hard to top the example of Fahad Khalid, a vice president in the Hong Kong office, who was based in Bengaluru at the height of the pandemic. With the help of his friends and family, Fahad has given out more than 55 tons of food to more than 4,000 families, according to the company. He’s donated over 250,000 masks in rural Karnataka, helped find shelter for children whose parents have to be quarantined, found hospital beds for critical patients, and helped patients with medical bills when their families were unable to pay. Even after recently relocating to Hong Kong, he’s still finding ways to remotely help those on the ground in India.
And as the science shows, the impact of giving can actually be just as dramatic for the giver as for the recipient. As one vice president in New York put it, “This experience was one of the best experiences I have had at Goldman Sachs in the 10 years I have been here.”
A core component of what it means to be a Goldman employee, CTW and the opportunity for service it provides has become a key recruitment and retention tool, especially in a world where values alignment is increasingly important. According to Oberlander, “What CTW, along with our wellness programs, say is that you’re coming to work for an organization that believes in you, that cares about you and that also cares about our community.”