CHRO COVID-19 RECORDING: JLL'S MARY BILBREY - 7/24/20

In response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp holds a weekly series of standing calls to help HR leaders navigate this unpredictable time.  

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, CHROs and other organizational leaders must carefully consider how and when to safely bring employees back to the workplace. On i4cp’s July 24, 2020 CHRO/HR Strategy COVID-19 Response series call, HR leaders from organizations such as Land O’ Lakes, McKesson, Mondelez International and many others joined special Q&A guest Mary Bilbrey, global CHRO at JLL, to discuss how their leadership teams are approaching return-to-the-workplace efforts. Some highlights: 

  • The level of empathy that leadership is showing employees is increasing, or at least is more apparent, in the time since the coronavirus pandemic began. Today’s Q&A guest Mary Bilbrey, global CHRO at JLL, noted how the workforce can easily become disconnected in the midst of COVID-19, but at the same time, the current crisis “has given us the opportunity to get to know each other better, and for leaders to get to know their teams a bit better, because you have to try to reach them on different levels, since we’re all working remotely.”

    Many companies such as JLL, for example, are still conducting frequent employee surveys to determine how employees are feeling during the crisis, and what these workers need to be productive. At JLL, Bilbrey and the HR team have actually seen engagement scores go up during the pandemic, which underscores the importance of maintaining that connection, and making sure that employee engagement “is cared for and nurtured” long after COVID-19 is behind us.  

  • Employee health and safety continues to be first and foremost in organizations’ return-to-the-workplace efforts. At JLL, for example, the company is strictly following government guidelines for return to work, along with JLL’s own standards for thorough cleaning, availability of hand sanitizers and social distancing protocols.

    “As you come back to the office it might look like a police scene—tape here, signs there that say ‘Don’t sit here.’ It might feel like a place you don’t want to return to, and we only get one chance to give employees a first impression when they come back.” 


    To help ensure employees understand the environment they’ll be working in when they return, the leadership team partnered with JLL’s marketing function to create its Step Forward campaign, which includes a video that enables employees to see what the building looks like when they return, in addition to answering employee questions around when they must wear their masks in the office or where they can sit near colleagues, for example.  

  • Organizations are addressing the unique challenges parents with young children face during COVID-19.

    In addition to pulse surveys geared toward the entire employee population, some organizations are surveying parents with young children, to get a sense of how the company can best support them as they prepare to send their kids back to school, either virtually or in-person, for example. An instant poll of today’s call participants found 36% of respondents saying their organization is surveying employees to understand the impact of school/homeschool obligations, with another 31% saying they might do so soon.  

    Companies are finding parents worried about being able to balance workloads with parenting and teaching and the impact of long-term homeschooling on their children’s development, for example. Some organizations are setting up “parent ERGs” to share best practices and responsibilities, and continue to embrace flexible work schedules as a way to accommodate employees with childcare responsibilities, for example. 

    The recent increases of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the U.S. is impacting how companies think about bringing employees back to the workplace versus allowing them to continue working remotely. A second instant poll of today’s group found 42% of participants saying their organization has already announced a new approach to remote work versus returning to the office, with another 31% saying their firms are rethinking their strategy but have not announced anything yet.

  • In addition to this recording, please see these resources: