Mai Lan Nguyen, SVP, Human Resources North America, Schneider Electric

With vaccines rolling out for adults in America at a more frequent and rapid pace, business leaders have been planning for various return to office scenarios. With more than 30,000 employees working at Schneider Electric in North America, this also meant looking at the new ways many of our employees will be working in the future, particularly women.

You may ask, why are we so focused on one gender specifically? The pandemic made many women leave the workforce to take care of family from the beginning. In fact, some studies suggest that employment for women may not recover to pre-pandemic levels of employment until 2024. As an organization, Schneider Electric believes businesses can create new ways of working to allow women to have more flexibility at work in a post-pandemic world, which will ultimately help to close the gender inequality gap within the workplace. And after listening to employees across North America voice their concern about many of these issues, we decided to create an official New Ways of Working Initiative to provide flexibility for women and men to balance both their professional and personal lives moving forward. 

Creating Successful Environments  

As more and more employers allow for hybrid work arrangements, keeping employee well-being at the forefront was an essential part of helping to ensure our employees have a viable space to work. This is especially important since many of our employees are spending more time at home than ever before.

We’ve been able to help ensure employee health and productivity by offering solutions such as a furniture program benefit which includes providing employees with an adjustable standing/sitting desk to help support an ergonomic work at-home set up, and working directly with the IT department to help create the most productive and secure home network possible. We also on occasion offer things like emergency back-up child care, elder care, or pet care that will help give employees a sense of comfort if and when the need arises, which ultimately helps to ease the pressure in case of an emergency.

Other benefits such as a voluntary part-time program, COVID testing/vaccination paid time off, and a recharge break so employees can get six to 12 weeks of time off depending on their years of service to be with family, volunteer, travel, or pursue personal goals. We’re actually offering the recharge break now for time off later. Job sharing is also offered to ensure our employees are afforded everything necessary to help manage their schedules and the demands of their families. Job sharing – an employment arrangement where typically two people are retained on a part-time or reduced-time basis to perform a job normally fulfilled by one person working full-time – allowed many of our female employees to continue working who otherwise may have been forced to quit. These benefits have been extremely important in ensuring our employees have the time needed to prioritize both their physical and mental health throughout the pandemic without a stigma or worry about loss of work. With employees experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression differently, showing employees they are supported at all levels is key which is why we feel it’s important to offer multiple support offerings relative to their mental well-being.

Maintaining Flexibility 

Schneider Electric plans to keep these progressive programs and benefits intact, even in a post-pandemic world, while also looking for additional ways to expand flexibility in the future as we prepare for more of our employees to return to the office and in some cases, to continue to work in a hybrid environment. This program is already paying off, with preliminary data showing that our voluntary attrition rate for female employees has decreased several points through March of this year.  

Like many organizations, Schneider Electric North America’s 200+ locations have already begun their return to office journey. Currently, 95% of our larger sites across North America are open with 14% of our total workforce coming into the office daily. About 45% of our 30,000 employees have already returned or are preparing to return to the office at some point.  

As the world prepares to enter the next phase of this unchartered post-pandemic territory, gradual steps, flexibility, and communication will be key to ensuring all employees can maintain the workstyle that fosters productivity and success.