What it takes to maintain a culture of well-being in a dispersed workforce

Sara Ng, vice president of communications for ING in the Americas, shares how the company maintains a culture of well-being with a dispersed workforce.

By Isis Simpson-Mersha      
Sara Ng from ING Americas talks about how the bank maintained internal culture during COVID-19

At Ragan’s inaugural Workplace Wellness Conference, Sara Ng, vice president of communications for ING Americas bank, shared how the company maintains a culture of well-being with a dispersed workforce.

Ng explained that when the pandemic hit, a lot of things changed for ING Americas and its employees. The company’s offices closed in March 2020, routines were upended, colleagues were on the move, and communication became more critical than ever. ING worked to maintain a culture of well-being with a dispersed workforce.

“So now we had this added extra layer of complexity of trying to engage with employees that were now dispersed even more,” Ng said. “As a small team of four for the Americas, that is really not an easy feat.” She explained that all the company could do at the time was drive home the culture and community they had already built.

“We found a new rhythm,” Ng said.

The bank launched hybrid mode in October 2022, which added flexibility and mobility to their employees’ lives. An increased focus was placed on wellness and well-being with the introduction of virtual yoga, online meditation and nutrition sessions. Benefits such as paid days off for wedding leave, birthdays and volunteer days were amplified.

As the company and employees found a new rhythm for family and work, the way of work changed in just about every aspect.

ING got rid of a  floor in its New York office,  installed hot desks that can be reserved in advance, and created new, open spaces for collaborative work.

“Our business has never performed any better than it has been now,” Ng said.

ING used its intranet, office TVs, the employee newsletter, quarterly town halls and messages from senior leadership to get the word out about how the company maintained its culture of well-being during a time of uncertainty.

“We give our employees all the resources and activities we can think of to keep our culture going and keep our culture strong, “Ng explained. “We realize that they will engage when they want to.”

Ng shared an anecdote about a time when a colleague said they didn’t want to be engaged all time during the height of the pandemic because it was simply not a happy or enjoyable time. This resonated with Ng, who realized that employees could be counted on to speak up when they want to use things such as company resources or do activities–and that the pressure to engage was often not necessary or helpful.

During this trying time, ING learned that it doesn’t hurt to overcommunicate, change doesn’t happen at one pace and freebies never fail.

“As a team, we don’t mind repeating ourselves because we want our employees to know we are there for them,” Ng said.