Goldman’s head doctor: keep calm and carry on

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Goldman’s head doctor: keep calm and carry on

With the coronavirus crisis escalating in the US and Europe, Goldman Sachs’ chief medical director Dr Michael Rendel has urged staff to remain calm, meditate and make time for their families as they increasingly work from home.

In a wide-ranging discussion with the bank’s head of investor relations Jake Siewert, Rendel talked about the actions the U.S. is taking, and was full of common-sense advice. 

Rendel manages the bank’s health centres around the world. The bank wont be stockpiling medicines because Rendel says “we don’t want to be in the business of providing direct care to our employees.” Instead Rendel’s role is to provide advice and support for staff and advise management on its strategy to help minimise the effects of the crisis.

You can listen to his advice on the bank’s website but here’s a summary of how Goldman is looking after the staff that a are still in the office  plus Dr Rendel’s tips for a healthy and happy home-working existence as lock-down looms in many big cities.

More space please. Goldman has reconfigured its offices to deal with the crisis. Rendel says the bank has staggered its workstations so that those staff who have to come into the office stay at between three and six feet  from each other

Reach for the bleach. Goldman has overhauled its range of cleaning products to include only ethyl-alcohol products or bleach- containing products that are deemed effective in killing the virus. It is also cleaning common touchpoints – elevator buttons, door handles, pantry areas – several times a day.

As the crisis escalates, offices are likely to shut down so it’s more important to focus on the home-working environment and Dr Rendel has a few tips.

Use the tech.  Dr Rendel encourages staff to use virtual meetings where possible .While the length of the crisis remains unknown, many predict that one of its consequences will be to accelerate the transformation of digitisation.

Pull up a chair.  It’s important to set up your home-working environment so that it’s as comfortable as possible with lots of natural light, which according to Dr Rendel, will boost productivity.  “ Make sure you have a comfortable workstation. You won't have an ergonomist, and a special chair, and a special monitor and all the things that luckily, we’re able to support you and bring to you at Goldman.” In other words, welcome to the cheap seats.

Providing emotional support. Dr Rendel encourages staff to make use of its “Employee Assistance Program”, that offers short-term counselling, as well as its online portal called meQuilibirum, which is a resilience program.

Try to keep calm. Meditation is a must. “People can actually just download meditation apps on their phone…I think meditation is a wonderful thing for us to be doing… keeping calm is really important in this environment.”

Which brings us to children. Many staff will be alternating between managing global stock meltdown and keeping the kids occupied, and it’s hard to know which is the tougher challenge. The key is to delineate where possible between work and family time. Plan breaks and structure family time. “Think about what you’re going to do for taking breaks,” said Dr Rendel. “Making sure you have time that’s quiet for you, time that you can spend with your kids so that you don’t get anxious you’re not spending enough time with them or paying enough attention to their needs.”

Exercise.  With gyms closed Dr Rendel advises regular walking.

Keep talking.  “We’re social animals by nature,” said Dr Rendel and certainly banks have gone big on open plan offices. So he encourages staff to check in with friends on the phone or via social media. 

We’re listening.  Goldman is keen to hear from staff about their concerns. I think especially at this time we want to be extra patient, we want to be checking in with our people, we want to understand if they have, anxieties, we want to understand if they’re having trouble being productive or getting through their work, how we can make things easier for them. I think that’s very important because I think that, it keeps us as a team very productive.”

So there it is. All very practical advice and no real surprises, except perhaps the revelation that Goldman has a chief medical director. If your bank has one, seek them out.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

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