With the global coronavirus pandemic forcing the widespread closure of schools and daycares, many parents are having to navigate a tricky tightrope between remote working, home schooling, childcare and 24/7 entertainer. In this so-called “new normal” brought about by COVID-19, working parents are bouncing between Zoom meetings, Frozen sing-alongs, client calls, and third grade math homework. It’s a real juggling act.
Global insurance brokerage Marsh recognised early in the coronavirus pandemic that working from home was throwing up some unique challenges for many of its colleagues. As such, the Marsh global events team – led by Julie Katrus - has launched a number of internal resources and initiatives to keep colleagues engaged and connected while working from home.
One such resource, which launched for Marsh colleagues in mid-April, is the Marsh Kid’s Korner. This internal resource page includes activities, stories, exercises, and ideas for educating and entertaining kids at home. The resources are updated weekly and include daily spotlight challenges, including fun cooking tasks (making funny faces with pancakes) and arts and crafts (making puppets out of paper bags), for Marsh children to do together.
The Marsh Kid’s Korner was born out of personal experience. Julie Katrus, SVP and director of Marsh’s global events team, is one of many parents having to juggle remote working with 24/7 child care and home schooling while physical distancing measures remain in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19. She said: “I have a four-year-old daughter who is at home with me right now, and we’re doing home schooling. Her teacher is sending us videos of her reading books, and then we do activities and ask questions based on those books. It really inspired me because, with the majority of schools and day care centres closed, many colleagues around the world are having this challenge of balancing work with watching young children.
“Our objective with the Marsh Kid’s Korner was to create a resource page where colleagues can find activities and creative ideas, stories, exercises, and challenges for their kids to enjoy at home. The activities are split into four main categories: create, move, learn, and for parents. They include things like: how to make your own Play-Doh, a Frozen yoga session, bilingual storytelling, virtual tours of places like Central Park in New York City and the Natural History Museum in London, and then short clips on how to teach social distancing with Daniel Tiger and The Wiggles. And for parents, we understand that talking to your kids about COVID-19 is extremely challenging, so we have some great working guides to offer there.”
One of the main attractions of the Marsh Kid’s Korner is the Marsh Reading Dream Team Library, where Marsh colleagues around the world can post videos of themselves reading their favourite children’s books. The virtual library includes a variety of genres, age levels and languages for everyone to enjoy. Engagement in this initiative has been “amazing,” according to Katrus, who commended her Marsh colleagues, including David Jacob, CEO of Marsh Asia (pictured reading to his daughter below) for their creative storytelling. One recording, sent in by a Marsh Germany colleague, features puppets in pirate hats and is a firm favourite of Katrus’s young daughter, despite the language barrier.
The Marsh Kid’s Korner has been very well received by Marsh colleagues. Denise Perlman, executive vice president, business insurance & national partnerships, for Marsh & McLennan Agency, has been working from home in Richmond, VA, with her five-year-old daughter Hope. She told Insurance Business: “My five-year-old daughter Hope has absolutely loved Marsh’s Kid’s Korner. Working while home schooling has been challenging, so when Marsh released Kid’s Korner my daughter was an early adopter and soon became hooked on all the creative content that is out there.
“It’s been very helpful when I have work phone calls as I can easily use Kid’s Korner to keep my daughter occupied. She has really enjoyed listening to colleagues reading books. She’s even asked me to play book readings from colleagues in various countries so she can hear a different language. My daughter and I even recorded a video of us reading a book together to post! The science experiments and Frozen yoga have also been some favourites. I’m lucky to work for a company that not only understands the difficulty many colleagues are facing during this time, but is also providing a worthwhile solution to help us.”
The Marsh global events team hasn’t stopped with the Kid’s Korner. The team has rolled out various digital and virtual initiatives to bring Marsh colleagues together in these uncertain times. They’ve set up a #AllInTogether initiative, where Marsh colleagues can post photos, stories, funny moments, articles, and give kudos to one another – all pinned together with the hashtag. In the spirit of #AllInTogether, they’ve been doing daily challenges – kicked off by Marsh president and CEO John Doyle with a ‘Share your Quarantine Selfie’ challenge – which are focused on the firm’s core priorities: clients, colleagues and communities.
“We’ve had Wellness Wednesday, where colleagues are encouraged to post about their favourite way to stay active while in isolation, and Thoughtful Thursday, where we shared best practices for engaging clients during the pandemic. We recently had Furry Friends Friday (the day before National Pet Day), where colleagues shared fun photos of their pets while working from home. And then we celebrate communities, so on National Doctors Day we took a moment to celebrate our healthcare workers and everything they do for us,” said Katrus. “Every day, we also pick a charity champion (at random) who will receive a $50 credit to donate to the charity of his or her choice on our Marsh & McLennan social impact platform. That’s been a really great way to create engagement also by giving back.”
Another effort Katrus has spearheaded is a new weekly Sip ‘n Step (and donate) Dance Party, where Marsh colleagues come together for an hour every Friday evening to dance, sip a beverage, and make donations to a local charity (all via Zoom video). It’s fun, engaging and community-building events like that which Katrus hopes will continue once things start to get back to normal and people return to their offices. She commented: “I think the engagement factor of this could be really powerful down the line. Just having that Sip ‘n Step (and donate) Dance Party to look forward to and to give something back to the community – that’s so rewarding.
“The Kid’s Korner is another initiative that I’d love to keep going. We need to figure out how we can build on those efforts moving forwards. And #AllInTogether – if everyone can keep engaging and keep that constant positive energy going, it’s going to make Marsh so much stronger because colleagues will be together and engaged.”
Is your company doing anything unique to help colleagues through COVID-19? If so, let us know by reaching out to [email protected]