Saying the coronavirus crisis has taken a “heavy toll” on its staff, Mass General Brigham has extended remote work through June 2021 for nearly 20,000 employees, or a quarter of its workforce, and expanded child-care benefits available to all workers.
“While this decision was difficult, we must lead by example and support Governor Baker’s request to work remotely wherever possible,” the state’s largest private employer said Monday in a companywide e-mail.
Mass General Brigham, formerly known as Partners HealthCare, runs the largest health network in Massachusetts, and has 78,000 employees at 12 hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s, as well as at clinics, doctors’ practices, and an insurance division. The company said the work-from-home extension would cover employees who have been directed by their managers to work remotely, though “you may be asked to return to the worksite sooner if your manager indicates that your job responsibilities require it.”
The extension, which will run through the end of the school year, may influence other employers, especially given Mass General Brigham’s standing in the health care world. In July, big companies such as MassMutual and Wayfair began pushing back their return dates to at least January.
Beth Israel Lahey, Mass General Brigham’s biggest competitor, told remote employees last week to plan to return in mid-January, spokeswoman Jennifer Kritz said Monday. On a typical day it has from 8,000 to 10,000 of its 35,000 employees working remotely, she said.
In its e-mail, Mass General Brigham painted a grim picture of the impact the crisis is having on its workers, especially those on the front lines of patient care.
“Employees are exhausted from the ongoing impact of COVID,” the company said. “The levels of anxiety, depression and stress for many are increasing. The potential impact of flu season and the possibility of a second surge create additional uncertainty. All the while, employees are struggling to care for dependent family members and remote workers feel isolated.”
A recent survey by Mass General Brigham found the top concern among employees was educational support for their children. Mass General Brigham said it would offer access to discounted tutoring, test prep, enrichment classes, and virtual or in-home learning pods. And it encouraged employees to use the company’s resources for mental health and substance abuse issues.
“Some say the mental health impact from COVID may be the next pandemic,” the company said in the e-mail.