04 September 2020

Like many other companies, the COVID-19 outbreak took Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) by surprise on many levels. Not only operations were heavily challenged by the unprecedented nature of the crisis, but the entire organisation as such had to quickly adjust to what is being referred to as the ‘new normal’. In April, 80 percent of our shore staff was transitioned to working from home. BSM’s HR teams globally put multi-faceted actions into practice that aimed to support sea and shore-based employees during this period of remote work and self-isolation.

Early this year, when COVID-19 began to spread across the globe, BSM’s management initiated a weekly call to share and track developments of the pandemic across all BSM locations. In addition, a weekly impact report was created and is being maintained, comprising up to date information on COVID-19’s impact on the corporation as well as government restrictions and challenges employees are facing. This enabled BSM to collect and implement best practices across the organisation, together with our smart PAL ERP system protecting business continuity.

The weekly impact report became the foundation for the ‘Global Pandemic Procedure’ that was drafted and deployed following the global outbreak. This procedure aims to provide clear actions for all Schulte Group staff about COVID-19 and outlines health and safety measures in line with WHO guidelines and local governments.

Mastering the ‘new normal’

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Making employees’ wellbeing the highest priority, in April, HR circulated a remote work survey to collect feedback on the staff’s current working conditions and overall sentiment during the outbreak of the pandemic. Over 500 responses were submitted from various departments and locations from around the world. The responses (57% positive, 33% neutral) showed the strength of the Schulte Group staff, with “hopeful” and “optimistic” being the most expressed sentiment. Employee feedback in the survey indicated that the communication shared by the company was helpful (88% agreed/strongly) in knowing how to respond to the pandemic and the available healthcare and benefits shared were clear (85% very/extremely clear). Further, the IT teams received very positive feedback with 89 percent of staff moderately/extremely satisfied with the support they had received. Thus, they have effectively transitioned staff to work from home, without affecting business continuity.

Employee activities from the ‘BSM Sofa’

While social or physical distancing became the new normal, HR teams were driving forth additional initiatives to support sea and shore-based employees with the sudden transition. For example, a training on “Virtual Meetings – Communicating Effectively Online” was made available to all BSM staff that helped colleagues working from home. A hopeful message was shared with a “Be well” video, which offered coping techniques that help to address the stress of isolation. Direct communication with seafarers were intensified through our very own Seafarer App as well as on the BSM Seafarer Blog, sharing health and safety announcements and news updates as well as positive thoughts and motivational words from fellow seafarers. Also, video content with workout tutorials was being shared aiming to support staying fit and healthy on board. In April, we launched a Mind-Gym challenge with our seafarers that included quizzes about Seafaring and the Schulte Group as well as concerning Mental Math and Sports. Whoever completed the questions within the given amount of time could win vouchers for free Wi-Fi on board.

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Employee activities from the ‘BSM Sofa’

Join the ‘BSM Sofa’

With the launch of the ‘BSM Sofa’, a group in Microsoft Teams, a virtual communal space for shore staff was created. On the ‘BSM Sofa’, we communicate our internal activities and offer the opportunity for everyone to share fun and entertaining bits and pieces of their everyday lives. Due to social distancing, this became a great way to encourage and support each other while working from home. All regular activities were transitioned to online events, with special guest from around the world that hosted yoga and meditation sessions or healthy cooking classes. Also, to support parents, several employees volunteered to host live storybook reading sessions for kids.

Ocean Art Competition for World Ocean Day

In celebration of World Ocean Day, our colleagues from HR came up with a very creative approach to honour and help protect the Ocean and entertain the crew on board at the same time. Seafarers on BSM vessels were asked to create a mermaid figure out of waste and leftover material found on the ship. The three vessels that produced the most creative mermaid and processed the most waste material when designing their artwork, would win the contest. The art competition helped to strengthen the crew’s team spirit and to take their mind off the pandemic for a moment. The winning vessels Johann Schulte, One Continuity and Pacific Hong Kong received a USD 500 voucher towards their vessels’ recreation funds.

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Mermaid figure created by the crew on board One Continuity