Since the start of the crisis, Bell’s COVID-19 response has been guided by 3 principles: protect the health and safety of the public, our customers and team; keep Canadians connected and informed; and support our customers and community.
These principles have resulted in:
- Accelerated network deployments, especially to rural and other underserved areas
- Significant investment in network capacity to manage increased usage across our services throughout the crisis
- Billing relief for hard hit customers and complimentary TV programming for families staying at home1For part of the year
- Community support including new Bell Let’s Talk programs and increased funding, more than 16,000 wireless devices provided to healthcare and social agencies, and the donation of 1.5 million masks for frontline workers throughout Canada
- Strong support for the Bell team, including new programs and measures that prioritize their health and well-being aligned with the most current public health protocols. We implemented technology support and revamped processes to enable flexible and remote work; made timely enhancements to benefits and health resources, including virtual online medical and mental wellness consultations; and put in place a wide range of operational innovations to protect our team and the public at retail stores and other Bell workplaces, and in the field at customer homes and business locations.
1 For part of the year.
Health and safety
The health and safety of our team remains a top priority. We quickly transitioned approximately 80% of our workforce to work from home and provided the necessary tools to support the team, including options to order or take office equipment home, resources to stay connected and collaborate with fellow team members, pre-approval for workplace visits, IT and security guidelines, ergonomics tips and work-life balance resources. We also acquired and distributed masks to all team members.
For employees working in our Bell locations, retail stores and in the field, we established strict health and safety protocols, including mandatory masks, physical distancing, and daily COVID‑19 screening. In stores, we installed plexiglass barriers, reduced store capacity, and instituted curbside pickup and in‑store appointments. In the field, we added new screening requirements and more self‑install options, in addition to safety measures across our operations such as workplace signage, enhanced cleaning and sanitation, and hand hygiene stations.
We also ran a voluntary COVID-19 rapid testing pilot program at 4 Bell locations to help evaluate the effectiveness of rapid testing as an addition to Bell’s existing health and safety measures.
Mental and physical health
At Bell, we believe in supporting the mental health of our team. We quickly developed and implemented company-wide mental health initiatives to support employees during the COVID‑19 pandemic, including COVID‑19‑specific webinars, protocols and guides. Guides for leaders were developed and distributed to inform them on how to strengthen connections with their teams, choose the right communication methods, detect signs of mental health distress, and more.
We enhanced and promoted our existing support services including the Employee and Family Assistance Program, Bell Let’s Talk mental health resources, LifeSpeak, LifeWorks services, and Internet‑based cognitive‑behavioural therapy.
In response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, we expanded and increased the promotion of our existing fitness resources. All team members can now access free, personalized workouts and live chats with fitness and nutrition experts through the LIFT session app, and in July 2020, we organized a corporate Walk for Wellness Challenge in which over 3,700 team members participated (increase of 35% compared to 2019), and collectively logged over 1.1 trillion steps.
Our virtual health care program remains key to supporting both the mental and physical health of our team. The program, which provides free, 24/7, confidential access to doctors and other health care professionals, was expanded and offered to team members of Bell affiliates and their families in addition to all other Bell employees. Over the course of the year, Bell employees and their family members accounted for over 22,000 virtual consultations, with over 3,000 of those related to COVID-19.
Clear communication to team members and customers have been vital throughout our COVID-19 response. From the outset, we established frequent and transparent communications from our CEO, weekly articles in Bell’s employee newsletter, and a dedicated COVID-19 intranet site, which hosts our health and safety protocols, news advisories, Qs&As and many support resources.
To collect feedback on our COVID-19 response, assess employee morale and better understand how we could support team members, we administered a COVID-19-specific company-wide survey, as well as a survey to senior leaders, in addition to our annual team survey.
Customers were kept updated through social media and a dedicated section on Bell.ca, providing the latest news about store openings, booking technician appointments, health and safety protocols, Qs&As and tips on a variety of topics. Plus, CTV News was the primary source of information on television for Canadians during the pandemic.
As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to roll out across the country, Bell is strongly encouraging all team members to get a vaccination as soon as they are eligible. We developed and communicated vaccination guidelines for employees, including providing paid time off for employees who need to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments during scheduled work time.
Bell is part of the Industry For Vaccination (IFV) group, which is pursuing discussions with provincial governments to determine how we can help accelerate their vaccination programs. We also joined Couche-Tard, METRO, National Bank, and Groupe CH to set-up vaccination clinics at the Bell Centre in Montréal, Place Bell in Laval and the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.
The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on the financial and economic environment of Canadians since early 2020. Bell’s robust business continuity plan in place for pension plan management and administration ensured that pensioner payments have continued to be secure and that investment and administration operations were not adversely impacted.
The de-risking strategy of our defined benefit pension plans (initiated a decade ago) has significantly reduced the impact of market volatility on our plans, emphasizing the benefits security of our current and future retirees.
In our defined contribution plans, over 85% of the members are invested in the Lifecycle funds. These funds offer a long-term investment strategy to members during their working life and at retirement through the Bell Retirement Income Option, providing an efficient approach to remain invested through periods of market volatility and downturns, as experienced in 2020.
Planning for the future
The Bell team continues to work together to keep Canadians fully connected and informed while prioritizing the health and safety of our colleagues, customers and the general public. Informed by public health guidance and Bell’s own COVID-19 operating principles, our cautious approach to managing the impacts continues, including with the return to work plan we are developing.
Bell’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has proven the agility and dedication of our team as we adjusted almost every aspect of how we do business over the last year. As we plan for the future, we’re contemplating how lessons learned during the crisis can help us all connect, communicate and innovate more effectively.
In line with Bell’s strategic imperative to engage and invest in our people, we are working to help define our more flexible post-COVID-19 work model, including a new mix of home, mobile and office time, adjustments to our workspace configurations, and new communications and collaboration tools.