Shopify Inc. was awarded for its digital-first employee health and wellness strategy at Benefits Canada‘s 2021 Workplace Benefits Awards on Oct. 14.

The technology company won the award in the Coronavirus and Benefits category for an employer with more than 5,000 employees. Although the organization already had a few remote workers, it swiftly transitioned all of its employees to remote working once the coronavirus pandemic was declared. Since then, it has implemented a host of employee health and well-being programs to support its staff while they work from home.

Read: Who are the winners of the 2021 Workplace Benefits Awards?

“Leaving behind our offices was a big step,” says Kelly Dawson, Shopify’s global disability and leaves specialist. “We had a great office culture and so there was a lot of thought [put into] how we could  . . . create a great culture digitally.”

In May 2020, Shopify announced it would remain a fully remote workforce going forward. It also rolled out its Digital by Design working model, shifting its operations to a digital-first way of thinking, working and decision-making.

The organization partnered with Herman Miller Inc. to deliver ergonomic office equipment directly to employees and created an internal store for them to order office furniture. Its real estate team provided home design consultations to help staff make the most of their home office environment. Shopify also gave employees access to a tool that allowed them to plan and optimize their workspace, as well as virtual ergonomic assessments with an expert.

Read: How are employers supporting the big shift to remote work?

Also, the company introduced a policy called Destination 90, which allows staff to work remotely from anywhere in the world for up to 90 days per calendar year. A number of employees have already used this perk and those who do can use their flex credits to help them along the way, says Beth Tremblay, the organization’s senior lead of global benefits. She says the program enabled staff to visit and spend quality time with their loved ones in different countries or regions.

To combat burnout, Shopify introduced rest and refuel days to ensure employees were taking time away from work and it moved to a four-day workweek in July and August 2020. It also provided a remote allowance of $2,200 (or local equivalent) to all of its employees globally, which can be used on home office or wellness equipment, grocery delivery costs or childcare. Additionally, the organization created leave and accommodation options for employee caregivers, as well as peer support circles. It also gave all global staff paid time off to get vaccinated and developed an intranet portal to house wellness and caregiver resources.

Read: How 5 employers are helping staff battle mental-health challenges

In January 2020, Shopify added $2,500 to its paramedical coverage specifically for mental-health treatment and expanded the list of eligible mental-health practitioners. It also implemented a mental-health training program for leaders, launched a mental-health navigator and provided counselling sessions to help employees process issues related to racism and marginalized communities.

As a result of these measures and Shopify’s focus on communicating the support tools available, Dawson says the company saw a decrease in short- and long-term disability claims last year. “A lot of [employees] were taking more of a proactive approach to their mental health and wellness. They knew the resources they had at their fingertips and were tapping into them sooner.”

Read: Employers leveraging benefits, flexibility to prevent pandemic surge in disability claims