Focusing on people first has always been our way. We are passionate about helping our employees feel safe and supported at work and in their communities. As a global health pandemic crossed the globe, we stayed true to this value. Our employees shared their concerns and questions, which gave us the wisdom to face the next challenge – global economic uncertainty, and the next crisis – addressing racism, which has existed in our country for centuries. I’m not sure what may come next, but I am confident that when we put our people and communities first, we make a greater impact, and this moment is the start of widespread adoption of a more people-centric way of thinking.

COVID-19 tested our resolve to be compassionate, understanding, and responsive to the challenges and crises. It highlighted the inequities which we knew existed, propelling them into the spotlight while accelerating new ways of responding to pandemics of health and racism alike.

Today, we’re seeing this new way of putting people first as people and companies alike step into conversations they shied away from in the past — from discrimination to new ways of working. We’ve become more aware of how to support those who are most vulnerable, how to aid frontline workers and teachers, how companies can help their employees, and how crisis can lead to community and even technology innovation. And we have come to realize that our purpose in this new world of challenges is to power an inclusive future for all.

In our weekly company check-ins, we’ve extended the conversation beyond business updates to include health information from medical and mental health experts, as well as special guests who educate us on how to take action on racism, bigotry, and injustice.

Our spirit of curiosity and activism has come naturally in how we have supported the individual needs of our employees and communities as these events have disrupted our days and our lives, demanding new ways of staying healthy and connected.

My team and I have reflected a lot on what more we can do to support the well-being of our employees, their families, and our community networks – all of whom are integral to the health and well-being of our society. To this end, I am honored to help lead a new framework at Cisco for how we will respond to injustice or a global crisis. Together with Maria Martinez, Liz Centoni, Tae Yoo we will address the systems and support for Families & Communities alongside three other focus areas.

Expanding Access to Digital Health & Mental Health Services

This global crisis has been a catalyst for more people to show their vulnerability and share their stories. It has also opened more conversations about well-being, as well as new ways to achieve health goals digitally. Going forward, we’ll offer a new set of solutions for employees, their families, and the community:

  • Virtual Fitness – Employees and their families can participate in virtual fitness classes and training tailored to their needs.
  • Extending EAP into the community – Our U.S. employees can share a free emotional crisis and support help line with friends and family who don’t have access to resources. We hope this helps to manage the stress and anxiety related to challenges such as COVID-19 and socio-economic issues. And, we appreciate our partners who are helping to offer this service.
  • Telemental Health – As we work to support mental health while reducing the stigma surrounding it, we’ll make it easier for people to find mental health professionals by offering solutions that remove the geographical and physical barriers that prevent access.

Embracing the Diverse Needs of Families

  • Childcare for First Responders– We’ll offer free care to children of first responders in cities across the U.S., through mid-June, in partnership with #FirstRespondersFirst and Bright Horizons. As we begin to gradually return to the office, we’ll open our on-campus child learning centers in San Jose for the children of our employees and contract workforce.
  • Flexibility – We offer flexible work practices, support for caregivers, and generous leaves in the time of crisis such as Emergency Time Off.
  • Back-up Care for Children and Adults – In the U.S., U.K., and Ireland, we have enhanced our back-up care offering by temporarily increasing the maximum from 20 to 30 days (through the end of the year) for both children and adults.
  • Expert Medical Opinions – We offer peace of mind to families around the world with access to expert physicians to help when faced with a medical diagnosis or treatment options. They are also available to support with research around COVID-19 clinical trials, and address questions for anyone who may be exposed or has been diagnosed with the virus.
  • Rethink – This digital platform helps to support parents of children with a learning, social, behavioral challenge, or a developmental disability. Rethink offers resources and practical advice, along with 1:1 advice with personal phone consultations.

Getting Closer to Underlying Health Issues In All Forms

COVID-19 reminds us that underlying health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression can have a compounding effect on illness for anyone in our family. Our goal in using technology and personalized health support is to help our people and health professionals better manage these issues and improve health outcomes.

  • Genetic Testing Access & Coverage – Our teams will continue to work globally in the areas of genetic testing access and coverage (in the U.S., testing for breast and ovarian cancer is covered for any reason), in order to help employees make more informed decisions.
  • Benefits Advisor – Combining both technology and personalized coaching, this solution will help employees make holistically sound decisions regarding their personal health and financial well-being.
  • Chronic Condition Management – Those living with musculoskeletal issues, substance abuse, and diabetes can access digital resources to deepen their understanding and improve their outcomes.
  • Preventative Measures – There will be continued focus on the factors that impact health (mental, physical and financial strain) to enable employees to be more resilient.
  • Free COVID-19 Screening – We will continue to offer free COVID-19 screenings to all facilities essential workers (including our contract workforce) at our San Jose, CA, and Bangalore, India, campuses, and exploring this option for the contract workforce in RTP, NC.

Financial Wellness Resources for Uncertain Times

Financial wellness plays a huge role in our overall well-being and, as we enter a stage of uncertainty, we are committed to offering more ways to help our employees and their families.

  • Finance Planning for All – Our financial well-being strategy provides resources and education to meet the needs of our diverse global workforce and their life stages — from developing a budget, creating emergency savings, managing debt, planning for retirement, and understanding the value Cisco’s benefits such as our ESPP, and more.
  • Free Legal Services – Our partner MetLaw is offering free services to all U.S. employees to support with legal issues related to COVID-19 (through July 31, 2020)

Taking Care of Our Employees, Their Families, and Our Community

The past few months have presented us with new and unforeseen challenges that have impacted our daily lives. Cisco, through its innovative spirit and trusted relationships, has worked hard to create solutions focused on people’s needs that have widespread and immediate impact on individuals. These solutions, based on simple values, have been implemented not only for our own employees and their families, but for entire communities and those struggling as a result of the health and racism pandemics.

By taking care of the well-being of our employees, families, and communities, we are working toward inspiring an inclusive future that will bridge our current and future generations. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be present, create dialogue, and drive action on a range of initiatives that extend beyond business and culture, to include well-being, social equality, and activism.



Francine Katsoudas

Executive Vice President

Chief People, Policy & Purpose Officer