IN its inaugural run, Great Place to Work Philippines awarded five companies that exemplified how to keep a company running efficiently and employees happy. And while the surveys conducted to choose the winners were done before the COVID-19 pandemic raged, the California-based consulting firm behind the award noted that the same companies named “Best Workplaces” nonetheless found ways to keep both employee morale and productivity high.

“Organization leaders had to find ways to keep the business going without compromising their employees’ health and safety. Within a couple of weeks under the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), we saw how companies set up home offices for their employees. They provided them the necessary tools and upskilled their people so they can continue with their jobs while working from the safety of their homes,” Antoinette Mendoza-Talosig, managing partner of Great Place to Work Philippines, told BusinessWorld in an e-mail on May 12.

The pandemic, she said, effectively changed the definition of a “workplace” from something that is confined to a building to a location dispersed across the islands.

The Great Place to Work Institute has been conducting employee surveys for more than three decades to define how a good company works. Among its criteria when determining if a company is a great place to work is credibility, respect, fairness, pride, and camaraderie.

The company publishes an annual list of great workplaces and its data is said to be used in Fortune’s annual Best Companies to Work For. Some of the workplaces that made it into the list are and Hilton hotels and Ultimate Software, among others.

In the Philippines, the list named outsourcing company Synchrony Services Philippines, logistics company DHL Express, hospitality giant Hilton, graphic design firm Canva Manila, and wholesale technology and supply chain distributor Ingram Micro.

These criteria may change as the pandemic has left organizations with “no choice but to operate remotely, having the need to adapt in no time,” saidh Ms. Mendoza-Talosig.

For the 2021 Best Workplaces list, she said the firm is “looking into the bold acts of leadership that organizations take in response to this crisis as they press on in their journey of building great places to work for all.”

“There are many heroic things that companies are doing and these will not go unrecognized. With this approach, Great Place to Work being the gold standard of recognition, will continue to inspire many to become great places to work for all — be it during ‘business as usual’ or with ‘the new normal,’” she said.

What won’t change though, is the importance of trust.

“What’s most important for supervisors and employers now is that this is the time to build trust. How do you make sure that your employees are really working and not watching Netflix all the time? You can’t. But what you can do is build a good relationship so that your team will want to root for you and work with you to ensure your success and the success of the organization. And we can only do this through trust. If you show your employees you trust them without having to look over their shoulders, your employees will reciprocate by giving you their very best,” Dr. Paulin Tay Straughan, a sociologist at the Singapore Management University, said in a recent Great Place to Work webinar.

For Ingram Micro, trust is a two-way street.

“What became clear was that our people trusted us, as a leadership and as an organization, and then we mirrored that trust onto them,” Sam White, director for human resources at Ingram Micro, said in a release.

Currently, the company’s Manila office has 90% of its workforce working remotely, something they did by delivering hardware and technology solutions to employees with internet connections.

“We’ve started determining the tips and tools of working in the ‘new normal’ — whether employees are working in the office, remotely, or from home — and how they could be more productive, healthy, and balanced in those types of environments,” Mr. White said. — Z.B. Chua