Putting people at the center: Enel has launched a network of “Heart Managers” for people with chronic illnesses

Putting people at the center: Enel has launched a network of “Heart Managers” for people with chronic illnesses

Enel recently launched a new program for people suffering from chronic illnesses. The program involves volunteers from the ranks of “People Business Partners” who have been specially trained by experts.


The Gestori di Cuore (“Heart Managers”) project was a conscious choice to identify a specific colleague of reference to support people who are suffering. Suffering can have many causes. It can last for just a few days or it can be chronic. Nevertheless, there is no need to hide it. Chronic illnesses are often invisible pathologies that are not spread from person to person; generally, they last a long time and progress slowly. According to estimates by Italy’s National Health Observatory, today there are 24 million people with chronic illnesses nationwide.

In many cases chronically ill people, out of fear or even modesty, choose to avoid talking openly about their condition. Doing so can, however, help improve their work life.

For this very reason the Enel Group launched the MaCro@Work Caring Program. This features a network of Gestori di Cuore who can lend support and a sympathetic ear to colleagues who are dealing with chronic illness, with the goal of making the work environment even more inclusive for everyone.

The Heart Manager is on hand to offer professional and personal advice and to bring people into contact with others who want to open up: the medicine, in this case, is the company of others. It is not a question of violating privacy or of exposing someone’s health problem. The approach is based on people not having to feel they need to hide a problem but being aware that we are all vulnerable, and that together we can feel useful and cared for. This is not with medicine, but with the attention and acceptance that comes from the soul.

The program was inspired by results of an intercompany study in which Enel took part, in addition to internal research that involved more than 6 thousand people directly or indirectly affected by chronic illness. For now, the service is active for Enel employees in Italy with a network of 15 Heart Managers but there are plans to expand the initiative to include other countries where the Group operates.

“We need to break down the fear of talking, as well as prejudice: that’s the first step,” explains Elisabetta Capani, Head of the MaCro@Work Caring Program, who suffers from a chronic illness herself. “We spend most of our time at work, so our health is important. Not only for the people concerned, but also for the organization. For this reason, we need to give everybody the chance to be themselves and to improve their work–life balance.”

It is no coincidence that this project was launched during the pandemic. The lockdown highlighted people’s need for human relationships, leading many to reflect on their priorities in life and to think about things in a different way. “The need to help each other, to support each other in this period highlighted our potential vulnerabilities,” Capani adds.

The Heart Managers, who originate from the ranks of People Business Partners, have voluntarily chosen to get involved, and have their own personal motivations for doing so. Although they have undergone specific training in recent months, thanks to meetings with experts from the sector, the Heart Managers are not psychologists, doctors or life coaches. They are, however, sources of advice and are able to understand the emotional toll an illness can have on people. A Heart Manager is someone to turn to who will listen and provide all the information required for managing a chronic illness in the company environment, both from a practical point of view and in terms of relationships. This helps people balance time and ways of working with home life, without having to sacrifice career goals or professional satisfaction. The service is not only available to people suffering from a chronic pathology but also for employees who are experiencing this type of situation at home and for colleagues, as well as managers of people with chronic illnesses.

Many of the Heart Managers have direct or indirect experience of chronic illness. This is the case of Marisa Strangis, Head of People Business Partner Market Italy. “When the project was launched, I immediately decided to take part. Being a Heart Manager is an opportunity to be even closer to people through an increasingly targeted form of caring. We are giving a voice to our colleagues and we are their link with the organization,” she says. “Our colleagues need to be listened to and to know that the company is there for them.”

Others, like Tullia Allegrini from People Business Partner Staff and Services Italy, immediately recognized the project’s potential. “I was fascinated by the presentation of the project and decided to take part even before the explanation had finished. And then a wonderful work group was created: we are all motivated and proud to be part of this project.”

Even though they began their work relatively recently, the Heart Managers have started meeting weekly to discuss their experiences, reactions, the tools available and relationships with the people they have come into contact with. For Paolo Castignoli, People Business Partner Virtual Channels and MKT Operations, this is a task that really involves the personal sphere, and it is important that those involved do not feel that they are alone. “We need to pay greater attention to people, we need to look them in the eye.”

“Enel is really putting people at the center, and with this program we are sending an additional signal to our colleagues,” adds Paolo. “In the meetings we have had so far, I have found people with special situations, who initially showed concern. But in the end, we greeted each other with a smile, because being listened to is important.”

“My first contact was with a colleague whom I had already come across in the company, and who was followed by another People Business Partner,” says Simona Cavacini, People Business Partner Innovability and Communications. “We talked for a while and she told me about her condition. In order to perform this task, it’s necessary to put the other person at ease, by listening to their needs at their own pace.”

“We have just begun but I am sure that this project will go far,” Simona adds. “I am happy and proud, my overall verdict is super positive and the colleagues I have spoken to think the same. The number of people who want to get in touch with the Heart Managers is increasing, and it is enriching for us too: the stories they are telling us are important ones, which go well beyond the emotions that they can elicit.”

How can a Heart Manager be contacted? Through the company intranet, where, in addition to the specific information about chronic illnesses and specific tools, you can browse the introductory profiles of all the volunteers, which are accompanied by a video. You can request an initial meeting to get to know one, during which the Heart Manager will outline his/her role, the services available and the access procedure, in addition to the modality of any future meetings. All of the information, data and requests sent to the Heart Manager are confidential and can only be shared if authorization has been received from the individual in question.