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By: Samantha Melendez on March 23rd, 2020

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How Employers Can Exhibit Care During COVID-19

News | Business Management & Strategy | Employee Relations

The coronavirus, leading to the COVID-19 pandemic, has challenged many business leaders and HR to make decisions quickly that impact the health and well-being of their employees. There is no rulebook that exists when operations drastically change for an indefinite period. How leaders respond in this crisis says a lot about what they value, and can have a long-term impact on your employee retention and engagement.

Here are some ways your business can lead through this pandemic and show your employees you care:  

Remain calm. If you panic, your people will panic and
they are already dealing with managing their personal lives, remaining healthy
and trying to digest the news of this pandemic. No one expects you to have all
the answers during this time. When delivering messages to a team, act as you
would with any other business message. Come prepared, share what you know, and
follow-up on things you must look in to.

If Operating with Business as Usual:

Offer flexible scheduling. Provide more leniency with
scheduling. If you are running an operation that cannot cease at this time or
allow employees to work from home, flexibility can make or break the
relationship. Child and elderly care have been impacted by this pandemic and
families are struggling to make it work. Providing fair leniency on your
absentee and tardiness policies adds a personal and human element to the state
we are facing.

Find ways to shift work to remain open. Many
businesses are finding ways to shift operations to keep their employees working.
Closed gyms are being cleaned, restaurants are offering to-go or delivery, office
supply stores are offering printing services for students learning from home. While
this may not always be the case, there are ways to contribute to the community with
a shift in the work. Refer to federal, state and local guidance as some
businesses have been deemed essential to remain open while others are advised
to close.

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Increase pay. If your business can financially temporarily
increase hourly pay, or provide bonuses, it could go a long way for your
employees coming into the workplace. It may not solve all the challenges your
employees are facing, but it will show that you are thinking of them and
appreciate the work they are doing while risking their health and that of the
public and their families.

Offer products or food. As most of the nation races
to the supermarkets to stock up, your employee may not have the opportunity to
do so while maintaining a normal work schedule. Simply offering lunch or snacks
on-site will alleviate some stress and shows you are thinking about their
well-being. If the products you supply can help your employees and their
families, offer care packages.

If Operating in a Telework Environment:

Continue with regular check-ins. Having scheduled check-ins with direct reports is important to maintain a connection and a sense of normalcy. Proceed as you would in the normal work environment. Prevent from finding ways for employees to log their work if that is not part of normal operations. Most employees want to continue to perform well because there are many not so fortunate. If the work is there, do not add unnecessary tasks for the sake of micromanaging them.

Encourage mental health breaks. Working at home, while practicing social distancing, can by trying to some people, while others may find it enjoyable. Not everyone will handle this adjustment the same way. Giving leniency on normal business hours can alleviate some of the worry employees have to stay connected. Encourage employees to take breaks and go on walks. Setting the expectation from the beginning that they are not expected to be at their devices incessantly may alleviate anxiety in some. Connect with your company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to see if they are offering any virtual mental health classes or stress alleviating workshops.

Offer support. Ask what it is that you can do to help them be comfortable. They may like more frequent check-ins if they miss the interaction or they may need a better set up at home to make them more comfortable. Understand what it is that you can offer to ease their mind and allow them to perform just as they would at the office.

Here are additional ways we have seen businesses offering
support:

  • Providing additional Paid Time Off (PTO) for employees to use for their own care or the care of others
  • Allow employees to share or donate PTO to those who need it
  • Offer paid sick leave for a period of time. This is extremely important for your elderly and immunocompromised employees.
  • Set up a relief fund
  • Offer a lump sum amount for employees to purchase home office equipment (or groceries)
  • Make leadership and HR available for one-on-one virtual chats
  • Scheduled virtual happy hours or contests to maintain a connection

It is important to stay up to date with updates and recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and communicate this information to your employees. Remind employees of their benefits offerings. And lastly, make sure you are staying up to date with the federal, state and local government response, such as the recently passed federal law, Families First Coronavirus Response Act. We will continue to learn the ultimate reach of this pandemic, but acting early to support the overall health and well-being of others is what the world needs right now.

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