Leaving our office and watching my team members’ empty desks and cubes a few weeks ago was a pronounced reminder that our people are the heart and life of our business. I have to admit that there was something a little sad about watching staff grab their things and begin the migration to their new offices, which just that same morning we referred to as a living room or spare bedroom. I knew then I would miss the many moments I had come to enjoy each day as we gathered to help the world at work.
WorldatWork is open during the COVID-19 pandemic and our reliance on teams and technology will be one of the critical factors that gets us through it. We were fortunate to be able to be 100% remote almost immediately and the adjustment from work to home wasn’t a major hurdle for us like it has been for so many employers. However, the transition tested us in other ways as the entire world suddenly shifted from living life face-to-face to living it on a screen.
Recently there has been a lot of focus on getting work done in the remote world, but there is also life to be done in this new remote world. Leaders will need to help others get work done, but they also must help others get life stuff done. CEOs will need to help their workers be functioning employees, but we shouldn’t omit their need to be functioning people as well.
This pandemic will be costly as it steals both life and work moments along with economic value, important cultural customs and celebrations, and human life. It will change big things as well as simple things that we took for granted weeks ago, like a handshake, hug, or even going to lunch. This now is a part of the way we work and the way we live.
About a week ago, an employee wanted to chat. During the meeting, it registered just how pervasive the pandemic would be as my coworker shared, they were unable to get back east to see their father who was in the hospital and only had a couple of days to live. Just three weeks earlier the answer would have been to get on a flight to get there in the morning to say goodbye. COVID-19 stole that moment. Since funerals are now also restricted along with travel, my coworker attended the funeral of their father via FaceTime. There are other moments that will be marginalized as well, like my coworker who was scheduled to be married with friends and family to celebrate, another who just gave birth this month to a healthy baby boy amid a chaotic and stressed health system, and yet another whose daughter was at the height of her high school swim career likely now to be forever cut short.
"CEOs will need to help their workers be functioning employees, but we shouldn’t omit their need to be functioning people as well."– Scott Cawood, president and CEO of WorldatWork
Each of the missed moments matter differently in the larger picture of things, but a void is getting created and this is an opportunity to go above and beyond to help your workforce find a path forward. This is a time to focus on both life and work and the more we can stay attuned to the impacted moments, the more we will send the messages that people are so desperately in need of hearing — that we will find a way forward. We may not be able to fix each missed moment, but we can make genuine gestures.
The time for effective leadership is now and it happens one moment at a time. We must find new ways to help fill in the blanks of the moments that have been lost or stolen. We can’t give the moments back, but we can give back and give in new ways. We can show we care and understand they are missing some critical work and life moments. How we come out of the pandemic will greatly depend on how leaders were able to help their workforces find a path forward.
Touching base frequently, communicating daily, keeping people healthy, offering hazard pay, allowing intense flexibility, helping bridge moments and actively anticipating and addressing employee life and work needs will balance some of the missing moments they will experience. I want to share with you three actions that we have implemented at WorldatWork in support of our people and their families in this time of need:
- Emergency Supply & PTO. We understand that being asked to stay home for social distancing and isolating can create unique challenges. Many people were able to prepare and have the necessary items for the self-isolation period, but some were not. There are employees who face greater challenges such as being part of a high-risk group (or having a family member who is) so that leaving the house or going to the store could pose a bigger risk to their and their loved ones’ health.
We created a shared inbox where people who may be in these situations can email and get help. Our team will do whatever is possible to find whatever is needed and deliver it to that person. And for our remote staff, we will source it locally and ship it overnight. To date, we have supplied many of our people with toilet paper, sanitizer, paper towels, and wipes. And, if anyone on our team gets sick or has to care for a sick family member, but doesn't have enough PTO, our senior leadership has donated theirs to create a pool that is available to anyone.
- Kids & Pets Care Program. COVID-19 has affected more than just our employees. School closures all over the country, some of them for the entire academic year, are presenting additional challenges to parents who may not have the technology at home for their kids to continue their education through virtual classes. We had additional equipment that we’ve made available to our employees whose kids require it for their online courses.
We know that pets also are treasured members of our families. We implemented a pet food assistance program to help anyone who is out of work from our employees’ family or friends circle and are struggling to buy pet food.
- Support local. Many small and local restaurants and businesses are and will continue to be greatly impacted by COVID-19. We want to continue encouraging a social responsibility culture within our organization and this is a great opportunity to rally up and do it. In an effort to help our local economies, as well as a small token of appreciation to our employees, we are giving each team member $75 to purchase a gift card at the small business or local restaurant of their choice. While we understand this is a small step for the businesses, we hope others will find ways to support them as well. It serves as a reminder that we are together through these extraordinarily difficult times and everything we do to help each other, in fact, matters.
Leading by understanding that our employees are not enduring this pandemic just as employees but as a whole person will help you see and provide more options to support them in the many ways they need.
About the Author
Scott Cawood, Ed.D, CCP, CBP, GRP, CSCP, WLCP is the president and CEO of WorldatWork.