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The Many Benefits of Keeping the World at Work


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a grim economic reality and demonstrated how quickly things can change for people and businesses. No one has skirted by unscathed and we are still unable to predict much of what will happen as we continue this humanitarian and economic battle.

We all agree that we must flatten the pandemic curve. The consensus on how to accomplish that points to the establishment of a so-called herd immunity, where enough people in a community are protected so the pathogen cannot take hold and eventually dies out. This could be done through immunization or by enough people getting the virus that we collectively develop a resistance to it. 

In essence, science is confirming that we are stronger when we are together — even if social distancing has put a six-foot bubble between us. If herd immunity can solve for the virus, could we adopt a unified collective approach for the economy by doing everything possible to keep the world at work?

Our WorldatWork’s “COVID-19 Quick Polls” found that 56% of organizations promise to only conduct layoffs after pursuing all other options. This vow of corporate citizenship is a promising indicator. I believe that we can overcome the adversity and become stronger as a community of organizations and professionals if we do all we can to get and keep people healthy and working.

A Pledge to #KeepTheWorldatWork
I invite you to join us in this economic recovery effort by pledging to do all you can to #KeepTheWorldatWork. COVID-19 is unprecedented. In that light, it provides us an opportunity to respond in ways that will matter to both our people and our economy. The options we choose this very moment to keep our businesses moving forward, our communities connected, and our people healthy and working will be collectively more powerful than the coronavirus was destructive.

Leading in the times of COVID-19 has proven to be one of the greatest challenges that most have ever experienced. We are at the center of a humanitarian crisis that knows few boundaries and leaves most of the world desperate for any bit of good news. One thing we can try to do is match the destruction with as much compassion as possible. We are not numb to the realities of a balance sheet, which is why we are asking a collective group of leaders around the world to do all they can to keep their peeps.

"This unexpected biological phenomenon has pressed each of us to act defensively and fight every day to remain viable. Truth is, this too shall pass. Once it does, we will have to rebuild. And we will need people for that." – Scott Cawood, president and CEO of WorldatWork

We will continue to share resources, data, insights and stories that will help you and others make a difference in the economic recovery to come. Numerous stimulus programs may benefit your organization and help you keep more workers working. Many companies already have made headlines with stories about layoffs and furloughs, especially those in retail and hospitality. This mandated shutdown of various segments of commerce will cost jobs, but a concerted effort to retain our workforce indeed can ignite a quicker economic recovery. This is one way to get as many impacted workers back to work as soon as possible.

As we negotiate this crisis and economic downturn, we should continue to recognize the efforts of those who fight the daily struggles and find alternatives to #KeepTheWorldatWork. Undeniably, this will be an ongoing battle for companies to remain viable, which is all the more reason why we must pull together like a herd, and fight.

Companies that have managed to keep their people through this time have implemented some of the following actions:

  1. Partial or complete cuts to executive pay. Due to the impact that coronavirus is having on their businesses, some CEOs have opted to take 20% to 100% pay cuts in an effort to protect their employees. GE, Delta Airlines, Quantas, and Airbnb are just a few of the CEOs who have given up their salaries to safeguard their companies. Other company leaders such as Cheesecake Factory and American Airlines have pledged a portion of their base salaries to try and avoid or delay reductions.
  1. Shifting hours. While facing a slowdown in business operations, rather than laying off workers, many companies have opted to reduce their working hours. This may only be an applicable solution for certain businesses that operate mostly with hourly workers but could be a viable short-term option. Reducing overtime pay and implementing hiring freezes, together with a reduction-in-hours strategy can provide additional savings.
  1. Voluntary leave and early retirement. Some organizations like Boeing have offered early retirement or voluntary leave programs. There may be employees already contemplating or even on a retirement track that can be incentivized to retire early. While this may constitute an additional expense at the time, it will help reduce overhead and operational costs in the longer term, protecting your employees. Early retirement options always should be consulted with, if not handled by, your general or external counsel to make sure you comply with any applicable regulations.
  1. Reduction in compensation. Halting or delaying bonuses and commissions, as well as other incentive programs, has been another strategy adopted by many organizations. WorldatWork’s “COVID-19 Quick Polls” found that 36% of respondents are either waiting to decide or already cancelled salary increases in 2020 to mitigate the impact of the crisis. In terms of bonus payouts, some companies are exercising caution, as 16% said they are waiting to decide whether they will pay out bonuses and 8% said they are cancelling bonuses in 2020.

This unexpected biological phenomenon has pressed each of us to act defensively and fight every day to remain viable. Truth is, this too shall pass. Once it does, we will have to rebuild. And we will need people for that.

I encourage you to consider advocating a #KeepTheWorldatWork attitude and mission. In a few months, when the recovery begins and we start to rebuild, there will be a need to rehire and we are likely to see that a short-term extension of payroll would have been less costly than having to hire talent.

Visit WorldatWork’s resource page for more info and planning on COVID-19.

About the Author

Scott Cawood Bio Image

Scott Cawood, Ed.D, CCP, CBP, GRP, CSCP, WLCP is the president and CEO of WorldatWork.

About WorldatWork

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