Work in the time of Covid-19

I work with organizations and individuals to help them operationalize equity, in other words – to take their intentions around equity and put them into action. What this often means is using the items they believe are core to guiding their actions and translating them into concrete, operational practices, sometimes referred to as turning values into actions.

The current global pandemic within which we’re all existing has been a chance to see organizational and leadership “true colors” as they take this unchartered territory and create a new way of being with their employees. I’ve been most interested to see how actions are aligning for organizations that in writing have said they value equity, tell staff to bring their “whole and authentic selves” to their work, and purport to put people first.

The truth is that many are struggling with what to do.

To some extent, the struggle makes sense. We are asking many organizations and workers to operate in ways we’ve never anticipated, even through existing emergency planning and the most well-thought out human resources policies. Still, for organizations that see their values as transformational rather than transactional, the right way to proceed in these times is really not that hard to determine. Those organizations are showing up in ways that not only make their teams feel valued and appreciated, but they’re also setting the groundwork for great future recruitment and retention.

Here’s some of what I’ve seen these exemplar organizations doing:

  • Paying essential staff overtime and bonuses.
  • Focusing on outcomes rather than seat time.
  • Adjusting WFH (work from home) policies that align with the current times. This means not looking at this as normal remote work by recognizing that staff are dealing with not only work but having children at home, major changes to the regular routine, caretaking for friends and relatives in need, etc.
  • Starting off conference calls and web meetings by checking in with each other.
  • Responding to the emotional and mental toll of this unusual time by eliminating non-essential meetings and loosening expectations and deadlines.
  • Being honest with staff about what is known for sure and what things are in flux now or may be in the near future.
  • Encouraging altruism by matching donations to organizations on the front lines of relief efforts.
  • Demonstrating humanity by sharing with staff their own fears and challenges.
  • Using reserve funds to pay hourly staff a fair wage while places like schools are closed.
  • Surprising staff with food delivery for meals.
  • Giving out gift cards for meal delivery and groceries.
  • Embracing transparency by overcommunicating in this time where uncertainty is everywhere. Some leaders/orgs are sending out daily written or video updates with encouragement, updates, and gratitude. There is no such thing as too much information right now.
  • Encouraging employees to take time away from work without using PTO. Let’s face it – no one is out having fun so if they need to take a day away from work it’s because they need to manage their own mental health or care in some way for those around them.

Our workplaces represent more than just a place to collect a paycheck and benefits. They are one of the places we go to build community and belonging and to live out our own values. The best workplaces know this and our leaning into the opportunity to do more for the people who make their work and services possible during this unprecedented time. They know it’s not only the right thing to do but that it is good for their future sustainability.

I want to hear from you! Share your examples of exemplar workplaces in the time of coronavirus. Email at