The pandemic wears on, and businesses are still learning as they go. Leaders have had to create policies and plans with no precedent, especially around remote work, flexible schedules and time off. As we continue to deal with Covid-19, more companies will face situations where employees need time off to nurse loved ones back to health, recover from the disease themselves or mourn a great loss.
What are the best ways for employers to react and help their people adjust to these difficult circumstances when they inevitably arise? Below, 13 Forbes Coaches Council members each detail one specific change that business leaders can enact to ease these burdens and better accommodate their employees’ needs in these extraordinary times.
1. Implement Flexible Support Groups
Employers can create flexible support groups and unique employee assistance planning for employees who are engaging in additional caregiving responsibilities. These types of support could not only help them get emotional support, but also give them ideas for providing support to their loved ones in creative and innovative ways. Thinking outside the box in these challenging times can make a difference! – Susan Madsen, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business
2. Offer An Employee Assistance Program
If you don’t offer an employee assistance program as a benefit, consider adding one. These EAP programs offer a range of services, including free confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals and follow-up services, to employees who have personal or work-related problems. Other options are allowing employees to purchase additional vacation days and accommodating work from home. – Lee Eisenstaedt, Leading with Courage Academy
3. Focus On Success Rather Than Hours
Do we really care when they take off? Great leaders focus on outcomes-based measures rather than productivity! The word “manager” has many negative connotations because no one likes to be managed. We don’t like people keeping score or measuring us and our value with utilization or productivity metrics. If you want to drive ownership and engagement, focus on success, not when or how many hours. – Brad Cousins, Ingage Human Capital Strategies
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4. Hire A Corporate Chaplain
Sports teams hire team chaplains to offer encouragement and help team members deal with difficult situations in their life. Businesses can hire a corporate chaplain to help employees navigate personal issues that may be confronting employees during the pandemic. Many employees will feel more comfortable talking with a chaplain than with a boss. – Ken Gosnell, CEO Experience
5. Lead With Humanity
Talk to your employees personally and remove the fear of losing their job from the equation. “We have your back,” is the starting place of the conversation. Then, “We want you back as soon as possible, but do what you need to do to take care of them.” Anything less than that reveals that the company doesn’t care about their employees and sees them as disposable. – Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
6. Practice Compassion
By being more flexible and empathetic, leaders recognize that we are all human beings experiencing a collective crisis. When leaders show vulnerability, it fosters trust, which is the foundation of all teams. Demonstrating authentic empathy and genuine caring during this unusual time will forge deeper connections within the organization, strengthening engagement and satisfaction. – Shelli Hendricks, Blue Horizon Solutions
7. Trust People To Get The Job Done
Leaders should grant people the room to maneuver that they need to manage their lives, including work, in these uncertain times that are a challenge for all of us in one way or another. They need to learn to trust people to get the job done, and let go of the need for control. In addition, companies should offer training and coaching for their staff to support their self-management. – Thomas Gelmi, Movadis GmbH
8. Take A Whole-Person Approach
Taking a whole-person approach to employee well-being by incorporating physical, mental, social and financial health into benefits programs is more important than ever. Providing coping resources, establishing workplace mental health services and offering (or increasing) sick leave entitlements are ways to meet the needs of employees. Flexibility and empathy should be guiding principles. – Rebecca Lea Ray, The Conference Board
9. Create Psychological Safety
Empathy and compassion are paramount skills for leaders to be authentically and genuinely displaying to their teams in the current climate. Leaders should ensure that individuals feel psychologically safe to share their concerns and needs with their manager by allowing them to express what they need in their regular one-to-one check-ins with their manager. – Simi Rayat, Wellbeing Face Ltd
10. Give Permission
One of the most powerful things leaders can do at this time is to facilitate a conversation about these topics and let their team know that it’s okay to make their needs known, ask for time off and solicit support from each other. Bringing the topic out in the open will give everyone needed permission and safety to speak up when needed, and it will reduce the anxiety and stress of doing so. – Glenn Taylor, Skybound Coaching & Training
11. Be Flexible And Compassionate
Now more than ever, it’s important to lead with compassion and flexibility. Companies that cling to pre-pandemic rules will fail in the long run. Can you add additional days to your bereavement policy? Is it time to embrace a workshare program that could help parents? Evaluate the needs of your employees and think creatively about how you can offer support. – Cheryl Czach, Cheryl Czach Coaching and Consulting, LLC
12. Tweak Your Existing Programs
Work with human resources to tweak existing programs. The pandemic caused untold fear and loss for many, so find ways to implement better policies that allows for care, loss, grief and time off and graft them into your existing policy. Don’t create a “Pandemic Response” plan only. Tweak programs that will allow your people to help with serious family issues involving children, parents and spouses. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
13. Offer ‘Meeting-Free Friday’
The impacts this pandemic will have, even into next year or beyond, are unknown. People are trying to balance their personal and professional lives, with many struggling to see the line between the two. One change might be offering “meeting-free Friday.” Even with modified schedules, leaders can use better metrics to measure progress, identify gap areas and adjust staffing to match productivity needs. – Denise Russo, SAP
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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