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COVID-19 Challenges Continue
by Margo Johnson
July 29, 2021

Now what? We do not know the challenges we’ll face next on the COVID-19 front. But we do know this: there are many things small businesses can do to help employees be their best right now.

The good news is that most companies, especially here in Northern Michigan, are doing a good job to address the basics of employee safety, stability, and security. In addition, many employers, whether they have one employee or many, recognize that the ebb and flow of the situation calls for a more deliberate approach to employee well-being now and going forward. They see their employees’ need for trusting relationships, social cohesion, and individual purpose; and they demonstrate their leadership with clear presence, empathy, and transparency.

Here are a few best practices that our area employers and their leadership teams have put in place:

  • Implement frequent check ins with each remote employee to inquire how they are doing personally, is their family ok, and ask about details of their work. Encourage joint problem solving and openness about worries and fears. Wherever possible, offer additional support for in-home problems with technology or infrastructure.
  • Empower employees to lead by encouraging outreach to each other – just to check in or share successes and fears in their remote environments.
  • Stay informed and build transparency. Communicate frequently about what’s happening in the community regarding health department reports, closures and employee status (within limits of confidentiality). Be honest about your company’s health, potential layoffs, or permanent cutbacks.
  • Stay close but respect privacy, especially when checking on the physical and emotional health of employees and their family members. Focus on how you can help them access needed resources.
  • Encourage employees to take advantage of this unique time. Work with them to identify what skills or knowledge they might want to hone or develop and help them find ways to improve and grow.
  • Create opportunity for social interaction which is missing without a common workplace. Have virtual lunches or social breaks. Use video whenever possible to build rapport and achieve deeper engagement.
  • Allow everyone maximum flexibility – their situations are all different. Think in terms of them being in their home where children, family and pets are part of the workplace. Childcare and home and family challenges must be considered - work/life flexibility is more important than ever.
  • Encourage employees to set clear working hours and to disconnect when not working. Emphasize the importance of prioritizing personal and family wellbeing as a way to keep burnout at bay.
  • And listen, listen, listen – sometimes all an employee may need is someone to hear them. Acknowledge that you have heard.

All these factors and how you address them sets a tone – it’s a statement about your company culture. Doing this right creates a mutual respect and loyalty and may help you retain your valuable workforce over time – whether your physical workspace returns to ‘normal’ or not. Employees want to have ‘skin in the game,’ and nurturing, especially through a crisis, helps them achieve this. The values you demonstrate now can enhance your reputation as an employer of choice – a priceless asset, particularly in times of a tight labor market. It will also showcase your business as a principled leader in the community with Purpose beyond Profit.

About the author
Margo Johnson
Margo Johnson, SCORE Mentor, has over 30 years in domestic auto industry in US and Europe including development/implementation of organization change; HR management in key functions including marketing, sales, customer service, finance, product development and manufacturing; organization, succession, recruiting, performance management, and reward/recognition planning and implementation.
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