There is no question that the coronavirus pandemic has changed how millions of people work around the world.
Before social distancing was needed to keep coronavirus infection at a manageable level, 7% of the private sector (4% of the public sector) worked from home according to the 2019 National Compensation Survey of the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. Telework was considered a benefit and an option for very few, mainly higher-paid, knowledge-based professionals that worked for larger companies. Not anymore.
As states are reopening for business this month, people are getting back to work. The Bureau of Labor Management reported 2.5 million jobs were added back in May. However, surveys show that people who have been WFH are very concerned about returning to working outside their homes. CEOs face tough decisions on how to bring people back to work, to dine, to shop, to recreate, and more safely.
In these coronavirus times, what makes a company a great place to work?
A great place to work during a pandemic
The criteria for what makes a great place to work evolve with the times.
Cultures that value diversity, equity, and inclusion become a paragon of a vibrant workplace, and attract top talent. Other factors such as ‘leadership’ and ‘the people’ remain high on the list of reasons that people love where they work.
Stick to these 3 characteristics of a great place to work and your company will make the list in 2020.
1. A safe place to work is the best place to work
Safety is the most important factor in keeping businesses open during the coronavirus pandemic that has taken the lives of over 108,000 people in this country (28% of deaths by COVID19 worldwide).
When employees do not feel safe they will find ways to get their employer’s attention.
In March, Amazon, Instacart, and Whole Foods employees in specific markets held a “sick in” in protest of unsafe working conditions when it was discovered that they had been exposed to the coronavirus. On May 1, employees of Trader Joe’s, FedEx, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Instacart, and Amazon walked out of or did not show up for work. The May Day protesters demanded that affected stores be quarantined and asked for greater safety precautions, adequate personal protective equipment, and higher pay for essential workers.
Essential businesses have had to adjust how they conduct business in ways that put their workers’ health first including closing stores, conducting deep cleaning, providing PPE, access to mental health services, regular communication on health and safety policy updates related to COVID19, and more. Your workforce and your customers are watching closely how you address safety in the workplace.
Great Place to Work® highly recommends that companies survey your employees on COVID19 as soon as humanly possible. Engaging employees in the way and then, sharing the positive responses internally, and acting on concerns raised by those surveyed will demonstrate to them that you care about their safety and are striving to act in their best interests.
As always, businesses have regulatory considerations. The Department of Labor has issued OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID19 and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has provided employers with a COVID19 HR Q&A resource. Employers will also want to consult your state and local government COVID19 workplace guidance for reopening.
Regardless of your workforce—remote, shift workers, multiple sites, or international—your company would certainly earn my vote by convening a COVID19 Workforce Task Force that would make recommendations and help to communicate out the safety plans and policies that take into account your employees’ concerns and specific challenges.
Amidst all of the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, state, and municipal governments and regulatory bodies, businesses cannot forget their own code of conduct and have to reinforce that professionalism and a respectful workplace need to be upheld from home. Think about all those inappropriate quarantine memes being sent by a supervisor to their direct reports to “lighten the mood”.
2. A great place to work has values that recognize coronavirus’s impact on their workers’ lives
The Great Place to Work® survey provides insight into what is truly important to an employee. It is not higher than average pay or an extra week of vacation but rather a place people want to work requires something more intangible.
Research has shown that compensation is not the primary factor in an employee’s satisfaction at work. Instead, the top factor in employee satisfaction in the U.S. is actually culture and values.
In the current climate of high anxiety around workplace safety (i.e. the risk of exposing children and elderly family members to COVID19 that returning to work involves) and the necessity of paying the bills (i.e. providing food and shelter to those people), companies may need to reevaluate their core values in order to remain in step with the psyche of its employees impacted by the paradigm shift of the global coronavirus pandemic.
For example, consider the value “move fast”. While a core value like “think big and move fast” doesn’t need to be abolished, it will need clarification for your workforce that is stymied by a stress-induced depressive state and the new, slower work processes that come with WFH.
It is absolutely critical that leadership communicates, through the company core values, what they believe their people are capable of accomplishing during challenging times like these.
3. People want to work for great leaders
Leadership is a factor in every Great Place to Work® ranking. Great leadership makes a big difference during times of uncertainty and strife.
Leaders who model the values of the company also do things like:
- Answering questions in a timely manner and expecting all managers to do the same.
- Participate in “water cooler” meetups with a No Shop Talk policy.
- Encourage mindfulness breaks.
- Increasing the benefits for childcare and adult care.
- Provide sick days to all employees affected by COVID19.
- Provide resources for a 24/7 crisis team.
CEOs with a clear sense of the purpose of their company and who can communicate and demonstrate that purpose to their workforce and their customers will be able to effectively listen to their employees, motivate them to join in a shared purpose, and achieve great things despite the challenges they face.
Our CFOs partner with companies dedicated to being a brand their employees are proud of and a workplace that their employees thrive in. If you want to make it to the best place to work list you’re going to need a best-in-class financial team working with you. Get in touch today.