Thursday, March 26, 2020

Ten More Things Leaders Can Do During A Crisis

As the current situation continues to run its course, social distancing remains the most important thing all of us can do. We can save lives by taking this step, and the more rigorously we practice it, the greater its effects will be.

It's also important for each of us to make sure we've created the best possible support systems for our family, friends, neighbors, and ourselves. We're all in this together and making sure we have what we need and offer what we can is a way to keep that sense of community strong.

Those of us in leadership roles have additional opportunities to make a real difference. Once you've covered the basics of health and safety, here are ten more things you can do to support the people on your teams and the organizations and issues that share your collective values.

Above all, remember to offer kindness and positivity whenever and however you can.

1. Make a clear declaration that people come first, ahead of any other business priority. Financial concerns and the recovery of the economy need to take a backseat right now to safeguarding our most important asset: the people who form our companies and the community that supports them. People’s needs will change as the days pass. Stay informed about them and what you can do to help. Some of these things may be new to you or unexpected but that doesn’t make them harder to solve.

2. Take care of employees and your broader community. Toyota paid factory workers to make line improvements even if the factory was idle, rather than do layoffs. Today we have lots more “almost employees” like vendors, contractors, gig workers. Pay them to do something - anything. Give free loans or advance future earnings, especially for gig workers. Now’s the time for companies with big balance sheets to help.

3. Send a note out to vendors encouraging them to do extreme social distancing. Many law firms are forcing people to work in office “because clients want it”. The same is true for nonprofits who fear alienating donors. Send the opposite message: people come first and we only want to work with companies who get it. There’s plenty of excellent information on why this matters so much and how to do it, some of which is gathered in the post linked above.

4. Offer a remote work stipend. Make sure people have money right now to upgrade their home office situation. LTSE did a reimbursement program for a set amount, no questions asked, and people spent it on surprising--but always practical--things. Remember that every employee is dealing with a different home situation so their needs will vary. The goal here is to make sure everyone who makes your organization run can come together as seamlessly as possible. No one needs issues that can easily be fixed with some new technology or better lighting on top of the other stress we’re all experiencing.

5. Offer remote therapy as a benefit and make sure your employees are aware of it and how to access it. The pandemic is causing a lot of anxiety and pressure for everyone. People are dealing with children, older family members and friends, and a whole new level of work-life balance. Many have lost some of the things that helped them manage stress, like their local gym or recurring social event. In addition, many AA and NA meetings have been canceled, leaving those in recovery without their normal support system. Mental health services are crucial now more than ever. Do whatever you can to provide them to your employees.

6. Get a corporate account on Outschool or something similar and pay for employees' kids' virtual classes, and make resources about other options easily available.This is another way to help support people working at home and also make sure they have a way to take a break during non-work hours. Virtual classes provide both education and enriching activities that can fill the time with fun exploration.

7. Assign pandemic-specific jobs. Having a specific job - no matter how small - helps people cope with anxiety. Put someone in charge of setting up virtual happy hour for their team or division. Put someone else in charge of reading the latest research and best practices. If someone is required to be in an office, put them in charge of pandemic-proofing. All of these are a way to provide people with a measure of control in a time when it feels like so much is out of control.

8. Arrange social time to ward off isolation and loneliness. Zoom, Slack and all the usual work tools are ideal for this. Create virtual meetups and discussion circles, or conversations around a shared piece of reading or viewing. Being physically apart doesn’t mean we need to give up our connections. Organize virtual exercise or meditation groups and times for people to get together and vent about their worries in a safe space.

9. Join coalitions working on pandemic relief and response. There are specific groups for cure research, supporting workers, food security, and many other issues. There are also places to volunteer your specific skill set. Or, start a new one if you have expertise. Here are a few places to start: National PPE Coalition;; Stop the Spread.

10. Match donations to relief efforts or related nonprofits. Funding the many groups that are working to help our fellow citizens right now is critical. No doubt the people who make up your organization are all making individual choices about where to send whatever money they have to put towards these efforts. By matching their contributions, you’re not only increasing financial support but showing your team members you share their values.
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