March 18, 2020

Engaging and caring for your workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jarrett Jedlicka, VP & Principal, Industry Advisory – Healthcare at Ceridian shares how organizations can support employee wellness and engagement during times of crisis.

During a global crisis, employee wellness can suffer in several different ways – whether it’s physical, mental, emotional, or a combination of all three.

Some industries – such as healthcare, retail, and postal – are experiencing increased demand, putting further strain on the workforce. Absenteeism rates are climbing due to employee illness, the need to care for sick family members, fear of contagion, and more.

Both our personal and work lives are changing as everyday routines are uprooted. During this time, employees are likely experiencing a wide range of emotions, including concerns about their health, the pressure to care for family members, anxiety over job and financial security, and stress due to disruption of normalcy.

While organizations put their focus on the processes required for business continuity, leaders must not forget about their most valuable asset, their people. The best models for responding to crises are those that balance focusing on processes while also caring for their people.

Here’s how organizations can support employees’ well-being during unprecedented change and reinforce wellness in the workplace.

Increase visibility

Maintaining visibility during times of change is essential for employees to feel informed. A well-defined and widely understood communication process can help create trust within the organization and ensure employees are up to date on company information, policies, and organizational changes.

It’s also important to ensure employees know where to access company information and updates, and where they can get help or support. Leveraging a system to centralize company information will help organizations deploy time-sensitive material quickly across the entire workforce.

Additionally, leaders will need to rethink their standard leadership tactics such as “walking the floor” and having in-person one-on-ones. During a crisis, leaders are traditionally coached to be highly visible and physically present so employees can connect and interact. Given today’s unique scenario, leaders must adapt and effectively leverage digital platforms to maintain visibility through virtual office hours, all-hands calls, and video chat one-on-ones.

Encourage two-way communication

While it’s critical that organizations are ensuring visibility every step of the way as changes occur, it’s just as important for employers to ensure employees’ voices are heard. Organizations can provide the workforce with a platform to voice their opinions and concerns. Engagement analysis tools allow organizations to collect feedback from people and identify patterns and trends in employees’ emotional states. With this information, organizations can build action plans to respond quickly to employee concerns, as well as help reduce turnover, burnout, and absenteeism.

Empower employees to manage their schedules

As COVID-19 continues to shake up the routines of the workforce and their families, further flexibility is needed. At the same time, businesses must meet demand. Organizations must empower employees to balance their work and personal matters by allowing their people to schedule time away from work, or work on flexible schedules to address personal matters.

Additionally, workforces have dispersed as some employees are transitioning to a work from home model, while others may need to work on-site. Regardless of where employees are, they will need access to their schedules from anywhere, at any time.

Provide a flexible pay experience

When employees are financially stressed, both their health and work performance can suffer. In Ceridian’s Pay Experience Report, 80% of employees surveyed said they feel at least slightly stressed about money on a regular basis. Today, the odds of slipping into a recession are increasingly likely, creating further anxiety. Employees that report high levels of financial stress are more than four times as likely to suffer from symptoms of fatigue, depression, or other ailments, and twice as likely to report poor health overall.

Organizations can adopt innovative on-demand pay technology that allows the workforce to access their pay on the same day, rather than waiting for the next pay period to be paid out. This will help employees reduce stress around finances and signal to employees that the organization is recognizing and meeting their needs.

Offer holistic benefits

Employees are grappling with many changes and navigating day-to-day life with an uncertain future. Organizations can offer wellness programs that include mental health benefits to help ensure workers have access to the type of care needed to prevent, treat, or manage psychological distress and burnout.

Taking it a step further, organizations have begun using technology, like online benefits selection tools, to help employees customize their benefits packages to meet their individual needs. 

Maintain a positive employee experience

Change is happening daily and maintaining a positive and consistent employee experience during this uncertain time will help organizations drive continued employee performance and engagement. Leadership must set the tone for the workforce, and this starts with genuine engagement, as well as open and honest conversations every step of the way.

Offering an intuitive, personalized, and consistent experience – from communication to benefits and the way employees are paid – will reduce friction points and help employees manage stress and anxiety.

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Ceridian Institute

The Ceridian Institute provides forward-looking insights that build awareness and advocacy of the trends and challenges facing the workplace. The Institute is composed of industry leaders from Ceridian’s Industry, Value, and Solution advisories, reflecting the team’s research into the future of work and business intelligence.

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Jarrett Jedlicka

Jarrett has held a number of senior positions at leading healthcare and technology organizations and is a contributing author to Ceridian's thought leadership. 

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