The world of work changed virtually overnight with the global spread of COVID-19. In this series, we'll share personal stories and perspectives from Cornerstone employees who—like so many of us—are doing their best to balance life, work and learning from their couches, kitchen tables and other makeshift office spaces.
With astonishing swiftness, the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down businesses large and small, bringing the U.S. and global economy to a standstill. As of April 9, 2020, nearly 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Unfortunately, this number is expected to gradually increase in the coming weeks, and many experts now predict that a recession is imminent.
How companies react right now is crucial. Anxiety levels are high, but this is an opportunity for organizations to set themselves apart by putting their most valuable asset—their people—ahead of profits for as long as they can.
For example, after sending everyone home to work remotely, Facebook announced that all employees will receive six-month bonuses and an additional $1,000 bonus to help them during the coronavirus outbreak. Amgen, a pharmaceutical company that makes medications for heart disease and migraines, sent some employees home with $250 stipends, a $50-a-month allowance for internet and phone services and a promise to pay them whatever they normally earn each week even if their work demands dwindle.
Not all organizations will have the deep pockets to make these kinds of immediate expenditures, but there are other ways companies can take care of their workers—and brace them for the impact of the coming recession. Here are a few way to protect your employees and prepare them for what’s ahead:
Recalibrate Your Incentive Plans
If there is an individual performance component to your incentive plan design, consider recalibrating these metrics to reflect the reality of our current crisis. Facebook, for example, has defaulted all their employees to their highest performance rating of "Exceeds Expectations" for its current six-month review cycle and made these payouts immediately.
To put money in the hands of people now and reduce the stress of impending performance reviews in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic, adjust the process. Goals set at the beginning of the year will likely not be met. Instead, establish new, more realistic quotas, timelines, project deliverables and milestones.
For Vulnerable Workers, Offer Hazard Pay
Any organization deemed an essential business during COVID-19 (grocery stores, hardware stores, etc.) is likely worried about the health of its workers. To express and act on this concern, they should consider providing vulnerable or essential workers with hazard pay—temporary lump-sum appreciation bonuses that typically range from two to three times the standard base rate.
Kroger, a popular food retailer, has awarded its frontline workforce with lump-sum appreciation bonuses. This will translate to $300 bonus payments made to all full-time hourly employees and $150 payments for all part-time hourly employees. Whole Foods is taking similar actions after the grocery store chain was publicly shamed for failing to provide proper care and protective equipment for its employees. The company has now pledged to raise the pay of its hourly employees by$2 per hour for the next month.
Extra compensation for those employees putting in the extra work right now (and putting their health at risk) is the right thing to do. These payments will not only make workers feel appreciated, but it can provide them with the additional resources they might need if they get sick.
Begin Budgeting for Crisis Management
Make it a priority to create or contribute to a crisis management fund for your business. Set aside money, place it in savings and do not touch it. Many companies do this already and put 1% of payroll into a promotional or ad hoc market adjustment budget to be used throughout the year as needs arise. If possible, businesses should start organizing these relief funds as quickly as possible. During the COVID-19 pandemic and in its imminent aftermath, they will need this money to assist their workforce (and keep the lights on).
Embrace Unlimited PTO
In general, I think companies today waste too much time on tracking the accrual and use of PTO. The amount of time required to track, monitor, approve, deny and mitigate issues around it is a prime example of process for the sake of a process. Unlimited PTO, on the other hand, is managed between manager and salaried employee as needs arise and allows for flexibility when necessary.
During COVID-19, embrace unlimited PTO or establish specific two- to three-week PTO banks for all salaried employees. This way, if employees become sick, they can take care of themselves without becoming stressed about being able to make ends meet.
Use This Opportunity to Rethink and Redesign
We are experiencing a true cultural fulcrum point. Organizations must act tactically now in many ways—but we also have an opportunity to sit back and rethink many of our policies and practices. HR professionals, business leaders and managers everywhere have the chance to re-center their organizations as strategic, caring and able to handle crises. After COVID-19, nothing will be the same, so now is the time to decide what to clean up and what to throw out as we step into this new world of work.
Jeremy Spake is a principal of thought leadership & strategy at Cornerstone.
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Ten Dad-Friendly Workplaces
When we talk about the quest to "have it all," it's almost always in reference to working women trying to balance a stressful 9-to-5 with the equally difficult demands of family. To be sure, women face distinct challenges in the workplace and high expectations at home. But this Father's Day, let's not forget that dads are increasingly juggling work and home life, too. Single fatherhood is becoming more common in the US—a 2013 Pew report found that a record 8 percent of families with children were headed by a single dad—and 60 percent of households with children are dual-income as of 2014, putting added pressure on both working parents. While policies in the US do not mandate paid family leave of any kind—unlike parent-topia Sweden, which offers 16 months of paid parental leave and three months specifically for paternity leave—many companies are now thinking about how they can help their workers be "Employee of the Year," without sacrificing their "Dad of the Year" trophy. Here are ten excellent companies for working dads, based on a new report from parenting resource website Fatherly. 1. Google Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 53,600 Paid Paternity Leave: 7 weeks (12 weeks for primary caregiver) Industry: Tech Dad-friendly Policy Highlight: When you work with Google, your family is part of the family—really. If an employee passes away, the company provides his/her spouse with 50 percent of their salary for 10 years and immediately vested stock options, and children receive $1,000 a month until they turn 19 (or 23 if they're a student). 2. Facebook Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA Number Of Employees: 10,082 Paid Paternity Leave: 17 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: Procreating pays off. Facebook gives new parents a $4,000 "new child benefit," along with subsidized day care. Not to mention the $20,000 worth of supplemental insurance coverage for fertility and family planning treatments. 3. Bank of America Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Charlotte, NC Number Of Employees: 220,000 Paid Parental Leave: 12 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Bank of America's twelve weeks of paid paternity leave is on par with countries likeIceland. Not too shabby. And, if you can handle the pay break, the company also allows for an additional 14 weeks of unpaid leave. 4. Patagonia Photo: Shutterstock Headquarters: Ventura, CA Number Of Employees: 2,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 8 weeks Industry: Retail Policy Highlight: Working parents don't have to stray far from their kids as Patagonia provides on-site child care for kids up to nine years old. The famously laid-back company will also provide afternoon transportation from local schools back to the office babysitter. 5. State Street Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Boston, MA Number Of Employees: 29,530 Paid Paternity Leave: 4 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Flexible work arrangements are a must for the busy working dad (or mom). State Street's program helps take the stress out of setting up some work-from-home time by requiring their managers to approach their employees about flexible work options. 6. Genentech Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: San Francisco, CA Number Of Employees: 14,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Biotech Policy Highlight: Along with dedicated paid paternity time, Genentech also offers a sabbatical program for long-term employees. Every six years, you earn six months of time off—perfect for a long summer trip with the kids. 7. LinkedIn Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 6,800 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: LinkedIn likes to encourage employees to think outside their cubicle and, in addition to "special projects" time once a month, you will get a $5,000 stipend for job-related education expenses. Maybe "Childcare 101" would qualify? 8. Arnold & Porter LLP Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Washington D.C. Number Of Employees: 1,284 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks (18 for primary caregiver) Industry: Legal Policy Highlights: If your spouse or partner is gainfully employed and you'd like to trade some of those work hours for family time, Arnold and Porter allows employees working at least 25 hours to qualify for benefits. The firm even has an expert panel on hand to help their lawyers make the switch to part-time. 9. Roche Diagnostics Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Indianapolis, IN (North American HQ) Number Of Employees: 4,500 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Healthcare Policy Highlight: Roche employees have plenty of opportunities to teach Junior essential life lessons like how to swing a bat or grow a juicy tomato. The company spends $35,000 annually on sponsored extracurriculars like community sports leagues, and also offers an on-site employee produce garden. 10. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: New York, NY Number Of Employees: 41,000 (U.S.) Paid Parental Leave: 6 weeks (plus an additional 2 weeks if have or adopt more than one kid) Industry: Professional Services Policy Highlight: Another company that values ad-hoc work schedules, PwC allows employees work-from-home options as well as ""Flex Days." So if you can cram 40 hours of work into less than five days and clear your schedule, you could end up with more frequent three-day weekends and more time with the kids. Photo: Shutterstock