PROTECTING EMPLOYEES DURING THE COVID19 PANDEMIC

April 03, 2020
By: 
Felice Caringal-Go, PhD Cand., RPsy

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted all facets of our lives. It has required so many changes in the way we go about our daily lives, including the way we work. Moreover, these changes and uncertainties bring about many unpleasant emotions, such as fear, anxiety, anger. This situation is unprecedented, and many are left struggling with how to cope.

Although some might feel powerless in this situation, it is important to remember that there are still many opportunities to help ourselves and the people we work with. Ateneo CORD conducted a quick study on how organizations care for their employees during this pandemic, and our results show that these strategies can be summarized with the acronym PROTECT.

PROVIDE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE - It is important to provide a sense of financial security among employees so that they can address their own basic needs, as well as the basic needs of their loved ones. Thus, this includes initiatives such as continued disbursement of salary, early release of bonuses and 13th month pay and hazard pay for employees who have to report to work. Teams may also pool resources and raise funds for daily-wage earners and contractual staff such as security, cleaning staff and drivers.

REVIEW PLANS AND ADJUST ACCORDINGLY – Reduced operations, in addition to the mental stress that employees are undergoing, will certainly have an impact on employees’ productivity and performance. Given this, there is a need to practice flexibility and understanding with regards to the performance metrics of employees and org-level plans for the organization. Deadlines may have  to be extended and quotas may need to be lowered to be more realistic. Part of making business continuity plans is having a dedicated team to monitor the situation, and brainstorming on options for what the company can do to support the employees when quarantine is lifted, depending on how the situation unfolds.

OFFER RELEVANT ASSISTANCE – Organizations must consider the working context of their employees and provide resources that are relevant in their given situation. For example, some employees need to work from home, while a skeletal workforce might be required to report to the office. Organizations can support their frontliners by providing transportation, meals and sleeping quarters to lessen the need for movement. Support for those working from home may be in the form of internet allowance.

TRAIN USING ALTERNATIVE PLATFORMS - This pandemic has resulted in a lot of change for people, and has also highlighted the importance of technology. Training can help in facilitating employees’ adjustment. One clear way is to provide informational resources (such as articles and videos) that can help employees adjust to a work-from-home arrangement. These include how to set up a home office, how to lead virtual teams, how to present online, and how to use apps and collaborative platforms. In addition to training on technology, training can also be done on skills related to mental health such as breathing and stress management.

ENGAGE EMPLOYEES – This involves continuously connecting with employees through regular check-ups and various activities. Regular kamustahan sessions to ask team members how they (and their families) are doing physically and mentally may help them feel cared for. Simple activities can be done together online such as workout classes, games, and prayer time.

COMMUNICATE – In times of crisis, it is important for leaders to make their presence felt. This can be done by releasing a message from the head of the organization to show support for the employees and give them encouragement and inspiration. Regular communication can also be done through official newsletters from the organization. The information shared here can be specifically about work, or verified information about the COVID situation.

THINK BEYOND THE ORGANIZATION –This pandemic greatly affects society in general, and this is where the Filipino spirit of bayanihan comes in. Thinking beyond the organization involves finding ways to help other people, even if they are not employees. Support for clients, suppliers, distributors and other external partners can be shown by being flexible on systems, processes and payment schemes. CSR initiatives towards the greater community (such as donating and providing services to those in the frontline) will go a long way, and may also provide a sense of control for employees who are searching for ways to help.

Of course, organizations have different circumstances, and their needs and resources may differ from others’. It is therefore important to have a keen understanding of the context of your organization and the employees within it to be able to choose the most appropriate initiatives. We hope, that these suggestions provide ideas on  how employees can be protected and ways to help them cope during this pandemic. We thank the people who responded to our survey and invite you to continue sharing strategies that have worked for your company so that we can all learn together.
We’re all in this together. Let’s care for each other, and protect each other, and may God bless us always.
 
Felice Caringal-Go is a licensed psychologist and is the  Director for Research of  Ateneo CORD. She is also a part-time faculty member of the Ateneo Department of Psychology. For inquiries or comments you can email cord.soss@ateneo.edu Find out more about PROTECT on our Google Site: https://sites.google.com/ateneo.edu/caresprotect/home