7 best practices for supporting employees during COVID-19

Getting culture right is crucial at any time—but it’s particularly important in times of crisis.
By: | May 1, 2020 • 5 min read

“People always remember how you make them feel.”

During the hardest times, this quote is especially true—people always remember how you make them feel. In 10 or even 30 years, people will remember the coronavirus pandemic and how their companies made them feel during this unprecedented time.

I work at a company that has a cultural value of “treating employees like family.” As COVID-19 continues its spread across the globe, the health and safety of our employees is our top priority. This has been our guiding principle in making difficult decisions. Taking lessons from my current role and previous experiences, here are seven things companies can be doing now to boost employee happiness and wellness during the coronavirus pandemic:

1. Empower Managers to Lead Change: Everyone is personally affected by COVID-19—whether you have a family member who is sick, you’re struggling to be in isolation or you’re learning to work from home and/or learning to work with family at home. Everyone on your team may be at a different point of the change continuum as they deal with their own transitions.

We’re all learning to let go and to embrace a new reality over time. And no matter where you may be on the change curve, it is OK. When you understand where you are, you can help lead others through the transition, too. Now, more than ever, we all need to step up and become a source of inspiration for our teams.

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2. Implement Daily Check-In Calls: When things are hard, it’s so important to stay close to your people. It can take up to three times as many virtual meetings to build the same trust you can from one in-person meeting. At Sprinklr, we’ve asked all leaders to hold daily 15-min “Heartbeat” calls to stay close and connected with their teams. This is a great opportunity to check in with everyone on the team—not just about work but also about how everyone is doing personally. Some leaders have started asking employees to share their highs and lows of the day; this encourages everyone to work through problems together but also shows employees that they’re not alone. Asking people to share highs and lows also brings positivity into the workplace by eliminating a culture of fear. I want employees to know that we’re all going through this pandemic together for the first time, and it’s a new challenge for everyone.

3. Maintain Consistent Communication: During this pandemic, everyone knows that things aren’t “business as usual.” Give people the opportunity to understand what’s happening and ask questions by communicating frequently and quickly. Send consistent messages and host town-hall meetings updating employees regarding travel, office closures and confirmed employee cases while maintaining confidentiality. Transparent communication builds trust while also helping companies to identify employee concerns before they become major problems.

4. Respect Employees’ Privacy When Checking In: We have an internal process in place to stay close to people and monitor employees’ health. It’s important to check in with employees when they are sick or their loved ones are ill, but it’s also important to ensure their anonymity. And, when there are employees self-reporting cases, or those who are ill, reach out to show genuine concern and to see if they need any help.

5. Focus on Learning and Development: Now is the perfect time to focus on something positive in the midst of the hard—like learning a new skill. Learning and development programs can increase employee engagement and retention while also improving employee performance. At Sprinklr, employees are using resources like LinkedIn Learning and Audible for Business.

6. Be Intentional with Wellness: Empower employees with the support and tools they need to stay productive and healthy in the face of new challenges. Remote work can be hard for many people, so it’s important to provide a forum for employees to share resources, and give employees permission to work out or meditate during the work day. Additionally, implementing mindfulness into your workplace can encourage people to reduce stress and anxiety that they may be feeling during this time.

At Sprinklr, we implemented Headspace—a mindfulness and mediation app—that makes it easy for people around the world to get even a few minutes of mediation in a day just by using an app on their phone. We also hired a mindfulness instructor we call a “Happier Coach” who is offering Mindful Moment sessions three times a day virtually to employees worldwide. These sessions are 15 minutes long and include stretching, breath work, a guided mediation and a moment of gratitude.

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7. Give Employees Ongoing Flexibility. In a recent company-wide meeting, Sprinklr’s CEO/Founder Ragy Thomas spoke about our focus on integrated living, saying “We have one, integrated life. Your children are a part of it. Your dog is a part of it. Your friends are a part of it. I want you to give yourself permission to be you. If you need to take care of your child, do it. If you need to walk your dog, do it. Give yourself permission to take the artificial boundary of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. away.” Ragy’s statement highlights the importance of flexibility during COVID-19, when people may be dealing with a new working environment and new challenges at home. Let employees know that it’s OK to take a break to be with your children or just take a walk. Do what will make you happier.

Getting culture right is crucial across all levels of business at any time—but it’s particularly important in times of crisis. When we’re happy, we’re at our best personally and professionally, and everyone wins.

Want more insights on building culture within your team? Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Diane Adams is Sprinklr chief culture and talent officer.