I own and manage several companies with several hundred employees in North America and so far have unfortunately lost two employees to COVID-19. Will I lose more? This fear does not keep me sleeping, although I have taken all recommended precautions and in most cases even overcome them.
There is nothing that scares an entrepreneur more than getting things right and things always go wrong. I thought I had overcome all sorts of entrepreneurship challenges and I believed that those struggles shaped my character. However, nothing prepared me for the opportunity to lose the people I worked with and loved.
Of all the lessons I learned in 2020, the biggest was this: The pandemic showed how many business leaders really think, and it wasn’t pretty. Let’s count the shapes.
“Do what I say, not what I do” is no guide
At the start of the pandemic, a University of Washington researcher estimated that more than 14 million workers in the US could be exposed to COVID-19 each week. This could be why a poll by the Pew Research Center in October found that 71% of workers who could do their jobs mostly from home were teleworking at least most of the time.
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As much as I believe in safety, I also believe in going back to work. That is why we returned to our office with all employees who are not at risk, only half of them at once. In order to maintain social distance, all other desks are now empty.
I’m not the only one doing this, but I’ve met and heard of company leaders who insist that their employees return while those executives stay at home or hide in their offices. You shouldn’t require your employees to have different security standards than your own.
You need to continue to recognize those who go beyond that
In the middle of the pandemic, I saw the range of human emotions. Some employees threw themselves into their work while others tried to take advantage of the situation from home. A handful of employees have actually introduced new innovations to safely perform excellently despite COVID-19 restrictions. I made sure to recognize and reward these wonderful people.
Image: Luis Alvarez | Getty Images
It’s worth smiling
Of course, there won’t be many promotions during a pandemic, but here’s a headline you might not expect: “35 Companies That Increased Employee Benefits Under COVID-19”.
An article by EBN December showed how these companies offered or increased services such as childcare, wellness programs, flexible working hours, and even telemedicine. Why spend more money during a pandemic? Because those few dollars give back a lot more.
We use flexible hours at my company, but we’ve also kept our annual employee tenure bonuses. Many of them expected to be cut. We usually recognize these employees at our annual party and they hoped it would be canceled.
Instead, we celebrate the party virtually. We paid to have boxes of groceries and a small bottle of champagne delivered to hundreds of employees’ homes to eat and drink with their families while we zoomed in to spot our employees.
- Read: Under Pressure: 6 Ways To Be a Good Manager During an Ongoing Crisis
Was it worth the money Sure. I received many open emails from employees who were touched by a little frivolity and coziness in their workplace as the pandemic dragged on.
Long after people vaccinate, your employees will remember what you did for them.