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COVID-19

The Right Way To Survey Employees During A Crisis

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into May, many employees are entering up to their third month working remotely under quarantine.

Some of your employees may be adapting to the change well, creating a healthy work-life balance, while others may be feeling pressure to be productive or living and working in fear of being laid off.

As a responsible and caring manager, you understand why it’s important to survey employees during this crisis:

  • It sends a message that you are here and you are listening
  • It’s an act of compassion that builds employee trust
  • It’s an essential source of business intelligence for navigating new unknowns

Surveying right now is not only wise, it’s crucial to help your business thrive through the current recession…… if you do it right, that is.

If you want to get the fullest possible picture of your employee experience, your survey’s design, execution and details matter.

Over the past 30 years, Great Place to Work® has helped countless companies design, deliver and execute their employee surveys, including during times of crisis such as the Great Recession.

In the process, we’ve identified several best practices for surveying during a crisis:

Before you send the survey

Reassure confidentiality

A common fear among employees is that their employer will be able to connect their responses to them. They worry that their requests will seem ungrateful or harsh at a time when some are without jobs.

When you make clear that all responses are confidential, you create the psychological safety that encourages people to share their feedback openly and honestly, in a way they might not feel comfortable doing face to face.

Give context

Sensitive questions, such as those that ask about homelife, call for thoughtful explanation. In your pre-survey communications, giving employees context.

Explain your endgame

No employee wants to take the time to share their feedback and criticism, only to find that the company merely files it away and never acts on it. Sending a survey and failing to act on it can be worse than not surveying at all.

It’s essential that you let your people know what you will do with their feedback. This ensures they will feel heard, cared for and willing to share with you again, contributing to the high-trust company culture you are working to create.

Meet employees where they are

The survey you send during a crisis likely won’t look are those that you’ve sent during “normal” times. It’s important to design it in a way that takes into consideration what employees may be experiencing at the time.

For example, an organization that has had to furlough employees may tailor a survey to recognizing “survivors’ guilt” among their colleagues who remain.

Employees on the frontlines, like health care workers, will need acknowledgment that they are likely overwhelmed and may not have the capacity to respond to a survey:

  • Keep the survey brief
  • Recognize potential limitations in your communications
  • Offer alternative avenues for them to provide feedback (such as their supervisor or HR)

These demonstrate flexibility and sensitivity to their situation.

What questions should you ask?

To decide what to ask, it can help to work with the end in mind.

A useful way to do this is to ask yourself what would be the most helpful things for your organization to learn so you’re well-placed to support your employees better in the current climate.

Once you’ve determined that, let these best practices inform your questions:

Ask up to three open-ended questions

It’s important to give employees a forum to share their thoughts in a way that paints a vivid picture of their experience.

However, it’s rarely a good idea to ask people to write too much. Writing open-ended answers requires additional cognitive load that employees may not have available — especially in times of crisis where employees are processing extraordinary anxiety.

Incorporate quantitative statements

The idea here is to look for signs of improvement (or decline). When you incorporate quantitative statements, you can revisit them in 2-3 months and see how things have shifted over time.

Use a mix of crisis-related and “business as usual” statements

We use a mix of our Trust Index™ survey statements – these are statements that almost 30 years of research tells us are key drivers of great company culture – with statements that you can design specific to the current climate.

Examples of two situation-specific statements and one recurring one from our Trust Index survey:

  • I am supported to care for my responsibilities at home (situation-specific)
  • I feel financially secure for the next several months (situation-specific)
  • Management involves people in decisions that affect their jobs or work environment (recurring Trust Index survey question)

Include questions about management

In times of crisis, leaders need additional support to balance the needs of their people, their organization and their own personal experience.

Some statements we recommend to measure and help leadership under crisis:

  • Management involves people in decisions that affect their jobs or work environment
  • Management keeps me informed about important issues and changes
  • I feel safe speaking up
  • Management shows a sincere interest in me as a person, not just an employee

Example survey questions from Best Workplaces™

Here are some sample questions that Great Place to Work clients have used in recent pulse surveys to generate clear and actionable feedback:

  • What is one way we could continue to support you?
  • What is your biggest concern right now – at home or at work?
  • Is there anything the organization can do in light of these circumstances that would be helpful to you?
  • What communication/updates would be valuable to you during this time?
  • What suggestions do you have that the organization should consider to restart our business when the timing allows?

Not only do your employees know best what they need, they will also have many of the ideas that are going to enable you to move beyond the current crisis. Questions like the ones above can generate answers that help you create an action plan to address employee concerns and improve your response to COVID-19.

Follow up, follow through

After you close the survey and analyze results, you must communicate results, sharing what you learned from the survey and what actions you are taking in response to employees’ feedback.

This is vital because it:

  • Demonstrates listening and commitment to your employees’ well-being
  • Preserves and builds trust and credibility with your people

By designing an employee survey that addresses employees’ experience and needs during the pandemic will help you put your time, energy and resources in the right places.

If you would like our support surveying your employees during this critical time, please hit this link.

For more on how to navigate in this time of crisis, see our other coronavirus resources.

– Claire Hastwell& Julie Musilek
Content Strategist & Director of product marketing
Great Place To Work® USA

Build a High-Trust, High-Performance CulturesTM

COVID-19

COVID-19: Why You Need to Survey Your Employees Right Now

Postponing surveys could erode trust, exacerbate employee anxiety, and bar opportunities for building a stronger workplace culture.

In a short time, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted companies around the world. It has forced us to lead during uncertainty, learn how to telecommute effectively while avoiding burnout, get better at communicating with remote workers (and engaging them) and much more. It’s been a crash course in resilience!

With so many rapid changes, it might seem like now is an unstable time to survey employees.

“After all,” you might think, “with this being such an unstable time, I know responses won’t be representative of the way things normally are around here. It would be better to wait until things return to normal, so we can make changes based on the way the business usually operates, not the way we’re doing things during COVID-19.”

The reality is that employee surveys are an essential listening tool right now, while the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting how your organization operates.

Why survey employees during COVID-19?

You only need to read employee comments from Best Workplaces™ who are surveying during COVID-19 to see how employees perceive companies paying attention to their employee experience.

On March 23rd — the day that British PM Boris Johnson issued a sweeping stay-at-home order – a DHL employee survey respondent in the UK had this to say to the question, “If you could change one thing about this company, what would it be?”:

“Very little, as the company regularly asks for feedback and continually asks, ‘Is DHL still a great place to work?’ And the answer is: yes, it is. DHL has done an amazing job during this pandemic in keeping us all up to date and safe.”

One employee at National Corporate Housing expressed a similar sentiment in a pulse survey sent on March 20th. Employees responded to a question on how much they “feel a sense of pride” in their company:

“I think this is especially true during this time. So many of my friends and family work for companies who do not care about their employees. I take comfort and pride in knowing that our Executive Team is doing everything they can to protect the 300 families here at National.”

The act of surveying shows employees at these companies that their personal experiences are a priority.

Here are three specific ways surveying employees during COVID-19 benefits companies and employees:

Reinforces an intention of care

When you survey employees during tough times, you are showing them that you are committed to their well-being.

Surveying now acknowledges the stress created by the COVID-19 pandemic and sends a message that you are here, and you are listening.

In order to reinforce that you care, it’s critical that you:

  • Share the survey results
  • Take action on the results

Sharing the survey results, what you learned from the survey and what actions you’re taking as a result of the survey helps build the kind of trust and credibility that are a hallmark of Best WorkplacesTM — and a key component of the Trust Model™ that 30+ years of research have revealed to us.

Gives you crucial insight into how to best support them

Asking someone you manage, “How are you feeling?” may not always get quite as honest and direct a response as confidential employee survey.

During times when employees are experiencing fear, anxiety and uncertainty, they may feel least equipped to vocalize their needs and experience with the organization or their people leader. Without this insight, organizations may have a blind spot when making decisions and operate without the benefit of this data.

At Great Place to Work® our leaders sent out a 10-question pulse survey to see how employees were coping with unique stresses of coronavirus. The results were enlightening.

Among other things, we learned that:

  • Employees’ caretaking scope has expanded. Worry over laid-off relatives and older parents vulnerable to the coronavirus is a huge burden.
    As one employee put it, “My biggest concern are my parents and the possibility of them contracting COVID. I just want to make sure they do not go out as much, even for groceries.”
  • There is a new financial fear. Our leaders learned that financial concerns are top-of-mind and the specific ways people are financially burdened.

“We wouldn’t have learned that if we hadn’t surveyed,” our CEO Michael said.

Helps you navigate the recession

Our research on diversity and inclusion shows that the experience of certain groups of employees predicts whether organizations flatline, survive or thrive during a recession.

Often-marginalized employees turn out to be forecasters of when the business climate will turn bad. These employee groups include:

  • Women
  • People of colour
  • Frontline workers
  • Hourly male workers
  • Long-tenured employees

Why study these groups?

  • They play vital roles in both good times and bad
  • They often serve customers directly and are plugged into the reality of how the business is doing.
  • They’re also a source of good ideas that many companies overlook, like ideas for cutting costs or new ways to create revenue.
  • Their employee experience can uncover insights about opportunities to change your company culture and better recession-proof your business.

Surveying your employees is not only an act of compassion — it’s a source of essential business intelligence as we stare down a possible prolonged economic downturn.

If you would like our support surveying your employees during this critical time, please hit this link.

For more on how to navigate in this time of crisis, see our other coronavirus resources.

– Laurie Minott
Partner at Great Place to Work® USA

Build a High-Trust, High-Performance CulturesTM

COVID-19

Going Remote: 4 Practical Ways to Promote Work-Life Balance and Avoid Burnout

This article is part of a series on leading during the current pandemic. For more advice on how your company can manage in these difficult times, see our COVID-19 resources.

As the coronavirus spreads through the world, many companies are choosing to switch to remote work to protect their employees from COVID-19. Other organizations find themselves forced to adapt as cities and states mandate shelter-in-place.

Remote work is a valuable tool as companies try to minimize disruptions and keep operations running as close to normal as possible. However, when people who aren’t used to telecommuting transition from working in the office to working from home, they may cling to habits and norms that don’t translate to working remotely.

The burnout risks

As a leader, it’s up to you to support employees and your company culture by creating the conditions for remote work success.

Here are a few ways you can help employees transition to working remotely while avoiding burnout:

1. Embrace flexible scheduling

You may have already noticed that some team members are more productive in the morning, while others get more done after lunch.

This is especially true when working remotely. In fact, many people are most productive outside the standard 9-to-5 workday hours.

As your organization shifts to remote work, give your employees the opportunity to adjust their work schedule with their most productive hours. This is especially important during the COVID-19 crisis, as schools close, keeping children home during the day.

Employees will appreciate you trusting them to manage their time and workload effectively. They’ll also enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that they can balance both their work and home demands.

2. Suggest employees designate a workspace

If your employees are used to going to an office every day, staying at home for hours on end will undoubtedly feel a little strange.

To help, suggest that they designate a dedicated workspace, whether that be a home office they already have or the dining room table.

Having a space to go to, even if it’s in their house, will help them compartmentalize “work” vs. “home.”

3. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Working from home has many perks for employees. One is that they could, in theory, work in their pajamas.

However, when people can roll out of bed and immediately turn on their computers, some of them will feel pressure to do so. The lines between “work” and “home” can quickly become blurred.

Encourage employees to set boundaries on when they start and end their days. This transition is already an adjustment; make it clear you don’t expect them to “clock in” at the crack of dawn or stay online 24/7.

4. Help employees prioritize their wellness

Working from home will naturally make some employees go stir crazy. Understandably, overall anxiety is also currently at a high for many people. Throw in the fact that offices naturally encourage a certain amount of walking (such as to lunch, meetings and co-workers’ desks) and you can see how the current shift to remote work could negatively impact employee health and wellness.

  • Encourage employees to make time for their health:
  • Simply taking a walk can help employees feel healthier and happier.
  • You might also suggest they build time into their schedules for a fitness class or workout during their day.

At Great Place to Work® USA, “Traverse Club” pops up in employees’ calendars every Wednesday afternoon. It’s a reminder for everyone to get up from their desk to move, whether by walking, running or dancing.

Helping employees prioritize their own health and wellness will make them feel better, stay healthier and be able to keep going during the crisis

Concerned about how the coronavirus impacts your workplace? We are, too.

We’ve got you covered. Here are some other things to consider as you guide through the current crisis:

– Claire Hastwell

Content Marketing Manager at Great Place to Work®

Build a High-Trust, High-Performance CulturesTM

COVID-19

How to Reinforce Workplace Diversity During Organizational Restructuring

Many companies (and employees) are bracing for a wave of layoffs and restructurings due to the coronavirus. Some difficult decisions lay ahead. Our goal is to support you through this time and help you sustain the diverse and inclusive company culture you have built.

It turns out that the best workplaces have found a way of turning mergers and restructuring into moments to build and deepen a sense of inclusion across an organization.

Why diversity matters when companies restructure

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies tend to focus on recruitment, hiring, promotions and pay. These moments are essential for diversity in the workplace where all employees feel they belong and can bring their best.

However, to create a truly equitable workplace, D&I leaders need to reach beyond these traditional areas of concern and get involved in other key areas of the employee experience.

Restructuring is one such area. When companies restructure, the gap between the experiences of different demographic groups in the workplace grows.

Using data from Great Place to Work®, researchers at The Wharton School and Harvard Business School analysed employees’ workplace experiences based on their race and gender.

As you might expect, they found women and minorities typically have fewer positive experiences than white men. But they also discovered something striking.

These gaps in experiences widen in companies that engage in corporate restructuring, specifically mergers and acquisitions (M&As), divestitures and layoffs. In fact, companies that engage in one or more of these activities typically have experience gaps 45% larger than companies that did not restructure.

Workplace diversity

Remarkably, it only took one event to expose the larger gap. With just one layoff, merger or divestiture, the gap grows.

Leaders usually seek to grow profits, not differences. But regardless of leaders’ intentions, their subconscious biases can colour decisions around reorganizations and resulting job changes.

The lack of transparency that typically surrounds M&As and other restructurings can also impact the experience gap, breeding fairness concerns among groups that have been mistreated historically.

How can we prevent or lessen these negative effects?

Three ways D&I leaders can step in and help employees navigate change:

1. Give human support

Restructurings create high stakes, high pressure and isolation for everyone, including executives.

Find moments to offer empathy and support to top leaders.

These human moments strengthen your relationships with leaders, adding credibility to the perspectives and advice you share about how to create belonging and connections. They can also provide leaders an example to follow as they extend the same support to others.

2. Bridge Perspectives

Restructuring is a crisis moment for many leaders.

It’s a natural reaction to that crisis for executives to collaborate primarily with people they know and trust already. Unfortunately, that behaviour restricts thinking and creates blind spots.

As a D&I leader, you have unique insights and connections in the business that let you see things that other leaders won’t.

Encourage the executive team to include other stakeholders in restructuring decisions and to explore questions like, “how will different employee groups experience this change?

3. Leverage your networks

The networks you’ve built up to support D&I are powerful. Tap into their strengths to help get the messages out about the restructuring.

These networks can act as a reality check on whether employees believe they’ve been heard by leadership or whether decisions are being widely and clearly communicated. In many cases, you’ll find that employees do not feel the company is telling them enough about what is happening and what to expect.

Making sure the company communicates clearly about the restructuring can go a long way to promoting transparency, building up a sense of safety and minimizing gaps in the employee experience.

Change is hard — but you can make it easier

Your company may have avenues for relief through economic downturn or crises – restructuring, one of them.

By looking at restructuring as an opportunity to preserve and reinforce D&I, rather than destroy it, you can make it a less painful experience for employees and strengthen your workplace culture.

To learn more on how to sustain employees’ experience through the current crises, see our resources.

– Claire Hastwell

Content Marketing Manager at Great Place to Work®

Build a High-Trust, High-Performance CulturesTM

COVID-19

COVID-19: Learning to Love Telecommuting

There’s a lot to hate about COVID-19 and how it is hurting people and organizations.

However, the pandemic could also lead to something we come to love: telecommuting as never before.

Many companies are responding to the global Coronavirus outbreak by asking as many employees as possible to work from home. Not surprisingly, many of the best examples of organizations taking the lead on “social distancing” at this time are Great Place to Work-Certified™ organizations in USA—companies including technology provider Citrix, financial services company Capital One and job site Indeed.

These companies are showing they are serious about not only caring for their own employees, but also protecting the broader community, given the public health imperative to “flatten the curve” when it comes to the spread of the virus.

It’s not as easy as saying “just stay home and work.”

Good-faith efforts to safeguard people by having employees work remotely pose challenges:

  • Organizations that haven’t enabled or promoted telework in the past are suddenly in unfamiliar situations with no existing norms to lean on.
  • Teams may not know how to collaborate well when colleagues are no longer across the table.
  • Leaders may not know how to check in on their people effectively when those employees are scattered throughout a region.
  • Technology departments may not have outfitted employees with systems for remote, secure work and collaboration.
  • Executives and everyone else may be missing the camaraderie and community of a busy office—just when people are hungrier than ever for connection and reassurance.

Any one of these can make productive telecommuting difficult.

Fortunately, there are some best practices for telecommuting that you can learn from during these unprecedented days:

Tap smart collaboration tools — especially videoconferencing

Even though employees may be isolated in their homes, that doesn’t mean collaboration and communication have to grind to a halt.

Today, there are many cloud-based technologies that make remote work as efficient and effective as working in a traditional office.

Teleconferencing tools in particular are powerful for restoring social connection and offering much richer communication than emails, intranets or phone calls alone. Seeing a familiar face or faces on the screen, being able to read gestures and body language, and the ability to share documents “live” goes a long way.

According to Harvard Business Review, teams that use videoconferencing experience higher levels of collaboration on decisions reached by videoconference compared to decisions made through a phone call or email.

Some of the tools available today are Zoom and Cisco WebEx.

Communicate frequently — and not just about work

Remote work arrangements can leave people feeling lonely, isolated and adrift.

The solution is to communicate plenty. This means clear guidance from leaders as well as opportunities for employees to pose questions and offer ideas.

The exchanges shouldn’t just be about work, though. Especially if companies are going to have people working remotely for weeks or months on end, there ought to be an “intentional remote culture.” That’s a term used by Kai Andrews, a consultant with advisory firm Point B.

“Don’t abandon the tenets that make your company culture unique. Hold regular virtual non-work-related meetings with your employees to talk about more casual topics,” Kai wrote in a recent article.

“Identify ‘water-cooler topic’ leaders who can form virtual discussion groups around topics such as sports, movies, cooking and much more. Employees can self-select into groups and new connections will form while old connections are maintained,” Kai suggests.

Plan and set clear policies—even if you’ve already sent people home

Other sound suggestions from Point B regarding remote employees include:

  • Establishing expectations around work hours
  • Providing guidance for teleconferencing etiquette (for example, on-camera eating is usually a no-no)
  • Expand support resources so employees don’t get frustrated about failed log-ins and other snafus
  • Telework and trust
  • COVID-19 gives organizations an opportunity to deepen trust — by trusting people when it comes to telecommuting.
  • Roughly 50 percent of U.S. employees work remotely at least once a week, according to research from collaboration technology firm Owl Labs. But about 80% of American employees believe remote work would make them feel happier less stressed and more trusted.
  • The study also shows employees reciprocate when given telecommute options: remote workers are more inclined to recommend their employer to a friend and less likely to leave their company than office-bound colleagues.

COVID-19 is clearly awful, and the months ahead are likely to be dark in many respects. Forced remote working arrangements are proving challenging for many people—think about all the employees juggling work at home with childcare now that schools are closed. But there may be an upside to this pandemic related to telework.

Many employees and organizations will get to test out telecommuting. And when it is safe to work together again, we will have learned how to work remotely in ways that are better for business, better for people and better for our communities.

We might just learn to love telecommuting.

Discover what the employee experience is like at your company

Whether your team consists of no telecommuters, 100% telecommuters or somewhere in between, the first step to creating the best possible workplace for them is learning how they feel about the current work environment.

The Best Workplaces all use employee surveys to evaluate and improve their company cultures. To find out what the employee experience is really like at your organization, learn more about running employee surveys.

 – Ed Frauenheim

Senior Director of Content at Great Place to Work®

Build a High-Trust, High-Performance CulturesTM

COVID-19

COVID-19: How to Create an Emotionally & Physically Safe Workplace During A Crisis

We all respond differently when a crisis hits. Some of us flip into “fix it” mode and become more transactional in encounters with employees. Some of us go quiet.

Our research, however, has shown that times of crisis can provide some of the most important opportunities to deepen trust and commitment with employees in ways that not only ensure greater well-being for employees, but also position greater business success when the crisis is over.

In times of crisis, it’s essential to not lose sight of your human side or your company’s cultural values. Instead, channel them into positive strategies and actions that will protect your employees’ well-being and improve your workplace culture over the long term.

Looking at how some Great Place to Work-Certified™ companies have responded to the current health crisis, here are our top tips on how to approach the impacts of COVID-19:

Create a crisis fund

Coronavirus is placing new financial strains on many workers – whether from scaled back working hours or parents juggling childcare while working from home.

Yet, 40% of American households can’t get $400 when faced with an emergency.

This startling statistic inspired leaders at Great Place to Work® USA to start our “CARE4U” fund. Great Place to Work employees have access to a monthly stipend to support them during emergencies and unexpected life events.

Practice active, frequent and honest communication 

Strong communication is critical during uncertain times.

Great communication involves both keeping employees informed about important issues and changes, while ensuring leaders and managers are accessible for questions and willing to give straight answers.

Crises won’t wait for your annual employee survey to roll around. Certified companies in USA such as Workday send weekly pulse surveys to their employees to check on employee’s well-being. This keeps employees feeling cared for on a regular basis and managers on top of employee sentiment.

Transparency can be hard when the news is not positive. Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott, sent this honest video update to all employees. More information during times of change creates more confidence among employees and prevents misinformation from derailing morale or organizational initiatives.

Share news with all employees using an honest manner, where both strengths and challenges can be discussed openly. Acknowledge the concern and uncertainty that people are likely experiencing.

Help hourly workers
Many employees don’t have the luxury to work from home. It’s impossible to practice social distancing if you’re serving customers at a grocery store or patients in a hospital.

Certified companies are thinking through work adjustments for their people across job roles. For example, some companies are pausing the use of refillable drink and food containers in their restaurants for the sake of keeping their employees healthy.

Some stores have shorted their operating hours so that their frontline workers can go home to rest. Others are continuing to pay their employees while businesses are closed.

Host meetings without an agenda

Create an optional virtual meeting for your employees – with no order of business but to share feelings or concerns.

This time can provide mental relief for your team – a space to connect about no-work related matters. You could even involve people from other teams, creating a stronger sense of solidarity.

Carving out this time for your people sends the message that self-care is as important as work.

Ask about your people’s families

Our research shows when employees feel a sincere interest in them as a person, not just an employee, they feel a greater sense of psychological safety and have greater trust in their leader and the organization.

Many managers know that employees can’t feel psychologically safe with fear of being fired or laid off. But our research uncovered a less-studied source of fear. We call it “everyday fear.” It refers to employees feeling anxious about trying to reconcile work and personal obligations.

When leaders don’t treat employee well-being as a priority, their people experience subtle yet significant anxiety.

You can reduce everyday fear anxiety by asking employees about their home life. How are their loved ones? How are their pets? What new burdens are they dealing with right now?

Asking these questions sends a clear message to your employees that work-life trade-offs are neither expected nor encouraged.

Remind employees about resources available to them

In a crisis we can often forget about valuable resources already available to us, such as:

  • Access to counselling via an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Financial wellness coaching
  • Mental health programs
  • Company discounts on essential items

Whatever you currently provide, sending regular reminders will reinforce your care for employees while reconnecting them with resources that can help.

Caring during a crisis

In moments like this, every interaction we have is telling a story about our leadership. As Brené Brown teaches us, being vulnerable is one of the most courageous things you can do.

Are you worried, too? Don’t be afraid to share that with your team. Showing your human side will help instill trust in your employees and reassure their psychological safety.

For more on how to navigate in this time of crisis, see our other coronavirus resources such as COVID 19 crisis in India- What can we learn from the great workplaces?

– Claire Hastwell

Content Marketing Manager at Great Place to Work®

Build a High-Trust, High-Performance CulturesTM

COVID-19

COVID-19: 5 Reasons We Need to Tune in to Our Employees Even More Right Now

While COVID-19 forces us to be socially distant, it’s crucial to be emotionally close. People are social creatures. Organizations are social institutions.

Our research shows the best and most successful ones have the highest levels of connection, trust, caring, and emotional safety.

COVID-19 is challenging us like never before. The solution: focusing even more on the things we know are better for people, better for business, and better for the world.

This isn’t easy, especially when teams are being thrust into remote work for the first time. Many are questioning the stability and survival of their own companies and jobs. Others are juggling unexpected childcare needs while figuring out how to navigate the latest developments.

Through all of this, getting back to basics is what will get us through it together.

One of the most impactful basics is listening. Whether it’s through simple informal approaches or formal ones like pulse surveys, staying in touch with what employees are experiencing is critical.

Here are five reasons to listen to employees now:

1. Show you care

Anytime you ask someone how they are, it tells them you care.

When you ask during these times, you tell them you really care. It shows their experiences are a priority, even as leaders face complicated, fast-moving priorities and decisions.

By asking people how they are, you signal their experiences and concerns are a key priority during times when it’s easy to feel forgotten or unseen. This sense of care is a strong predictor of your company’s health.

2. Build community

For leaders and employees alike, these times create high pressure and isolation.

This is particularly true for often-marginalized groups, who already experience exclusion and inequality more than other employees. Crises like this are times when things can get worse. The act of listening to all of your employees builds connections. It tells everyone, “you’re not alone.”

Creating opportunities for all to experience community is a powerful way to ensure employees experience togetherness. Do whatever you can to avoid sliding back to biases and silos that separate teams.

3. Create safety

Psychological safety is hard to come by these days. Uncertainty about job futures, finances and childcare are burning out employees from all industries.

Asking about people’s experiences won’t solve it all, but listening is a key first step to offering some solace amidst the turbulence. It beats back the isolation, stress and fear that social distancing and economic uncertainty create.

4. Give hope

When things are out of control, even a little control – like getting a say about how things are done – can bring hope.

Ask your team to give input and provide ideas during this crisis. It shifts people’s mindsets. It gives them feel a sense of agency that brings hope things will turn around.

5. Increase intelligence

We’re all flying a little blind through these times. Events are changing so rapidly it’s hard to predict what the next hour will bring, let along the next quarter.

Your employees can help you see further down the road. Their input and experiences can help you better prepare your company for the threats and opportunities you haven’t recognized yet.

Your teams can grow closer even while apart

Listening now is vital for resilience. It’s a way to be good to each other, care for your people and world, and strengthen your business. It turns these tumultuous moments into opportunities to make your organization tighter than ever.

Even though you and your colleagues are physically separate from each other, this moment can slingshot you into togetherness. It’s a paradox – there can be great closeness within social distance.

If you’re interested in learning more, stay tuned as we publish more about how others are responding to these challenging times (for example,COVID 19 crisis in India- What can we learn from the great workplaces?) and host future digital opportunities to connect (We can link the Webinar Ideas Link here). If you want more support on employee listening, reach out to us about our employee survey. 

– ­ED FRAUENHEIM & MARCUS ERB

Build a High-Trust, High-Performance CulturesTM

COVID-19

6 Tips for Better Communication with RemoteTeams

How do you keep remote employees engaged?

It’s a question on the minds of many leaders as COVID-19 forces companies to adapt to new ways of working.

While it’s absolutely possible for companies to learn how to telecommute effectively (link to article that will be up on our website), it doesn’t happen automatically. Shifting from a physical shared workspace to a collection of virtual offices can challenge even the most seasoned manager.

How to communicate with remote teams

Fortunately, there are examples you can look to for inspiration and guidance as you adapt to the dynamics of managing remote working teams.

One such example is Great Place to Work-Certified™ company in USA, Peerfit, who are 100% remote and always have been. I asked them how they stay connected without the benefit of sharing a physical space. Here’s what they have learned:

1. Show empathy, and remember we’re all human

For organizations that are new to the world of remote work, it’s important to understand there will inevitably be a learning curve — especially if your team isn’t particularly tech-savvy.

One way to make this learning curve less painful is to have and show empathy for all employees. Assure them that you are available to help during the transition and they’re able to voice questions and concerns.

This is a stressful time as it is, and creating an open dialogue with a little compassion will go a long way.

2. Say “good morning”

One of the biggest transitions employees face when working remotely is the lack of human interaction and the lack of structure.

It’s hard to avoid this issue entirely, especially while practicing social distancing. That said, you can help employees feel more connected to each other while they’re physically apart. One way is to encourage them to talk to their colleagues the same way they would if they were at the office.

A good place to start? Say “good morning” to each other and make time to chat over your morning coffee. It’ll help your remote team feel a little less remote.

3. Convert in-person meetings to video meetings

When you work remotely, it’s easy to start to isolate yourself not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. This poses risks to both well-being and job satisfaction.

Twenty years ago, this would have been a substantial risk with few good solutions. Thanks to modern technology and tools, it doesn’t have to be this way.

By converting in-person meetings employees would normally have to video meetings, your teams can still get the face-to-face connection that a phone call can’t provide. This helps peers better connect, communicate and collaborate.

4. Build camaraderie with a virtual “water cooler”

Give your team a venue to talk about non-work things.

Since they don’t have an actual office water cooler to chat around, Great Place to Work-Certified™ company in USA, Peerfit has set up a #sparklingwatercooler channel on their internal messaging platform.

Other channels they’ve set up include:

  • #PeerfitPets — where employees can post pictures of their pets
  • #watching — dedicated to discussing what people are binge-watching

After all, nothing helps a stressful day like a puppy picture or a new show to watch, right?

5. Invest in internal messaging tools

If your company doesn’t currently use an internal messaging system, now is an ideal time to start. The many short conversations that you’re used to having in person still need to happen but in a new medium.

Now, you could shift those conversations to email. However, does anyone on your team really want to get more emails? I doubt it.

A messaging system gives employees a way to communicate quickly and efficiently while not putting additional strain on their inboxes. It may even lead to more communication once employees have learned how easy it is to use.

When you supplement your existing communication channels with group chats and instant messages, you enable your team to stay on the same page even when they’re not in the same ZIP code.

6. Grow personal connections with fun

As with in-office teams, it’s easier to communicate with colleagues when you can relate to them on a personal level.

While video meetings may feel detached, they’re actually opening a window into our private, domestic selves. When taking a video meeting from your dining table/living room, why not open by asking team members to share about an object on their “desk.”

If you can change your video chat background image, why not upload an old holiday photo? Backdrop photos are the new icebreakers.

Another way to build better connections with fun is by hosting your regular team-building events online, for example:

  • Regular virtual trivia nights
  • Virtual happy hour with a themed tipple each week
  • Video coffee dates – including across teams to encourage non-work-related chat

With a bit of imagination and a good WiFi connection, just about any social activity is possible via video conference.

Your teams can stay close together even when they’re apart.

The COVID-19 crisis has created a bevy of new challenges for companies as they scramble to adapt and take care of both customers and employees.

We’re here to help you lead from the front during these difficult times.

To get our latest advice on managing during — and after — the COVID-19 crisis, visit our dedicated resource page here.

Are you concerned about being out of touch with your employees’ feelings in this brave new remote world? We’re here to support you with our employee survey and employee engagement tool.

— Claire Hastwell
Content Marketing Manager at Great Place to Work®

Build a High-Trust, High-Performance CulturesTM

COVID-19

COVID-19: 7 Ways to Lead in Uncertain Times

As in any time of uncertainty, companies across the world are naturally concerned about the impact to their financial performance. On top of that, and perhaps more importantly, they also must address concerns about employee safety and psychological well-being that go far beyond what arises during the normal course of business.

Employees are now looking to leaders and executive teams to take actions that protect both them and the business. The pressure and urgency make it tempting to act quickly, without thoughtful consideration of all potential consequences.

Instead, more than ever, leaders need to demonstrate the high-trust, For All™ leadership.

Here are a few ways you can guide your teams through this crisis:

1. Consider how COVID-19 impacts everyone

For All leaders think about the emotional, psychological and physical well-being of every employee as well as their families, friends and pets.

To come to a set of decisions on how to proceed, seek out the most comprehensive factual information from reliable sources such as on this link.

2. Remove financial concerns

For All leaders make sure people can keep working safely and comfortably in a manner that keeps them financially secure.

The key here is to ensure health benefit costs can be minimized and reduce worker hours only as a last resort. Leaders should find ways to put $1,500 into their employee’s hands. The majority of Americans don’t have $400 at their disposal for emergencies (reduced working hours, covid-19 tests, childcare, eldercare costs and so on).

If pay reductions are necessary, then what’s good at the bottom is good at the top. The CEO of Southwest Airlines just took a 10% pay cut.

3. Prepare for economic downturn

For All leaders run financial models with recession assumptions to assure the business is prepared. They refine recession and post-recession strategies and determine the people that will be required to drive innovation by all.

Ensure that any advancements you’ve made in the last five years to create a diverse and inclusive workplace are not erased due to layoffs or reorganizations.  Our research proves that companies who ensure key frontline groups have a consistently positive experience thrive in recession, while others fail.

4. Review sick leave policies

It’s critical that employees minimize their risk of infection. An immediate review of sick leave policies can help you encourage them to do the right thing and stay home when they are ill — both for their own safety and for the safety of their colleagues.

This is critical to slow the spread of the virus and to assure that people are well cared for.

5. Avoid layoffs if at all possible

It’s hard to talk about point number three with employees because it can make them feel less psychologically safe due to financial insecurity. But it is best for leaders to ensure a profitable future for the good of all employees.

For All leaders work to make layoffs the absolute last resort. They plan months ahead and review costs and debt levels, so they can prepare to finance their way through the recession.

Workforce reductions should be made only when you have no other option, and they must be handled equitably and fairly.

6. Communicate openly

Leaders should share the why and how behind decisions whenever possible.

This enables employees to engage in Innovation by All™ and to keep a responsible mindset rather than letting fear and uncertainty lead to a victim mindset.

7. Listen

Communication is a two-way street.

For All leaders ensure that management and HR are in sync, with multiple messaging channels to make sure they know what is going on in the minds and hearts of the people.

We’ll get through this.

However long COVID-19 impacts our lives and our work, eventually life will go back to normal.  And the world will understand that we are all connected and better together than apart.

With thoughtful, For All leadership, your company and your people will thrive both during and after this time of uncertainty.

If you would like our support surveying your employees during this critical time, please hit this link.

For more on how to navigate in this time of crisis, see our other coronavirus resources.

— Michael C. BushCEO,
Great Place to Work®

Build a High-Trust, High-Performance CulturesTM