Why It’s Important to Understand and Support Employees in Times of Crisis

This is an unprecedented time for all of us. During a global pandemic, there is uncertainty, worry, and fear. Will my pay be cut? Will I lose my job? How can I provide care for my children when I’m at work? What if I bring the virus home to my family? The list of questions and concerns is endless. Fortunately, this is an opportunity, unlike any other I’ve experienced in my lifetime, to listen, support, and encourage employees.

I’ve shared with you before that I view my employees as an extension of my family – and that I believe doing good is good business (more about that in a previous blog post here). COVID-19 provides a unique opportunity to do good for your employees in a time of crisis. I understand in times like this, it’s easy to worry about the bottom line. The stock market is crashing, nationwide unemployment claims are the highest they’ve been in over 20 years, and state governments are shutting down the non-essential businesses. I realize that in some cases, layoffs are unavoidable. But, in cases where they are avoidable, and you’re leading a team, you have an opportunity to communicate and provide motivation and inspiration to your work family.

When the schools and childcare facilities closed in early March 2020, we knew our employees at Loretto were going to be torn between caring for their children and coming to work to financially support their family – a decision no parent should ever have to make. The impact goes beyond the employees to our residents, as we need on-site care for them 24/7. For us, working from home isn’t an option.

I’ve been having conversations about providing some sort of childcare option for our employees, but we haven’t had a chance to pull together a formal pilot program….until now. When it became clear schools were closing, we sent a text message to all 2,500 employees, asking three questions – Who is going to need childcare? Who wants to share childcare? Who wants to help someone who doesn’t have childcare? One hundred employees responded they would need childcare for a total of 150 children. That number didn’t come as a complete surprise to me. I was very pleasantly surprised by the 70 individuals who responded and said they would like to help provide childcare for those who need it – even Julie, my vice president of marketing, has a daughter now home from college who offered to help.

The childcare solution I envisioned providing was a pop-up facility on-site, and perhaps someday that will happen. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the time to welcome children to the campus of a long-term care facility is not now. So, our Loretto family is connecting those who need care with those who can provide it – ideally making connections within neighborhoods to minimize disruption and do our part to cut down on the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, leadership has committed to coordinating work schedules to ensure those who are sharing care can make it happen.

Is this childcare experiment coming at the time and in the shape I envisioned it? No. Is it supporting my employees during a time when they need it most? Yes. During this pandemic, there is plenty of room for very tangible reassurance and immediate hope – and that’s exactly what those of us in leadership positions should be striving to provide.