Employer Empathy Is Crucial For Employees Amidst COVID-19

Empathy benefits your staff and is an important factor in talent retention. Show compassion to your employees with these tips.

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Employee needs are changing due to COVID-19. Here’s how to meet them

So many things about the pandemic have been, well, bad. Small businesses have been forced to slash budgets and administer furloughs and layoffs in order to maintain dwindling margins. The country is facing a continuing COVID-19 health crisis. Yet, as dark times before this one have shown, struggle can breed just as much good as it does bad.

In the business world, the pandemic has led to employer empathy taking center stage in the conversation around what work life will look like in the future — in the “new normal.” Maybe this is the first you’re hearing of the idea of employer empathy in this way. Perhaps you’ve come across it but with everything else that’s been going on you haven’t had time to dig into it. Now is the time; the pandemic has, according to the World Economic Forum, “forced businesses to adapt quickly” and “take the personal impact of the pandemic on employees into consideration.”

Employer empathy is at the top of the list for employees these days. Here’s how to meet their needs in your small business to keep talent around and avoid having to add hiring and retraining to the docket of things to do.

There is no 100% right or wrong way

The only way to go is figuring out what your unique employee needs are. If you haven’t conducted an employee survey before, now is the time.

While it feels like 2020 has gone on for forever, everything that the pandemic has brought is still a very recent development in the grand scheme of things (like business plans). That means that no one has had the time to find foolproof answers to questions like how to increase employer empathy at your small business.

That also means that the only way to go is figuring out what your unique employee needs are. If you haven’t conducted an employee survey before, now is the time. It can take no more than a few minutes for employees to fill out and it can give you great insight into what your employees need to bring their best selves to work every day in the context of a global pandemic.

Read more: Turn Employee Engagement Survey Results Into Company Culture

But continuity plans can help — a lot

Government recommendations are still shifting and evolving in the face of rising COVID-19 cases. That means that getting back to normal (or as close as we’ll ever be to that again) will be a process. From figuring out what re-entry to the workforce will look like for your furloughed employees, to sorting out the logistics of working from home for the next year, you’ll want to sit down at every development and plan out how business will continue through evolving changes.

Clear, consistent, and transparent communication is key

You’ll want to keep your employees clued into what’s happening now and what they can expect in the future to the best of your knowledge and ability.

Speaking of changes, at every step of the way you’ll want to keep your employees clued into what’s happening now and what they can expect in the future to the best of your knowledge and ability. From laid off partners to new medical bills and more, there’s a lot of uncertainty that people are dealing with these days. The more you can minimize that at work through clear communication, the more relaxed and productive your workers will be able to be when they can concentrate on work rather than worry.

Think big picture and long term

Recent estimates from scientists don’t rule out living with COVID-19 for another year or more. This means that business owners of all kinds will have to turn their attention away from short-term solutions and towards long-term thinking about how to handle COVID-19 in the workplace.

When it comes to employer empathy, this means thinking about the things your employees will need to keep showing up to work over time. Have you been planning on rethinking your benefits? Now’s the time to take a look at what you offer and swap old benefits for new ones with fresh perks. For instance, flex days that allow for working from home one day a week don’t make much sense when everyone is working from home every day. Now is a great time to rethink your sick day policy, especially as parents are wrangling their kids learning from home or others are dealing with family members still battling symptoms of a COVID-19 infection.

Take a look at what you offer and swap old benefits for new ones with fresh perks.

Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility

In the meantime — and always — flexibility is key. We’re all dealing with new, unprecedented challenges and are doing our best to figure out how to balance them along with everyday life demands like logging into work on time. The best thing you can do to be an empathetic employer is to keep lines of communication open between staff, you, and fellow leadership. Discuss the challenges your employees are facing and what you can do to make their lives easier. If you’re able to be flexible with hours so that parents can get their kids logged on for the day, the relief that brings your employees can be practically irreplaceable.

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