Business Trends

How Companies Are Taking Care of Their Employees During the COVID-19 Crisis: 7 Pioneering Examples

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The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way people work. Earlier this year, government-mandated lockdowns forced the majority of companies to instruct their employees to work from home. And the front-line staff working in hospitals, police forces, essential stores and so on, had to adapt to the significant risks presented by the virus.  

Employees are the backbone of any business’ success. That’s why many well-known brands have prioritized staff wellbeing – physical, mental and financial. From mental health programs to extended sick leave and “collective wellbeing holidays”, the range of initiatives has been both innovative and effective.  

In this post, we’re going to look at seven examples of well-known companies that have pioneered employee care.  

1. Airbnb: Host Relief Fund 

In the early days of the pandemic, Airbnb received a lot of criticism from the media for failing to help its struggling hosts. While hosts aren’t employees in the traditional sense, many are entirely dependent on Airbnb for their income. Traditional categorizations used for employees are shifting, and Airbnb fills the role of “employer” for many hosts.  

To summarize, Airbnb implemented a full-refund policy, which allowed guests to claim back the total cost of a rented room or apartment, including the deposit. This left hosts in a precarious position, with empty calendars for the foreseeable future and no safety net in the form of retained deposits or cancellation fees.  

Airbnb was relatively fast to remedy the problem, however. The company set up a $250 million “relief fund” which enabled hosts to claim back 25% of what they would have received for a normal cancellation. 

Airbnb’s initiative is notable because it recognized the need for financial support among its suppliers. While hygiene measures and mental wellbeing programs are vital, without adequate financial resources, a company’s workforce will quickly begin to disintegrate.  

2. Shopify: Home Office Allowance 

With large segments of their workforces compelled to work from home, many employers have saved significantly on office running costs. And some companies have chosen to pass on these savings to their employees.  

Shopify announced that it would be providing its work-at-home employees with a “$1,000 stipend” for kitting out their home offices. Employees were able to buy office equipment, such as desks, lamps, chairs and so on, and claim the costs as expenses.  

It’s worth remembering that this figure is quite substantial, especially when you consider that the company employs five thousand people across the globe.  

3. Morrisons: Pay Bonuses for Front-Line Staff 

One way that Morisons, a supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, has shown appreciation for its employees is by increasing their bonuses. Earlier in the year the food giant announced that it would be paying employees a six percent bonus on all earnings for the next twelve months. 

This represents a three-fold increase compared to the bonus amount that is usually paid. Payments are also made quarterly (rather than annually) so that workers will have faster access to funds.  

This move has been mirrored by other well-known chains in the UK, including Asda, Tesco, Aldi, Sainsbury’s and others.  

4. Google: Extra Days Off 

While working from home has an array of benefits, including higher levels of employee wellbeing, productivity and general satisfaction, there are still risks. Employees are prone to burnout, loneliness and may struggle to maintain a strict routine outside of the office. The stress of the pandemic, along with tense and difficult political situations in many countries, has also contributed to poorer overall mental health.  

Google recognized these issues and instructed employees to take an extra day off ahead of the Labor Day weekend. It described the additional holiday as a time for “collective wellbeing”. The company urged its employees to “please take the time to do whatever you need for yourselves.”  

5. Culligan Water: Employee Wellness Program 

Before the pandemic, Culligan Water already provided its employees with a range of wellbeing resources. These included an on-site health coach, virtual wellbeing portal and employee counselling.  

In response to COVID-19, however, the company went even further. Its support package now comprises (among other things) weekly self-care videos, manager wellbeing calls, meditation sessions, resilience training and numerous activities geared towards fostering workplace happiness and boosting employee satisfaction. 

6. Bank of Ireland: Wellbeing App 

The Bank of Ireland is another company that has taken a creative approach to employee health and wellbeing. Along with a “Career Development Program” aimed at fostering professional wellbeing, a “Colleague Wellbeing App” is also provided.  

Employees can use the app, which can be synced with a user’s Fitbit, to access seminars, a fitness tracker, one-on-one counselling, live events, a nutritional planner and more.  

7. Verizon Media: Extra Sick Pay  

Sick pay has been an ongoing issue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for front-line workers who have a higher likelihood of catching the virus. Many of the effects of COVID-19 are still unknown. And some individuals have experienced symptoms that have lasted for months after infection.  

Verizon Media, known for its acquisitions of Yahoo and AOL, attacked this problem head-on. It limited the amount of staff working in its retail stores and assigned alternative projects to former shop staff so that they could continue to earn money. Verizon also increased compensation for employees that had to remain in public environments.  

What´s more, Verizon guaranteed that employees who have to take time off because they are sick will continue to receive 100% of their wages for up to eight weeks. Anybody unable to work beyond this period, either because they are ill or have to care for loved ones, qualifies for 60% of pay.  

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