ashley ellington - gannett employer branding

Ashley Ellington, Employer Branding Project Manager, at Gannett shares her top tips for caring for employees during the pandemic.

After over a year of living in a pandemic, business owners and leaders are still trying to figure out the best ways to care for their employees while prioritizing keeping their businesses running and serving customers and clients.

And while many businesses have done a great job at pivoting the way they engage with and support employees, many are still feeling like there’s more they can do. And some business owners may feel like they’ve missed the mark altogether.

If you’re looking for ideas, tips, and best practices for caring for your employees during challenging times – like in a pandemic – you’re not alone. And, we’re here to help!

We talked with expert Ashley Ellington, Employer Branding Project Manager, at Gannett, about the best ways business owners, leaders, and managers can care for employees during any time of change or crisis (like in a pandemic) and the simple steps you can take to make employees a priority.

Here are the top ways businesses can care for employees during the pandemic (and beyond!).

 

1. Have a Baseline Benefits Package

“When you look at caring for employees, it looks different for each one,” Ellington said.

So, one of the best ways Ellington says businesses can care for employees in this way is by having “a comprehensive benefits package.”

caring for employees during pandemic - offer baseline benefits

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This will enable employees to take advantage of the services and benefits they need and can provide a helpful layer of support – especially during times of crisis like in a pandemic where health insurance is so important.

Ellington suggests taking a look at what you offer employees to make sure it’s inclusive of all their needs.

 

2. Be Mindful of Inclusion

In many of her roles, Ellington has done work with diversity and inclusion and has seen firsthand how businesses have both succeeded – and failed – at incorporating inclusion into their business practices.

And, she said, inclusion comes in many different forms. For example, one business she worked with at the start of the pandemic provided special resources and incentives to working parents, which was a huge help for them but left other employees without kids feeling forgotten, even while they were still struggling in their own ways.

Ellington says to look at the programs you’re providing and make sure you’re able to share resources and incentives that can help employees in any life stage or situation.

 

3. Give Your Employees Grace

At any time, but especially during a time when so many people are struggling, Ellington says grace is the most important quality employers, business owners, and managers can have for their teams.

caring for employees during pandemic - most important quality for business owners

“You don’t know what people are going through or everyone’s circumstances and situations, so offering that grace and flexibility is a huge thing,” Ellington said.

This may mean allowing your employees to work more flexible hours, being open to understanding the struggles your employees are experiencing, and looking for ways to give your employees extra help and support on days that may be more difficult than others.

 

4. Model Flexibility

Studies showed that workers took less time off last year and over 70% reported they were experiencing burnout (compared to just 42% prior to the pandemic).

caring for employees during pandemic - employee burnout

One of the best ways Ellington says managers can help and support their employees is by modeling self-care and flexibility themselves.

“A lot of times, we hear from our managers to take time off or work flexible hours, but it’s often hard unless we see them doing it,” Ellington said. “We may not think it’s okay until we actually see them taking time off or working flexible hours.”

If you’re encouraging your employees to take time off to reset and recharge – which has been hard for many employees and managers in a largely remote working environment – it might help them (and you!) if you take some time off as well.

 

5. Find Creative Ways to Create a Healthy Work Environment

While not every business may be able to give employees paid mental health days or extra vacation, your business can look for creative ways to support employees and create a healthy work environment.

One way Ellington said a previous company she worked for did this is by enacting “no meeting” days on Thursdays – this gave employees a day to catch up on work, focus on projects, and take a break from constant interruptions in their day.

caring for employees during pandemic - how to support employees

She also appreciated when her previous employer brought in a yoga teacher each week to give employees a way to destress and get moving during the workday – which may be more difficult to do in a remote work situation, but you can find other ways to provide this type of health and wellness resource to employees through webinars, discounted wellness apps, and free resources through your benefits provider.

 

6. Invest in the Full Employee

While baseline benefits are important, many businesses have become more invested in mental health resources and support for employees – especially during the pandemic when more adults are reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression.

caring for employees during pandemic - increase in depression and anxiety

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Ellington says creating resource groups for those interested in mental health or sharing mental health resources can help employees feel both supported and accepted.

“You have to take care of yourself. And I think when we see that’s something that the company values and something that the company wants, it can go a long way for employees,” Ellington said.

 

7. Know Every Employee Is Different

It can be easy to roll out a size-one-fits-all approach for your employees and for your team, but the truth is that your employees have different needs and challenges that should be addressed.

“People handle crises very differently,” said Ellington. For example, many employees have thrived while working from home, and productivity has been up in many cases. But, for other employees, the isolation of working from home may have caused them to feel depressed and unmotivated.

By understanding that your employees will react differently to different situations and by taking time to listen, respond with grace, and provide accommodations, you can show that you care for your individual employees while helping them be successful.

 

8. Be Transparent

In times of crisis and change, one way to support your employees is by being transparent and keeping them informed of any potential changes or challenges that may impact them.

caring for employees during pandemic - be transparent

As we (hopefully) move closer toward the end of the pandemic, many employees who have been working from home are nervous about what it might look like to return to an office.

Ellington said it’s important to be mindful of how your employees are thinking, of their concerns, and of the challenges they might still be facing as you make decisions.

And, by being transparent, you can also request feedback from employees to help make the most informed and best decision for both your business and your team.

 

Don’t Miss an Opportunity to Care for Your Employees

Showing your employees and your team that you care about them, their wellbeing, and their success can go a long way in building loyalty and retention that contributes to your overall business growth. By using these tips, you can take some simple steps to go the extra mile for your team and show that you value them – especially during the pandemic.

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