4 Things Employees Need From Employers During a Pandemic

Published April 24, 2020

The way we work has completely changed with the 2020 global pandemic. Now, more than ever, amidst daily updates and constant uncertainty, employees need their leaders and companies to step up.

Harvard Business Review reported that 40% of employees reported feeling lonely at work—and that’s before the pandemic forced us into social distancing. Research also shows loneliness is as harmful to employees’ health as smoking. And if employees were feeling lonely at work before the 2020 global pandemic, imagine how they feel now working alone in their homes.

How can you help employees stay connected during a time of social distancing?


Here are 4 things employees need from you during times of crisis: 

1. Transparent communication and accurate information

It may feel like there’s an overabundance of information about COVID-19 in the news, but there can never be too much communication to employees. In the workplace, it’s the absence of communication that fosters speculation and worry. So, share information with employees freely and consistently. Daily or weekly communication can’t hurt right now—your employees need to hear from you. Often.

Let your people know how the company is doing, what steps you are taking to ensure their safety, health and well-being and what changes you may be making in the future. Let them know how your customers are, if there are any new rules or expectations they need to be aware of and how they can get help or resources if needed. Share stories, pictures and examples of people rising to the occasion at work. Listen. Find out what employees need to know and answer questions like, “What do I need to do differently?” and “How can I help our company succeed?”

Let your people know how the company is doing, what steps you are taking to ensure their safety, health and well-being and what changes you may be making in the future.

Right now, employees are feeling anxious and stressed about their jobs and their personal lives. You can be a beacon of light. Fill your communications with a tone of calm and reassurance.


2. Hope and positivity

In times of crisis, employees need hope and positivity from their employers. They need assurances that you care about them and their well-being. They need to feel deep down you can and will weather this storm together. During times of uncertainty, people need you to be their rock, their north star and that trusted leader that guides them through turbulent times.

Bringing hope and positivity doesn’t mean being dishonest or holding back bad news. Our own HR Vice President recently sent a company-wide email where she began by admitting she had cried that morning. She described feeling overwhelmed by her lack of control over what was happening in the world (our headquarters were damaged by an earthquake that day in addition to the pandemic). But then she explained how she opened her email to scores
of messages from employees thanking her and her team for their efforts, acknowledging how crazy things are and vowing that we were all in this together, no matter what. She explained how those emails completely turned her morning around. It gave her hope and faith in her team. She then went on to share her own expressions of encouragement, joy and good news.

Great leaders are honest about the way things are, including their own shortcomings. But they also get back up, demonstrate resiliency by example and find a way to inspire people to believe they can triumph over hard times together.

Great leaders are honest about the way things are, including their own shortcomings.


3. Flexibility

Working from home can be an adjustment. Kids, spouses, pets, new working environments and unusual routines can throw even the most professional worker off their game. So, give employees some flexibility in how and when they work. Perhaps they need to balance their conference calls with their spouses’ calls, or they need to work in the early mornings or evenings when the kids are in bed. Schedule a limited amount of time when employees need to be on calls or available for meetings and trust they’ll do their work on their own time.

Flexibility also applies to the type of work employees are doing. A pandemic doesn’t just change the way we work, it can change the things we are working on. You may need to hit pause on some big projects. You may be given an emergency task. You may even need to pivot and change course due to constantly changing circumstances. That means you might start a project and then quickly be asked to abandon it. Accept these things as part of managing in a crisis.

Enable your teams to work autonomously, empower them to make decisions and trust them by sharing leadership. Doing so will create adaptable teams that can do great work in any situation.


4. Connection

Employees crave connection during difficult times, especially when they must work remote or at a great distance from one another. Help them maintain a sense of connection: to a purpose, to accomplishment and to one another. Show them how their work contributes to your company’s success. Help them celebrate their accomplishments and share stories of success. Give them new ways to connect to their peers and coworkers, whether it’s virtually or as they work side by side.

When teams go through tough times together, it can create stronger bonds than any teambuilding activity. There are few things that are tougher than a business-altering global pandemic.

If you help employees feel connected to your organization and their teams, you can help them thrive in any circumstance.


Be a company that is there for employees. 


About the Author
Denis Beausejour Author Headshot

Denis Beausejour

Managing Director

O.C. Tanner

Denis is a graduate of William and Mary and earned his MBA from Kellogg School of Management. He has lived and worked internationally throughout Asia and the Americas and now resides in a suburb of Chicago where he works for O.C. Tanner—a global provider of workplace culture services. Leveraging O.C. Tanner’s CultureCloud™ suite of offerings, Denis consults with Fortune 1000 companies on how to create peak employee experiences throughout the career cycle that lead to high-performing work cultures.