One of the most challenging aspects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is that the end date is unknown. Even if several vaccines are now approved, cities across the country are preparing for the next wave of COVID-19 as the level of infection continues to rise.
At City Harvest, the largest food rescue organization in New York, our approach risk management was the “always on” approach. We had to turn our operations like never before to manage, train and motivate hundreds of employees remotely, responding around the clock to an unprecedented level of emergency nutrition needs.
As the organization’s chief HR officer, I saw firsthand how important it is to adapt quickly to new operations and management needs. When about 110 of our employees work virtually, and the remaining 100 work on site at our warehouse and in all five food delivery districts, we have learned to effectively manage and train employees by remembering the practice of empathy during this crisis.
It is normal when executives feel unsure of how to inspire confidence in their employees by focusing on the growth of COVID-19 cases. Regular company updates business continuity plans help ease worries and reassure employees in these uncertain times. City Harvest’s HR team has developed new resources for employees to help individuals manage your health and work / life balance now and in the coming months.
Our team also had to rethink entire concept concepts, not only by improving our business operations, but also by creating an overall long-term model that is practical and functional. Instead of having a one-time solution for COVID-19, more effectively plan a sustainable and scalable way to help your workplace adapt to adjustments when employees return to offices or on-site if necessary.
Prepare a response plan
Preparing a response plan is very important for companies to test protocols and prepare for a new wave of pandemics. Companies need to implement a regular schedule that minimizes the density of offices or jobs on site. At City Harvest, we have remodeled our warehouse so that our employees have enough space to be creative, spreading and erecting walls and creating open spaces. We have a registration process for employees who want to work from an administrative office, and this process is carefully monitored to ensure that the number of people in the office on any given day is limited and there is enough space for everyone who works.
In both of our locations, we have introduced a mandatory health survey questionnaire that also includes temperature checks. Each site is also equipped with safety signs and instructions, as well as improved hygiene procedures, including on-site testing for COVID-19.
Emphasize the culture of the company
You should still prefer a corporate culture, even if most of your employees are removed. Implementing the necessary support structures for employees struggling during these transitions is crucial to retaining employees and keeping them active and active.
We will see a deterioration in staff burnout as the pandemic progresses. Encourage employees to set priorities self-service and asking for support will be a critical component of your overall success. Using digital tools such as webinars and virtual social events to promote regular dialogue can help connect and imprison employees and align priorities and challenges.
At City Harvest we make taking care of ourselves a priority for our employees. We hold weekly meditation forums as well as one-time wellness activities. Amid last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and the presidential election, we also created venues to discuss these critical issues and events for employees and regularly shared information on topics such as voting in New York. We also went beyond the traditional Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and in partnership with an online consulting provider to offer free weekly consultations to all our employees.
Priorities of work at home
Believing that your organization has a clear homework policy ensures that all employees receive support in implementing remote work arrangements. Consider regularly sending internal emails or calls to the hosting company to deliver important information to all your employees.
There are a few issues that can be addressed in homework policies, but some of the most important issues to consider are what employees should work from home and what hours they should keep. Determining how remote employees can collaborate and communicate will be a key factor in your company’s long-term success.
Organizations may also need to consider providing employees with additional equipment and materials or scholarships for them if they need to work remotely over a long period of time. When City Harvest decided to update the training style in the wake of the pandemic, we wanted to make sure home-based equipment was available to all employees. We understand that every employee is different, and we have adapted our virtual programs to ensure that they work for everyone.
While the pandemic has changed our lives – both professionally and personally – we need to remember the importance of flexibility, communication and empathy. As we begin another year filled with uncertainty, let’s maintain hope and confidence in our teams and the role we play in them.