7 months ago
How to Survive the Pandemic Era: Stick Together
By Thomas Warsop, CEO, One Call
“We are at our finest when we take care of each other.” While I can’t take credit for these wise words from American author Katherine Center, they’re worth repeating as we approach the one-year anniversary of the declaration of the global pandemic. I’m sure many of you would agree that despite our best hopes, ringing in the New Year wasn’t the waving of a magic wand that put the pandemic behind us. We have entered another year of uncertainty.
Many of us have been running on pure adrenaline for months, working around the clock to stabilize our businesses and successfully play our role in the claims process. But while we remain dedicated to taking care of injured workers, have we taken the time to truly take care of each other?
If the answer is no, I strongly encourage you to slow down, pause and make that assessment now. This is no longer “the year of the pandemic.” We have officially entered a pandemic era fraught with burnout and fatigue. We must stick together to reach the other side successfully.
So how do we best take care of each other? It starts with a solid support system. I am lucky to be surrounded by an incredible team of forward-thinking leaders, including Chief Human Resources Officer Terri Lewis, who joined One Call last summer at the height of the COVID-19 swirl. With her support, our team has made great strides toward putting people first, toward sticking together during these tough times.
In hopes you can leverage some of our successes and learn from our mistakes, I’d like to share some of our efforts with you. In return, I would be grateful if you can share a few ideas with us. I firmly believe if we focus on taking care of each other, we will do our finest work as an industry, despite any hurdles and roadblocks ahead.
While the pandemic forced us all into remote work environments, many of us are finding – contrary to preconceived notions – that we’re more productive when working from the comfort of our home. Instead of pushing to get back to the office, embrace the change whenever and wherever possible. One obvious benefit of this change – no commute – has allowed us to give our colleagues the gift of time, a rare but much appreciated gift for many of us with hectic, overscheduled lives.
For this same reason, last year we implemented No Meeting Thursdays every other week. While necessary, meetings can make it difficult to carve out quiet time for strategic thought, planning and execution. Every other Thursday, we block all Outlook calendars – no meetings are to be scheduled on these sacred days. The feedback from employees has been overwhelmingly positive. With so much noise in our lives, this small yet transformative perk is increasing colleague wellbeing.
With many daycares still closed and schools operating on full or part-time virtual schedules, it has never been more difficult to be a working parent. The key to helping team members find balance amidst the chaos is flexibility. Work with colleagues one-on-one to create customized solutions that work for them. Is it possible to shift their hours to earlier in the morning or later in the evening? Can they work a longer day on Monday in exchange for a shorter day on Tuesday? If you’re holding on to the 9 to 5 workday, now is the time to consider more flexible options that can significantly reduce employee stress.
Despite our best social distancing and mask-wearing efforts, some of us will contract COVID-19. To date, 140 One Call employees have contracted the virus. When faced with a positive test result, the last thing we want employees to worry about is whether they’ll be able to get time off from work, and whether that time will be paid. This is the time to be sympathetic – to do everything possible to enable employees to focus solely on their recovery.
Our solution to this dilemma was to establish Emergency Leave Pay (ELP) – a separate bucket of paid time off available for employees who contract the virus or who are caring for a COVID-19-positive immediate family member. Since last April, we have paid out more than 1,000 days of ELP to our team members.
Last, but certainly not least – be generous. COVID-19 forced our company to take a step back – we realized we needed to apply our mission of getting injured workers the care they need, when they need it to our colleagues.
This led to the creation of The One Call Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity to help our team members during times of significant need. The idea for the foundation originally came about due to COVID-19, but it has since been expanded to serve colleagues across the broadest set of needs. The foundation provides support to our One Call team members who encounter any tragic life event – loss from a natural disaster, a family member suffering from a serious or fatal illness, or a car accident, for example. The company provides substantial seed funding for the foundation, and we make it possible for colleagues, clients, and partners to contribute if they are able.
As of today, the foundation has provided tens of thousands of dollars to colleagues who needed our help. These grants have helped cover utility bills, medical bills, housing payments, and many other critical expenses.
Before we can best take care of injured workers, we must take care of each other
However you decide to do it, the goal of 2021 must be to create solutions, not barriers. We need to collaborate and break down silos internal to our organizations and between our companies and others. We’ve all been metaphorically holding our breath for almost a year – and the journey continues.
Let’s work together to share ideas, solve problems, and create initiatives that lead us all to a better place and allow us to pause and take a much-needed, collective sigh of relief.
This article was featured on WorkCompWire.