In these uncertain and unprecedented times, companies have an important decision to make: are they going to continue with business as usual, or are they going to step up and support their employees? “It is not business as usual—this is uncharted territory,” says Jennifer J. Griffin, professor of strategy at the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University. “Businesses need to ask themselves: ‘Are you putting profits before people?’” While some companies have taken the “business as usual” route (looking at you, Target and Walmart—with some serious side eye), other companies have taken this opportunity to help their employees not just survive this global pandemic but thrive during it. Here are just a few that are going above and beyond the call of duty.
Chicago-based company Dina, which uses artificial intelligence to coordinate care for seniors, is approaching the pandemic with human connection at the forefront of their plans.
“This is a human moment, not a business moment, but how can we use our business to respond to that,” says Tim Coulter, COO. “We are guided by our values – easy to put on paper – but how do we live it, abide by it?”
Dina is offering virtual coffees and happy hours with customers that they might normally meet in person in an effort to make sure everyone feels not only safe but also connected. They are also cognizant of the fact that it is an extremely busy time for employees in the healthcare field, so the company is actively working to avoid burnout.
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This internet company is also approaching corporate social responsibility from a personal perspective.
“We need to react first as human beings,” says Matthew Summy, the Regional Vice President of External Affairs. “How do we get up every day and put our values into practice?”
Like many other companies, Comcast is swiftly learning that now is the time to walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to supporting not only employees but customers. Comcast has an especially big role to play because so many schools have moved to online learning, and having internet at home is a privilege that not every child has. Comcast has removed barriers to help the work-from-home transition become more accessible and, working with Mayor Lightfoot, has removed cost barriers to low-income households. Additionally, Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country will be free to use for anyone, even those who are not Xfinity subscribers.
Employees in the finance industry are running a different kind of ragged lately — being called to the front lines of the market downturn will take a toll on the health and wellbeing of anyone. Currently, Fifth Third’s main goal is to help customers and employees feel safe and stable.
“We are all about building employee morale and encouraging them in these uncertain times,” says Senior Vice President Nicole Johnson-Scales.
Fifth Third is currently providing four weeks of paid sick leave that also applies to taking care of family, an issue of critical importance for those who have elderly or immunocompromised family members (or a toddler intent upon licking the playground equipment).
“Fifth Third is being flexible in a way that meets their needs and keeps them safe,” Johnson-Scales says. “We need to show grace and gratitude during this time, and create stability in our community and the sense that we are in this together.”
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The coffee company that fuels our collective caffeine addiction has stepped up to help its employees with extended mental health benefits — a hugely important move in these unsettling times. Working with Lyra Health, Starbucks is offering personalized, confidential mental healthcare to its employees (the company calls them ‘partners’). Starting on April 6, partners AND their eligible family members can receive 20 free in-person or video sessions a year as well as access to a provider network of mental health therapists and coaches.
“Caring for Starbucks partners is at the core of our company. We are constantly listening to our partners and exploring new ways to enhance the innovative benefits we offer to support them and their families,” says Kevin Johnson, Starbucks president and CEO in a press release. “Mental health is a fundamental part of our humanity and these resources will make a meaningful difference in people’s lives and help break the stigma around this complex issue.”
Apple has closed all of its stores and is providing unlimited paid leave to all hourly employees who have cold or flu symptoms. They have also promised to pay hourly employees through the duration of the store closures.
Additionally, Apple has donated more than $15 million to the global COVID-19 response, both to help treat those who are sick and to help lessen the economic and community impacts, according to a press release on their website. The company is also matching employee donations two-to one to support local, national and international efforts to combat the pandemic.
Academic Medical Center (anonymous to protect privacy)
Although most healthcare professionals are on the front lines in hospitals, urgent care centers and doctors offices, some companies are opting into telemedicine in a big way, with huge benefits to both patients and practicioners. Carolyn Taylor, a nurse practitioner who specializes in neurology and Parkinson’s Disease, has been conducting all of her visits with patients via telemedicine.
“The average age I see is 65 or 70 so these are definitely your higher-risk patients to begin with,” says Taylor. “Because they’re older and considered nonessential appointments, we’ve really being trying to keep them out of the system to reduce traffic in the health system in general.”
In addition to keeping both practitioners and patients safe with telemedicine appointments, Taylor’s company has also made an employee assistance fund available to anyone concerned about paying bills or taking time off to care for sick ones (or recuperate from an illness themselves). On the flip side of that, employees who are able to give can donate part of their paycheck or PTO days to their coworkers in need.
“So that’s been a nice, supportive thing,” Taylor says.
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Jessica Suss is a native Chicagoan residing in Washington, D.C. She is currently getting her master’s degree in secondary English education at the University of Maryland. She enjoys petting other people’s dogs and is faithful to Lou Malnati’s alone. Jessica is also a supporter of MAZON and No Kid Hungry.