Can companies be judged not only by the value they add to their customers, but also by the value they bring to the lives of their employees? Not only the compensation and perks, but the kindness shown to workers, the respect and dignity, or lack of it that characterizes a workplace?
Over 90 percent of organizations completing the 2019 Willis Towers Watson Workplace Dignity Survey reported that building a culture of dignity is a key business priority over the next three years. Only two-thirds of the employees surveyed, though, said they felt respected or like they were treated with dignity.
The Covid-19 pandemic drives home the importance of dignity and respect with great precision. We’ve heard of the companies that, especially early on, bucked the stay-at-home and workplace-closure orders, and whose CEOs made overly loud and proud announcements that they were going to show up to their workplaces. Many of these companies and executives had to walk back their statements.
Right now, dignity at work means your employer is respecting your need to care for children (or others) at home and manage every aspect of your work and personal life in the same confined space — all while doing everything possible to keep safe at the most basic, airborne-pathogen level during an indescribably frightening global pandemic.
(Less than two months ago, that statement would have seemed like a blurb from a gothic fiction novel.)
The situation today is that you are . . . an employee / parent / caregiver / health monitor / virus dodger / house-disinfecting and pandemic-weary person, needing to be extra-cognizant of . . . everything.
This is an extraordinary challenge and an opportunity for businesses to consider adding more personal time off for their workers if needed, and as much flexibility in work hours as possible, plus back-up persons for each role – so someone else an jump in if another employee needs to care for themselves or a loved one infected with the virus.
Firms should also communicate clearly that workers’ physical and mental well-being come first in the eyes of the business. There is no better time than now to show goodwill to your employees. It will pay dividends to all stakeholders today and long after the pandemic has lifted.
Businesses should maintain and advertise portals employees can use if their direct managers are not being supportive, and provide transparency as to what the business is doing to ameliorate the ill-effects of this crisis on its bottom line.
And, as much as we appreciate the breadth of services and products offered by Amazon.com right now, businesses should heed how obvious it is that some Amazon employees do not feel safe in their work environments. Safety is not a theoretical concept; you’re either making people feel secure while at work or you’re making them uncomfortable. Think about which side you’d like your company to be seen on.
These are just a few ideas, and we can truly appreciate that some businesses are hurting so much right now that some of these extra gestures are just not possible.
For those businesses that can implement these signals of respect or some version of them, we believe an end product will be a more loyal and productive workforce, shareholder appreciation, and public esteem.