As pandemic rages,
let gratitude be your shelter

By David Shanklin

In times like these I think it is more important than ever to have a mindset of gratitude. There are clearly so many reasons to be anxious and scared, and countering these fears with what we can be thankful for is a helpful antidote. Clearly this is more challenging for those most closely impacted by COVID-19: those who are sick, those with loved ones who are sick, those who are at higher risk, the list goes on. But for many of us lucky ones who don’t fall into this category, and even for those who do, maintaining some level of gratitude is incredibly reassuring.

Of course the easiest and most obvious place to start is with our medical workers who are on the front lines every day fighting the virus. They are this era’s 9-11 heroes, and, most impressively, they head into danger knowing exactly what lethal risks they face. I’m so thankful for what they do each and every day. There are also the people that continue to go into work every day because they have to. They ensure our supply chain runs, our packages are delivered, and our grocery stores and pharmacies stay open. To all of the essential employees, we say “thank you.”

What I’ve also learned in the last couple weeks of talking to clients is how much pressure HR teams have come under. HR in most organizations has become the front line to employees. Whether it’s addressing the health and financial needs of workers, piecing together just-in-time training for remote working, redeploying the workforce optimally given business impacts or creating critical communications to keep people informed, HR seems to be working even harder than ever.

HR: A voice of reason

In addition to all of the tactical to-dos that these leaders have taken on, I’m also finding them to be the voice of reason and care in this crazy environment. They understand most acutely–because it’s their day-to-day remit–the vast people implications that COVID-19 is having operationally, physically, and psychologically. It’s these HR leaders that are stepping in and forcing resistant business leaders to rethink priorities. Bringing clarity that the merger that was important yesterday is not so relevant today. Or the new product launch coming up may have to slow down so we can take care of our employees when it matters most.

Now, more than ever, care and concern for employees’ health and wellbeing is most critical, and HR leaders are the champions of this message and effort. And the long-term payoffs  heeding their advice will be huge for organizations when all of this is over.  These HR leaders understand that protecting our people right now will not just keep us well physically, but will also solidify and grow our trust and support in one another so that we can mentally and emotionally bounce back as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Companies step up

I’m thankful for all of the HR professionals (and business leaders too) that are putting their people first right now so they can take care of themselves, their families, and their customers (to the extent possible). Let’s learn from the banks that are committing to no lay-offs and extra bonuses for lower-paid employees, Comcast, whose leadership team are donating their salaries and setting up a fund for employees, Wegmans who is offering hazard pay, or Target and Trader Joe’s for closing to give their employees a well-deserved respite.  Injecting this kind of care into the world is exactly what the world needs while we search for ways to combat COVID-19. And it’s the perfect time to take to heart that care, even in business, is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

To all the leaders that are taking that strong action, thank you.

David Shanklin is CultureIQ’s Managing Director, Culture Solutions

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