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Workplace Wellness. Keeping Your Teams Safe and Calm During the Coronavirus Outbreak.

This article, authored by our Senior Advisor Geri Berdak, continues a special series titled “Creating Resiliency During the COVID-19 Crisis.” 

This series will feature articles, podcasts and additional resources from our Consultants Collective member consultants, advisors and coaches, whose experience and expertise includes risk and change management, Asia, China, offshoring, leading distributed global teams, managing crises and internal communications, deploying and managing online collaboration tools that enable people to work together virtually, developing new models, as well as expertise in innovation and design-thinking, work-life integration — and more — all of which uniquely positions Consultants Collective to serve its clients during this time. We hope this series is a valuable resource to you and your organization as you tackle the challenges presented by this global public health crisis. If we can provide additional help and support through our executive consulting, advisory and coaching services, please contact us.

As the coronavirus gains more attention, how do you keep your teams safe, preventing panic and disruption in your organization?   

As we all know, organizations are people and the well-being of your organization is the most important priority. People fear the unknown and that tends to be the cause of panic in these situations.  It is natural to fear the unknown. As a leader, you can quickly and proactively address fears, create a sense of security for your teams and mitigate disruption in your organization. Here’s how:  

Put people first.

Being empathetic and demonstrating that you truly care about each individual member of your organization is so important to building trust. Put yourself in your team’s shoes, follow your instincts and support them through this worrisome time.  

Know your strengths and weaknesses.

Leadership matters perhaps more than anything else in times like these. Some leaders enjoy the opportunity, while others dread it. Some have the self-awareness to know it is not their strong suit – others do not. Figure out where you sit in this spectrum and select someone on your team or in the organization that compliments your strengths and partner with them on deploying your plan.

Focus on transparency and open communication.

 Educate employees on the facts and do your best to put everything into perspective. This is a virus. We don’t know all the details but work with what you know and share updates as you learn more. Take the initiative to stay informed and communicate to your teams about what you are hearing. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers updates, insight and tools to help. Stay calm and encourage everyone to be as transparent possible. Lean into tough conversations, don’t shy away. And most of all be honest.

Create a policy around communicable illness.

Be proactive. Having such a policy lets your teams know that leadership is doing all that is possible to ensure their ongoing wellness. For example, make necessary changes to the company’s sick leave policy so that it aligns with public health recommendations and addresses employee needs. Consider temporarily modifying your work from home policy during this time. Communicate any changes to the policy so all employees are aware.

Most communicable illnesses, like the coronavirus, are transmitted when an individual touches a contaminated surface and then touches their face (nose, eyes or mouth). Here are a few suggestions to help keep you and your team well.

  1. Keep hands washed. Frequent handwashing is the first line of defense. Instruct employees to frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Put signs in the bathrooms.
  3. Put hand sanitizer units at every elevator bay and entrance and exit.
  4. Hand out personal hand sanitizers to each member of your team.
  5. Give your team permission to work from home if they are not feeling well. You may be surprised how many employees feel obligated or have a fear of missing out if they don’t go to the office.   
  6. Allow employees to stay home if they need to tend to ill family members.
  7. Encourage employees to let managers know if they are not feeling well so that they may take precautions.
  8. Invest in help keeping touched surfaces such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs clean and sanitized.

Most importantly, take care of yourself.

You know the in-flight safety spiel “Put your oxygen mask on first before tending to others.” By attending to your needs first, it ensures you will have the mental and physical facilities needed to take care of your team.

Share your experiences. What challenges have you faced with the coronavirus outbreak?  What approaches have worked well?  

Geri Berdak

Geri Berdak is a senior advisor for Consultants Collective. She is a passionate champion for nutrition, the food industry and improving people’s lives, Geri has dedicated her career to the health & wellness industry, leading strategic marketing and product innovation efforts for fortune 500 companies like PepsiCo, Monsanto, Solae/DuPont and for the Innovation Center for US Dairy, Kerry and Isagenix. Throughout her career, Geri has delivered business growth and profitability through people, strategy, brand building and innovation. A nutritionist and classically trained marketer, Geri currently serves as President of CloverQuest Group a marketing consultancy focused on helping businesses navigate the food/wellness landscape and become leading brands in the space. Prior to CloverQuest, Geri served as President of Global Marketing for Isagenix where in just 2 years, she converted the marketing organization to a demand generating, strategic partner to the business and spearheaded global rebrand across 17 countries with a more effective, contemporary promise and brand architecture. Geri also served as Vice President of Strategic Marketing for Kerry where she worked with top food and beverage brands creating strategies to capitalize on low sugar and clean label trends and helped Kerry re-brand itself as a taste and nutrition company. As Senior Vice President for Dairy Management Inc, Geri led a coalition that put dairy on the radar as a quality source of protein and dramatically increased value-add dairy product introductions from brands like fairlife, Sargento and Land O Lakes. Prior to that, as PepsiCo’s Senior Director of Nutrition Strategy, Geri helped create PepsiCo’s Human Sustainability Commitments and played a central role transforming PepsiCo to a Nutrition & Wellness company offering a nutritionally balanced products. Geri’s work follows more than a decade in the soy industry with Solae/DuPont and the United Soybean Board. Geri led the FDA soy and heart disease health-claim initiative and an industrywide effort to promote the claim which drove game changing market demand for soy protein and soyfoods. In addition, she identified a need and partnered with the USB to establish the Soy Nutrition Institute (SNI), served as its founding president and was recognized for her leadership and industry engagement efforts within the organization. Geri holds a Bachelor of Science in food science and nutrition from Missouri State University and received an M.B.A. with honors from NYIT. She also holds certificates in executive leadership, consumer centric marketing, content marketing, inbound marketing, design thinking and is Six Sigma Green belt certified.

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