As the world closely monitors and tracks the spread and impact of the new coronavirus, business leaders are making decisions about how to mitigate the risk and keep everyone safe and healthy. In the government contracting community, executives are enacting procedures and policies to protect employees, customers and partners while continuing to provide government agencies with the services, solutions and mission-critical support they need.
In this series, WashingtonExec will highlight these leaders and how they are tackling this crisis, in an effort to share best practices in industry and shed light on the virus’ impact on the nation.
Jennifer Bailey, Chief People Officer, Cognosante
Jennifer Bailey oversees all human resources functions, including building and advancing organizational capabilities, driving employee engagement and establishing people strategies critical to the company’s success. To keep employees safe and morale high during the coronavirus outbreak, Bailey said Cognosante has implemented a virus awareness quiz, onsite food service, remote work, policy flexibility and virtual team-building activities. Below, Bailey also shares specific policies and guidance in place.
What innovative workplace policies/practices has your company embraced to minimize the impact of COVID-19?
Cognosante has taken swift and thoughtful action to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our employees and our business. Beginning the first week of March, we established a Coronavirus Prevention Committee to help make timely, thoughtful decisions and communicate them quickly across our organization. The committee is cross-functional, with representation from executive leadership as well as HR, facilities, communications, and program support.
To ensure that employees have information to make informed decisions, we distribute a weekly “Coronavirus Digest.” This electronic newsletter provides up-to-date information on our corporate response, detailed guidance on company policies and benefits and tips on prevention.
We are also maintaining a frequently asked questions document that answers questions about telework, sick leave, travel, testing and health benefits. By implementing this best practice early on, we have been able to communicate major changes in policy quickly and efficiently to employees across the country.
What has your company done to keep morale up internally for employees?
Maintaining employee morale is critical at this time of uncertainty. Fortunately, because we have employees across the country, we already have a framework for maintaining camaraderie and solidarity across a diverse employee population. We have focused heavily on keeping employees and managers informed through the mechanisms noted above and have implemented or will be introducing the following initiatives in the coming days and weeks:
- COVID-19 awareness quiz: A fun way to gauge how our employee population is taking in, understanding and applying company guidance.
- Onsite food service: To reduce traffic in and out of our facilities, we have moved to boxed lunches for facilities that still have essential employees.
- Remote work: To reduce fear and promote social distancing, we are moving most of our employees to remote status and allowing them to use company equipment to continue our commitment to our customers and ensure optimal productivity.
- Policy flexibility: We are encouraging our employees to utilize their time-off options to fit their personal and family needs during this time. In addition, we are evaluating various paid-leave options for our employees who are unable to telework or have otherwise been directly affected by the coronavirus to ensure they are not financially impacted.
- Maintain team-building: Some of our teams have hosted virtual happy hours after their shifts to keep in contact and maintain team chemistry.
This month, we issued guidance on telework and provided web training to all employees on successful work-from-home strategies. As Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance has evolved, we have been able to use this foundation of cross-functional collaboration and communication to transition employees across our organization to remote status in an orderly manner.
As policies change, we have made every effort to be clear and detailed in our guidance, and to take the guesswork out of what employees and managers should do. We have tried to anticipate questions about testing, personal health information and insurance benefits and focus our communications accordingly. We are promoting our telemedicine and Employee Assistance Program benefits and have launched a remote employee engagement program to help smooth the transition for our employees.
How has the policy for travel or attending large conferences changed?
Beginning the first week of March, Cognosante banned all nonessential travel and visitors to Cognosante facilities. We canceled attendance and exhibitions at all scheduled conferences and issued immediate guidance to employees on how to handle nonrefundable travel expenses.