Public Sector Employers on Front Lines of Workplace Challenges

Libraries, schools, local hospitals, water districts, fire departments, cities, towns, and counties are dealing with a multitude of issues as they work to meet the needs of their communities. At the Council, we are seeing public employers work with intelligence, grace, and courage when handling this enormous challenge.

I have been talking to a variety of public entities, listening to their stories on impromptu webinars, and fielding their questions. Here are some of the examples of challenges they have faced and actions they have taken that may help your organization support the community and your employees:

Planning

  • Working with local health departments for guidance to understand the situation in their local community.
  • Finding and sharing resources for strategic disaster planning
  • Determining if extended leave is a possible reasonable accommodation for vulnerable employees, and which and how many can claim it, especially if it is a large percentage of the workforce.
  • Drafting a blueprint for a changed workplace where safety and hygiene protocols are understood and followed.

Implementing

  • Preparing employees to compassionately and effectively manage circumstances where citizens are not wearing masks.
  • Drafting policies to address new laws, state and local orders, and practical requirements.
  • Training staff to understand the circumstances in the workplace and to successfully face them.
  • Educating employees who are or will be furloughed or laid-off, on their options for sustaining their household income, including unemployment, loans, and other work.
  • Supporting employees working from home whenever possible through appropriate technology and working with employees to develop new procedures to get work done.

Managing

  • Being patient with employees balancing home and work duties as children require homeschooling.
  • Making sure employees are not working too many hours at home as productivity has shot up unexpectedly.
  • Leaders holding weekly meetings to listen to concerns, sustain morale, and create transparency.
  • Allowing employees to work in other departments when help is needed there.
  • Hosting events and classes for employee enrichment, such as cooking healthy and yoga, and sharing fun downloads such as music from local orchestras and bands.

All of the energy expended by public sector employers has been intense. We have witnessed an increase in compassion and transparency while also implementing tremendous changes in a matter of weeks. This energy can be the basis of meeting the inevitable challenges the pandemic creates, which, in turn, can build stronger communities.