“If you need to self-quarantine and you don’t have enough PTO to cover the self-quarantine period, your time off will be unpaid.” This was the communication that someone very near and dear to me received from their employer, in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic. I imagine this is not an uncommon policy from many employers, but, how can we continue to support our employees, and work to ensure limited negative impact to the economic health of our country, if organizations do not support their own team, and infrastructure with more constructive solutions? Self-quarantine policies only work if people can do so without fear of not paying their bills, feeding their families or losing future vacation/sick time if needed for themselves or a family member.
The commentary from a wide variety of prominent figures provides us with sobering truth and considerations. Kamala Harris said if we are encouraging sick people to stay home, then we need to address the fact that 2/3 of low income workers don’t have paid sick leave. And Richard Haass states that the US is more vulnerable to Coronavirus than many other countries, owing to a combination of high numbers of uninsured and many without paid sick leave.
Now, more than ever, it’s time for compassion, and humancentric decision making, married with smart business decisions.
Google is asking much of their global workforce to work from home to help prevent the spread of the virus. In SanDiego, many of our local colleges, like UCSD, and SDSU are moving to online classes for the remainder of the semester, as I’m sure schools throughout the United States are. Microsoft, Zoom and Google are all modifying their offerings to help extend the usage availability of their platforms to accommodate the rise in demand for virtual meetings, class instruction and communication.
Granted, not all companies have a business that allows for a work from home model, but some are attempting to offer solutions to help manage the situation. Unfortunately, it’s not enough.
An article by Kimberly Kindy at The WashingtonPost calls out humbling, and disturbing insight in to the fact that only 25% of food workers have sick leave. Working while ill is a common problem within the food industry, with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention saying that one in five food service workers have reported working at least once in the previous year while sick with vomiting or diarrhea. In fact, in 2014, it was stated that most norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food occurred in a food service setting. I’m certain most people don’t want an individual staggering into work if they are ill. More importantly, I don’t want to self-quarantine and have Door Dash, for example, come to my door touching and delivering the food I am going to eat if they could be sick. How would we ever get off the merry-go-round if the precautions we’re taking aren’t universal?
Personally, I am grateful to work for Truvian. We have an unlimited PTO policy, no matter how many sick days you need. Employees take what they need for themselves and for family members. This helps to not only create a supportive environment for our team members, but also helps to prevent the spread of illness throughout our organization.
There is certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution for a problem of this magnitude, but issues, like Coronavirus, shed a light, reminding us that it will take a diverse group of creative thinkers, broad change, and innovation across the spectrum. Employers alone should not have to take on the burden. Individuals should not have to sacrifice their own health or finances, at the cost of community health. The government, payors, healthcare institutions, and scientists are all part of the collective that’s needed for constructive, well thought out and sustainable transformation. Let the change begin.