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defining covid-19 key workers

COVID-19 Key Workers: Is my employer treating me like a ‘Key Worker’

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Should responsible management take advantage of the current COVID_19 situation at the risk of their COVID-19 key workers?

As the population follows public safety orders to stay indoors, at many businesses, warehouses and call centres activity is frenzied as we seek information, essential supplies, and everyday items.  The pandemic has increased demand. Stocks are flooding in, the only issue holding operations back are the inadequacy of existing warehouse office space. Inadequate facilities and spacing require workers to mingle together. Workers are finding it difficult to maintain working distances.  There have several workers reporting safety shortfalls, concerns over facilities and unsafe working conditions. All quickly refuted by their employers, yet few had developed ‘or issues corporate safety ‘guideline.

One of the more interesting questions arising from the Covid-19 key worker scenario has concerned the anticipatory risk role of health and safety in organisations. Few teams seem to anticipate a pandemic or even a serious infection within the workforce. Other interesting questions revolve around the role, influence, and impact of theH&S teams when economic loss threatens business activity.

Coronavirus and CSR claims

Several online giants and retailers have stated that they are prioritising essential household items and medicinal products as a form of attention-seeking corporate social responsibility (CSR).  These CSR claims would be easier to understand if they had reduced deliveries of non-essential items (which many were subsequently forced to do to protect key workers from COVID-19, ie Amazon) and to free up capacity. This would also have helped drivers make fewer and faster deliveries to the needy, or prioritised a fleet of vehicles for this purpose.  The temptation, however, seems to be to try and pack in more business, with accompanying risk to their workforce and society.  

‘Prioritising’ claims are not be regarded as CSR -related if its indirect consequences raise, and possibly result, in other social and ethical risks.

Return to Normal

It is going to be a lengthy battle to get back to whatever the next normal will be.  Businesses survival and recovery will be critical to our future well-being and economic resilience. Business survival is now a key component of how efficiently we can move on from this COVID-19 crisis.

Some businesses committed career suicide during the early days of the crisis. Few would now wish to stay at the Britannia Hotel chain’s Coylumbridge House in Aviemore after their callous treatment of, and disgraceful sacking of, all staff.  No doubt, there will be many more stories to follow.  Reputations are hard-won and easily lost; no doubt, many furloughed and key workers will ultimately judge their leaders on the quality, calibre, and efficacy of the decisions they made during the COVID-19 crisis.

Consider your leadership legacy

We are now in a defined period OF financial history equivalent to the Stock Market Crash of 1987, the Dot.com Bust of 1999-2000, and the “Great Recession” Stock Market Crash of 2008.  While past stock market crashes have destroyed public faith in financial institutions.  It will be interesting to see how history views the responsible leadership actions of CEOs and senior leadership teams who set aside responsibilities and accountabilities to take advantage of the COVID-19 situation at the expense of the health of firstly their key workers, and secondly, their customers?

At this time of crisis, they are being called COVID-19 key workers because society currently needs them, they are not just for profit!

Many businesses and leadership teams have been caught napping by the current coronavirus crisis. You may have made decisions to slowly or been aware of this and other social megatrends. Leading Green can provide executive-level support in learning from the Coronavirus crisis, rebuilding your corporate culture post-virus, and in developing more sustainable business models and strategies for the future.


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