Are Sustainable Employment and a Pandemic Mutually Exclusive?

By Wendy Woloshyn.

Wendy Woloshyn

We’ve spoken previously on our blog about the concept of sustainable employment and how employers can promote enduring workplace relationships based on principles like reciprocity, collaboration, and transparency. But we imagine that some of our readers may be asking whether it’s possible – or even appropriate – to talk about “sustainable” employment in a time where layoffs, cost-cutting and business closures seem to be the norm.

It’s a fair question. The word “sustainable” suggests something that lasts, a concept which doesn’t seem to fit with our current experience of constant change and upheaval – be it in the workplace or our broader communities. However, our understanding of sustainable is slightly different – it also encompasses the qualities that make any relationship valuable and rewarding, qualities like trust, respect and authenticity.

Given this, we think it’s possible for employers to engage in sustainable employment practices, no matter how uncertain the future. The key is to create a workplace culture built on principles like the ones mentioned above, from start to finish, hiring to firing.

What does that look like in practice? Here are some examples of simple yet crucial ways that employers can foster sustainable employment, even in times of social crisis:

  1. No matter the issue – be it compensation, performance or even downsizing – communicate clearly, directly and openly with your employees. Leaders who practice sustainable communication also know how to listen and encourage their team to share their perspective.
  2. Any time you are negotiating the terms of your workers’ employment, engage your employees in a collaborative discussion about your mutual needs and expectations. Getting an employee’s buy-in to a change in job duties or bonus structure can go a long way to prevent future misunderstandings or resentments.
  3. Finally, where your business model allows it, think outside the box when it comes to traditional concepts like the 9-5 workday. In only eight months (although we know it seems interminable for many), remote work arrangements have become commonplace. So long as it does not interfere with your (or their) product or service delivery, why not expand the concept of job flexibility and allow your employees to have more control over their work hours?

Ultimately, regardless of the workplace issues you are facing, we believe it’s not only possible for business owners to create sustainable employment relationships, it’s preferable.

Have questions about how to maintain strong relationships with your employees during these difficult times? Contact us!

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