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Maintaining a long-term view during a crisis

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Why companies should choose a long-term view over short-term wins

With the COVID-19 crisis causing shocks to peoples’ health and to our economy, it’s easy for companies to lose sight of the long view in favor of short-term wins. But the companies that maintain a long-term view during a crisis, despite the short-term pain, will emerge from the crisis in a much stronger position.

Side note: The economic pain caused by COVID-19 is real, and many small businesses don’t have the luxury of thinking long-term when they have zero foot traffic and can’t make payroll. This article is not for/about them. 

I felt extremely lucky that for the first several weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, I didn’t personally know anyone who was suffering from the virus. That was until this weekend, when I found out that a very close family friend was in the hospital, and in bad shape. Despite being in a field where he can easily work from home, he had been going into the office through March 19th — a point by which most companies were at least several days or even weeks into working from home — and he caught the virus from another coworker who was also in the office that week.

I’m furious that my friend’s life was in serious danger when that could have easily been avoided, if not for short-term thinking on the part of his employer.

The long-term view puts people first

Too many companies have made shortsighted decisions during the COVID-19 crisis, and those companies will feel negative effects of those decisions in the long run. Team members who had to fight for their lives or saw colleagues fight for their lives (or worse) as a result of decisions made by their employer will remember that their needs, as people, were deprioritized. The cost of turnover that these companies will (and should) experience in the long run will far outweigh the few dollars they were able to keep in their bottom line during the crisis. 

Meanwhile, other companies have shown incredible long-term thinking in the face of this crisis, sacrificing short term profits to make sure that team members felt supported. Those employer brands will be rewarded with team member loyalty, and the goodwill will seep into the customer-facing brand as well.

Every item on either side of the following chart was inspired by a real-life example during this crisis. To keep things positive, I’ve only cited examples of the thinkers opting to maintain a long-term view during this crisis  

Short-term gains vs. long-term views

Short view approachLong view thinking
Hold out on communicating to the team to avoid saying something that might cause a slight inefficiency later on as the situation develops.Communicate with the team early and often. Anticipate the needs of your team members, and get ahead of building communications and support. 

Hubspot Chief People Officer Katie Bourke shared on LinkedIn how her team is planning programming to support people who especially need it during this time. Many are groups you might expect (parents with kids at home, managers leading remote teams) and others are unexpected, yet extremely thoughtful groups to support (people with/in recovery for eating disorders, those living alone, those in need of domestic violence resources).
Hold out as long as possible on allowing team members to work from home. Be very early in preparing for employees to work from home, and lead by example.

Quicken Loans and its sister companies shifted the vast majority of its 18,000 team members to remote work by March 13th, and since late February has spent more than $4 million in equipment necessary for its employees to perform their jobs remotely. 
Implement additional processes to track employee productivity at home.Encourage team members to take care of themselves. 

Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, tweeted to team members: “Please, for real: take time out/off. Take care of your family and your health.”
Lay people off (or cut salaries) even though the company fully expects to be able to get through the crisis without needing to make layoffs or compensation cuts.Pay your team members extra—if you can—knowing that they’re dealing with unprecedented difficulties in their personal life.

Capital One increased the pay of their hourly associates working in customer support roles.
Force warehouse team members to work in close quarters to ship product to customers. Pause operations until you know your team members have safe conditions to work in, even if it means temporarily shutting of a revenue source.

Home Depot has eliminated major spring promotions to avoid driving high levels of traffic to stores and is limiting service installations.

For more insights and information for companies navigating this unprecedented time, visit our COVID-19 resources page.