20 March 2020

Preserving Employee Experience During the Coronavirus Crazy

Karina Freitag
Research Lead


  • Results from 2 live community discussions on how to deal with the employee impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
    • Audio recordings of the 2 sessions with RedThread research leaders
    • Presentation slides used for the discussions
    • The 4 levers framing the discussions
    • Mindmap of the results of these discussions
  • 3 categories of linked resources for further information

Talking about the crazy

As many of you know, we gathered folks together (in two concurrent sessions, due to level of interest!) to talk about how their organizations are addressing the massive disruptions resulting from the coronavirus. We believe our community has incredible insights within it, and wanted to provide an opportunity for as many as possible to connect and share.

The conversations were thoughtful, enlightening, and informative. Yet, the thing we took away the most was the level of hopefulness, which was expressed in many small ways. The best example was when one person mentioned:

“This is like our Independence Day (you know, the original movie, not the remake). Something is threatening our entire society, and we need to pull together and stop it. And we are!”

So how are we doing this, while at the same time trying to keep people sane, healthy, and productive (if possible)?

We framed the discussion in the context of our employee experience research, focusing on the 4 levers that drive a high-quality experience:

  • A clear philosophy
  • A supportive culture
  • An articulated accountability
  • An aligned measurement

We went through each of these levers and discussed what people are doing in different areas.

The mindmap: Results of our discussions

After the conversations, we summarized the suggestions mentioned in both sessions and have displayed them in this visual map below (use your mouse to move around within the map; you can also download it).

Some key takeaways

One of the suggestions that resonated the most with us was the idea of a coronavirus taskforce, which was shared by someone at a global consulting firm. This group aligns and coordinates efforts, leveraging medical doctors and other relevant experts to help structure and clarify the firm’s response to the crisis. However – and this is key – responsibility and accountability for taking actions is distributed throughout the organization. So, this is not a command and control structure, but rather an alignment and enablement approach.

Building on that, the concept of shared accountability was reinforced throughout the conversation. Organizations are providing people with significant autonomy and ability to get things done as and when it makes sense. If there ever was a time to trust employees and managers to do the right thing, it is now. Yet, as was mentioned several times, it's critical to support them during these times. Provide managers with suggestions on how to best support employees. Provide data when you can that will help everyone perform better.

As mentioned above, there's a lot of finding the good in this challenging moment. For example, one person mentioned because everyone is now remote, communication must be much more explicit. As a result, unexpectedly, this is making productivity skyrocket, because everyone is much clearer on what must get done. Another person mentioned that within organizations there can be subcultures that may have values not aligned to the organization’s larger cultural values. However, remote work was breaking up those subcultures and providing an opportunity to realign folks to the bigger culture. And yet another person mentioned how everyone is so much more open to experimentation, which is providing them with a lot of new ideas they did not have before.

Throughout the session, several resources were shared. We have added those – plus what we had before – to the end of this article (see Appendix 1).

For your viewing pleasure: The 2 sessions

If our summary in the mindmap and above wasn’t enough, you're welcome to listen to the recordings of the calls or review the slides (with hastily written notes) below:

  • Session 1 (Moderated by Stacia Garr / Priyanka Mehrotra)
  • Session 2 (Moderated by Dani Johnson / Karina Freitag)

Preserving Your Employee Experience During The Crazy from Stacia Sherman Garr

These sessions wouldn't have been possible without the active, thoughtful participation of the folks who joined. To each of you, THANK YOU. You both helped the folks on the call this morning, but also anyone who accesses these resources. Thank you for helping make our community smarter and stronger.

We would welcome the opportunity to continue to be of service to our community. What else can we do that would provide value to you and your organization? Let us know in the comments or via direct email at [email protected].

Appendix 1: Resources

Coronavirus support

Articles on coronavirus

Articles on working remotely

Karina Freitag

Karina is a Research Lead for RedThread Research. She is passionate about understanding the individual and organizational elements that help people thrive at work. Karina completed her undergraduate education at Penn State University and received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.


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