Staff care in the time of COVID: A faith-based organization’s perspective

COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. And while these times may be unprecedented, Corus International’s prioritization of staff care is not. As a family of faith-based global aid and development organizations, we believe that every person is created in the image of God to be joyful and flourish and that we need each other to make the world a better place.

In that spirit, we value and support our dedicated staff, as they strive to help others in the world, through our benefits packages, organizational culture and human resource policies. When COVID-19 reached our doorstep, we ramped up these efforts to ensure staff knew they are our number one priority. The following details what we are doing and what we are encouraging other organizations to consider to boost their staff care during these difficult times.

Our concrete steps to date

  1. We mobilized early — starting in January — turning our Crisis Management Leadership Team into a COVID Operations Task Force. This task force leads the related staff care initiatives.

  2. We are communicating frequently on staff care and COVID operations from various levels of management and departments.

  3. In our earliest communications with staff, we ensured them that there would be:

    • No layoffs – all staff would be kept on payroll with benefits for as long as possible, even staff, who by the nature of the jobs, are “idle” during this time.

    • Maximum flexibility for staff with specific concerns, such as caring for children and family members and anxiety over returning to the office; staff were assured they do not need to use accrued time off nor would they be forced to come back to the office against their will.

  4. We are paying attention to the psychological, emotional and spiritual needs of staff:

    • In the beginning of the pandemic, we established the Corus Daily Pause to be a brief Zoom meeting each day when staff can join from around the globe to reflect, pray, meditate and support one another in community. All are welcome, and everyone’s spiritual and religious preferences are respected.

    • Near the end of May, we instituted an organizational day of rest, when all staff were given paid administrative leave from work.

    • We continue to remind staff of their access to external counseling services as part of their benefits package, which are free, confidential and available in multiple languages.

  1. We are providing financial allowances for all staff to offset the purchase or production of face masks and for overseas staff to offset the costs of remote work.

  2. We are instituting the following to ensure staff safety upon their eventual return to the office:

    • Professional disinfection of offices and other enhanced hygiene measures.

    • Improved air filtration (HVAC) in US offices.

    • Mandatory face masks.

    • Social distancing measures.

    • Phased-in return that is based on measurable and objective criteria.

    • Visitor control/access control.

Our general guidance to staff

  • Show compassion to yourself and your colleagues. Everyone experiences and handles stress differently, and this is certainly a stressful time.
  • Be cognizant of the effect of news media coverage on your mental health and limit your attention to it as needed. Try setting aside set times in the day to check the news where you typically have the mental and emotional energy and space to process it and resist the urge to binge.
  • Find creative ways to virtually socialize with your colleagues, such as scheduling lunches, coffee breaks or happy hours with them over Zoom, but respect those who may not find these types of activities helpful.
  • Practice self-care: take breaks, exercise, and get enough sleep.
  • Supervisors should have frequent and consistent check-ins with their team members, both individually and as a group. They should set clear expectations for work while also making efforts to build their personal relationships with their team.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced us to carry on our work in relative isolation and uncertainty. But through thoughtful staff care, we can help to ease the toll it takes on our people, our organization and our mission.

Corus International is an ensemble of faith-based organizations, including Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health, working together in the world’s most fragile settings to deliver the holistic, lasting solutions needed to overcome the interconnected challenges of poverty, health and climate change.