Residential Practice in COVID

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Human Resources

Staff Supports and Resources

Residential and congregate care staff are considered to be essential workers during a time of crisis. As agency efforts prioritize the safety of children and families served, it is important to recognize the needs of residential staff, all of which will be directly impacted by a pandemic. Staff will face difficulties that run the gamut including falling ill themselves, caring for sick family members, losing income from family members who are laid off, needing to continue to work while also having school-aged children at home to both care for and assist with e-learning, as well as experience trauma themselves in losing loved ones and colleagues. Human Resources will send out reminders to staff about free support programs and how to access them, such as EAP, and supervisors will increase supervision with their staff; however, a group of individuals who specifically dedicate time to ensuring that staff morale remains as high as possible, will be critical to an agency’s effective functioning throughout a crisis such as a pandemic.

Internally, it will be helpful to quickly put together a Staff Morale and Wellness Committee with staff of all levels from different departments, to ensure that the needs of all staff are considered and met. Whomever is willing to take charge of this committee can survey agency staff for voluntary participation.

To meet the childcare needs of essential workers, the City and/or State may offer free supports such as childcare during the workday or hotel rooms to limit commute times and the possibility of individuals potentially bringing the virus home to their families. The committee will likely meet twice per week upon its initiation, but as wellness activities become more consistent, meetings can move to once per week. Wellness activities will need to be accessible for both remote and non-remote staff. Some suggestions include virtual yoga, meditation and exercise classes throughout the week, on a weekly basis. Agencies are encouraged to look for volunteers to provide such services, or to even inquire within as some staff or student interns may be certified to offer these. For staff working on campus, it is incredibly important to ensure that they not only feel safe, but also appreciated. Agency leadership may look to outside funders for special donations such as meals and care packages. Whenever possible, agencies should provide special events such as “Hero Appreciation Lines” with agency senior leadership holding signs and cheering for staff as they enter campus for their shifts to convey how valued they are.