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NOTEBOOK: Taking care of staff


Over the last few weeks as I talked to Iowa business leaders, I’ve asked what the biggest challenge has been in transitioning to work during the COVID-19 outbreak. Nearly everyone has told me they are concerned for their staff, not the workflow. Here’s what a few leaders had to say when I asked about supporting their staff: 

“I’m going to keep an eye on burnout,” said Aaron Warner, CEO of Procircular Cybersecurity. “It’s very easy for us in cybersecurity to work pretty much nonstop, especially when you’re working from home so you cut your commute out of the equation. … It would be really easy for me to work 18-hour days. I’m really trying to encourage people to get up and take a walk, get outside. It’s an intense time.” 

“We call it business-as-unusual and just have to accept it,” said Susan Wood, CEO of VIDA Diagnostics, an artificial intelligence-based software company. “Right now, I’m trying to keep them safe, obviously, but also light. I think it’s really good to allow people to be human right now. If they have a human response like, it’s just getting too much or they’re getting grumpy, we just kind of let them go take a walk or something. In Zoom meetings we have kids sitting on people’s laps and spouses in the background doing work, and we just accept it. That’s the way the world is right now.” 

“How we treat our employees and our customers in the good times really plays a role in how they respond in bad times,” said Marty Vanderploeg, CEO of Workiva. “Our culture is all about taking care of our customers and our employees. … When you have that type of rapport between management and investors, customers, employees, it carries you through these times.”

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