With the new coronavirus sweeping across the country, more employees than ever before are working from home. However, it’s no vacation. For parents, this means juggling the requirements of their job while also caring for their kiddos out of school. It’s difficult enough to have one of these responsibilities, but managing both together, under the same roof, can feel nearly impossible.
That’s why it means so much when employers recognize this double-burden and adjust their expectations accordingly. Just look at the Wikimedia Foundation, an American nonprofit which hosts the site Wikipedia.
CEO Katherine Maher went to the online publishing platform Medium to announce her company’s incredible response to the COVID-19 crisis: halving the hours of every staff member while retaining full-time pay.
“A world that is changing requires changing how we work,” wrote Katherine, describing her company’s decision to close their San Francisco headquarters and cancel all global events before their big move to 20-hour work weeks. “We are adjusting for a future in which our global volunteer editing communities need to focus on their local communities; where our staff need time to care for family members and loved ones; where people need space to work through the challenges of isolation, uncertainty and loss. We’re preparing for the potential of a global economic slowdown.”
Katherine went on to outline the five major steps that Wikimedia is taking during this difficult time, including “accepting that change is the new normal,” “clearing the decks,” and “lightening the load.”
In regards to their decision to waive all sick days and transition all staff to part-time work, Katherine wrote, “It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect someone to be fully present, eight hours a day, when they have a 3-year-old with crayons drawing on the wall, or an elderly parent who needs help navigating the stairs. We all have loved ones who need care, groceries that need purchasing, doctor’s appointments to keep, neighbors who need a phone call.”
“We trust our colleagues,” she added. “People will work when they can, and when they can’t, we trust they’ll be right.”
This decision doubtlessly means all the world to the employees of Wikimedia, who are likely in desperate need of the extra time to devote to their families and communities, but would not be able to afford a 50 percent dock in pay. Katherine even linked to the email sent out to all Wikimedia colleagues regarding the coronavirus, encouraging them to decide their own work schedules and providing tips for working remotely.
“We believe in every human, and we believe in what we as humanity can do together,” wrote Katherine. She ended her letter with a message to all readers: “Wash your dang hands!”
In troubling times like these, the workforce urgently needs more companies like Wikimedia to step up and make necessary sacrifices so that their employees don’t have to.