Apr 9, 2020

Helping Employees Cope with COVID-19

As the pandemic heightens anxiety and uncertainty, supporting employees’ emotional and financial well-being is critical.

April 9, 2020 - Keosha Barnett knows firsthand some of the stresses of the pandemic.

“It’s hard right now, and it feels like I’m going through a depression,” said the single mother, who was forced to cut her hours working in a distribution center to care for her three young children, including one son with sickle cell disease. “School was free, and now I’m paying more than $200 for babysitting every week. Rent is due, my car note is due, and I don’t even have a full week’s check. So, something is going to be behind. It’s really taking a toll on me.”

Barnett said her saving grace has been financial assistance provided by the Medtronic Employee Emergency Assistance Fund (MEEAF). First established in 2017, the program provides needs-based grants to employees like Barnett who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. The grants are supported by donations from fellow Medtronic employees that are matched dollar-for-dollar (and currently eligible for a 2:1 match through July 31, 2020) by the Medtronic Foundation. In addition to matching employee donations, the Medtronic Foundation has pledged nearly $1M to MEEAF for COVID-19 assistance. 

Since March 1, employee donations to the fund have totaled more than $100,000 — with $30,000 in COVID-19 related grants dispersed to employees in need.

Barnett said the grant money is helping cover some expenses, including her childcare costs. “If only you knew — I am so grateful. Every little bit helps. It’s a great opportunity, and you can’t get this from every company you work for. “

Candise Greene is in a similar situation. She too is a single mother of three school-age children, and her personal budget was already stretched tight. Then COVID-19 related school closings caused her to miss some work hours as she juggled childcare around her extended family’s availability. 

“Right now, I have more money going out than I have coming in,” said Greene, who also noticed her grocery bills skyrocketing after schools closed. “When the kids are home, they eat a lot. They’re always hungry. They’re always thirsty. So, every day is a struggle.”

Greene received grant funds to help cover some of her increased grocery costs. “The fact that we even have these grants in place is a blessing. I’ve never been at a job and felt more appreciated. I love working for Medtronic.”

Both Greene and Barnett credit a culture at Medtronic that encourages supervisors to allow flexibility in work schedules. Barnett said that as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, she may need to take advantage of other benefits and MEAP offerings, including free counseling.

“We’re seeing a rise in worry, fear, or anxiety which is natural in this unprecedented time of change,” says Beryl Wingate, a licensed psychologist and global Medtronic Employee Assistance Program (MEAP) Consultant. “We’re focused on providing resources to help give employees an added sense of security, and we’re also here to help if someone is emotionally struggling with this evolving situation.”

For any struggles employees may face, help is only a phone call away. MEAP offers a variety of services at no cost, from help finding childcare to free financial consultations and confidential mental health counseling. All are available through a 24-hour phone line, and they’re not just for employees — household family members can also take advantage of MEAP services.

Through an online MEAP hub, employees have access to informational articles, webinars and videos on topics ranging from work-from-home best practices to stress management. However, many employees feel the need now more than ever for some personal connection and one-on-one counseling. That’s where a call to the MEAP line can be most helpful. MEAP administrators are already seeing an uptick in requests for counseling and helpful resources.

“MEAP counselors are here if you need an objective and compassionate person to talk to,” Wingate said. "Sometimes the people closest to you may not have the objectivity to help you see things differently. Reaching out for counseling can give you that fresh perspective, which can make you feel a little less stressed and a little more hopeful. And that can make all the difference.”