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At the moment, the latest Covid variant is creating chaos of a different order than earlier waves. America is calling in sick, disrupting operations almost everywhere. Hospitals are limiting capacity because of illness and exhaustion among workers. Schools are struggling to stay open. Many store shelves are empty again. Airlines are canceling flights by the thousands each day. Major employers including Ford, Apple, Google, and others have pushed back their return-to-office dates.

And yet, one refrain is consistent: This is not March 2020. We have vaccines now, new treatments, and forecasts that the omicron spike could have an almost equally precipitous decline. It's a paradox–a surge with unprecedented velocity but generally mild physical effects–and it presents a new planning challenge for employers: How can they help weary workers through yet another endurance test, even while preparing for what could be an early spring, as far as Covid is concerned? We consulted several experts about how to handle the storm before the calm:

Treat Workers as Individuals, Now More Than Ever: “As leaders, we must come to terms with the realization that there isn’t one solution or policy to combat the uncertainty and upheaval facing our employees right now,” Maria Colacurcio, CEO of Syndio, a pay-equity platform, told From Day One. “The right answer is different for every company, and every employee.” Right now, Colacurcio is choosing to focus heavily on “building a culture of trust that instills in each employee the belief that the decisions we make as a company prioritize their safety and are in their best interest.”

Bring Employees Into the Conversation: “An answer that is created from leadership alone without the voice of the people who are living this uncertainty is a mistake,” says Shannon Brooks, an Atlanta-based operations strategist. When setting a return-to-office date, or outlining any plans for the future, Brooks believes that informing employees about changes that may be coming, even as leadership only begins to consider them, helps stave off distrust. The final decision won’t then seem like it was made on the fly. She describes openness and transparency from corporate leaders as not just a “best practice” today, but a “requirement.”

Find Out What’s Causing Stress­ Right Now–and Be Responsive: “We shouldn’t have to wait for an omicron to do these things,” acknowledges Gia Ganesh, VP of people and culture at Florence Healthcare, a tech platform for conducting clinical trials. “These are the right things to do.” Leaders at Florence have recently administered surveys that focus on employee burnout, collecting data points on obvious related concerns like a lack of time away from work, but also less plainly connected issues such as a lack of “role clarity,” which research shows can lead to burnout. Ganesh says the surveys have empowered not only managers, who can now better spot burnout and address it, but also employees who have tools to deal with their own individual situations.

Ganesh’s company has equipped workers looking to mitigate burnout with three “recharge days”–additional paid time off for mental-health breaks–introduced into Florence’s employee benefits packages for 2022. Last year, the company provided each worker with a $1,000 wellness stipend for mental health-related expenses not covered by health insurance, including psychotherapy, spa treatments, gym memberships, and other relevant costs.

Develop More Sustainable Ways of Communicating: “With the first closures in the early pandemic, many organizations in ‘emergency mode’ suddenly shifted to largely remote work and adopted mostly real-time communication and meeting tools like Slack, Teams, and Zoom,” but that’s not sufficient any more, believes Shaun Slattery, director of customer success for LumApps, an employee-experience platform. With hybrid work now firmly established, organizations need to think critically about how to structure work and communication. Among other things, he said, employers need to “equip teams with tools that support working in multiple modes–virtual whiteboards, robust teleconferencing platforms, synchronous and asynchronous collaboration platforms, and purpose-built apps for specialized work or tasks.”

Start Figuring out Reasons for People to Come Into the Office: “Senior management, by and large, believes that there are benefits to physically being together (the usual stuff of serendipitous encounters that spark ideas, face-to-face interactions that nourish the soul, and so on),” Harvard Business Review editor-in-chief Adi Ignatius told From Day One. “But it's impossible to prove these things, and workers seem skeptical about them these days. So what's the carrot for being in the office? Free food? Hackathons? Dance parties? Carrots of some sort seem essential, but we haven't figured out how to roll such things out in a meaningful way.”

Push for Innovation–to an Extent: The prolonged pandemic spell has compelled companies in the U.S. and abroad to rethink operations in radical ways beyond just remote work. A high-end clothing brand based in Spain, Desigual, has shifted to a four-day workweek, with its employees agreeing to a 6.5% pay cut to account for an expected productivity drop of 13%.

While Florence Healthcare’s Ganesh says the intended goal of innovations like four-day workweeks can be achieved through other means, including flexible schedules that remove the stigma against workers taking days off, the latest Covid surge can be yet another watershed moment that gives leaders permission to experiment. “Employers everywhere should be leaning into trying different things, with the spirit of being flexible, adaptable, and creative,” Ganesh says.

Brooks feels similarly, but also warns against “change fatigue.” While not necessarily work-related–it can be caused by the dramatic social changes prompted by the pandemic–change fatigue can make employees more reluctant about transitioning away from the status quo. To help relieve such resistance, operations strategist Brooks refers back to the importance of welcoming employees into leadership conversations. “You can’t just say, ‘OK, here are 52 changes we’ve been wanting to do for years. Let’s do those all now.’ You have to prioritize,” she said. “But strategic innovation is absolutely imperative at this time–in moderation.”

Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at MichaelStahlWrites.com, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.