Navigating These Times Together: HealthBegins’ COVID-19 Policy

Dear friends,

 

At HealthBegins, we recognize that everyone in our community, including our clients and partners, is working hard to navigate these unprecedented times amid a global coronavirus pandemic. As we necessarily increase the physical distance between each of us, the sense of isolation can make it even harder.

 

Unless we do this together.

 

To that end, we’re taking immediate actions as an organization to support our team, stay connected with you, and provide solidarity to our broader community.

 

This note spotlights key actions of our internal policy, with the full text published below. We share this in hope that it can serve as a touchstone for other organizations as they think about how to support their own teams.

 

First, HealthBegins staff will take a week-and-a-half-long hiatus from work (March 18 through March 27). Our team is spread across the country and, like many of you, is responding to a number of school closures, county-wide shutdowns, work-from-home arrangements with partners, and care-plan arrangements for loved ones that are all taking place simultaneously. We believe that taking time apart from work assignments to focus on family and loved ones, to establish new routines, and to be fully present for our dependents and our communities will be helpful for the overall long-term continuity of our work.

 

We also acknowledge that not all workers can take this approach. Since the response to this pandemic will be a marathon, however, some organizations may find a short paid hiatus from work helpful to allow their teams to center and recharge for the long haul.

 

Second, while we’re putting a brief pause on projects, we’re still available to connect with you. Many of you are juggling school closures, shutdowns, work from home, and care for loved ones. We’ll work together with clients and partners to repurpose or postpone tasks over the next few weeks. We will be reaching out to many colleagues and friends personally to check in over the next day or so. Please don’t hesitate to talk with us, too, during the hiatus.

 

Lastly, HealthBegins will host two national open calls via Zoom to offer support and solidarity to our broader community. This virus is exposing what we have been addressing all along: underlying social drivers are stressing an already broken system. HealthBegins began as a professional home for folks on the front lines, those who bear witness and work to address those upstream stressors. We can create space for them again.

 

To that end, we are creating a series of engagement opportunities starting this week (yes, even while we are off work), in the spirit of how we began. The first will be on Friday, March 20, from 12-1 p.m. PT and will be open to everyone in our network. We will create a space to share best practices, to vent, to connect. We welcome everyone, including community health leaders from health systems and the social sector, who is trying to focus on equity and unmet social needs during this time. From that discussion, we will create a plan of engagement to support Upstreamists for the weeks ahead.

 

On Thursday, March 26, from 9-10 a.m. PT,  we will host another open call with our co-host, the Primary Care Improvement Network (PCIN) at Harvard’s Center for Primary Care. The call will be open to primary care clinicians, care teams, and leaders, including those in PCIN’s current cohort. This too will be a space to connect, decompress, and share tips, resources, and best practices. We invite you to join these open calls and share them with your networks.

 

Of course, the information we are getting daily makes this a fluid situation. We will keep you posted and will remain flexible and adaptable. Please share any ideas, improvements, or reflections you may have on any of this as we lead, partner, and support our colleagues, loved ones, and communities. We’re grateful as ever to work with you and will continue to navigate these waters upstream together.

Yours,
Sadena & Rishi

 

​*********HEALTHBEGINS COVID-19 POLICY*********March 17, 2020

 

Dear team,

As we navigate these unprecedented times and rapidly shifting environments amidst a global pandemic, we know that in times of uncertainty, each of us must lead, and that when we lead, we center the needs of people and of communities. To that end, we are proposing the following policies that will be effective by the end of the day, as well as actions that we are planning for the days and weeks ahead.

  • Effective immediately until we inform the team otherwise, everyone should work from home. We’ve been utilizing remote work since inception to accommodate for life, which includes caring for yourself and others while maintaining work commitments. We are all set up for it, but if there are additional items that will be helpful for this new era of remote work, please let us know by the end of the day and we can place equipment orders.
  • Effectively immediately, all work-related travel is canceled through April. Please note for us when the notification needs to be made to the client and we can work with you to inform them about our policy.
  • Effective by the end of the day on Tuesday, March 17, HealthBegins will take a week-and-a-half-long hiatus from work. There are a number of school closures, county-wide shutdowns, work-from-home arrangements with partners, and care-plan arrangements for loved ones that are all taking place simultaneously, and we believe that taking time apart from your work assignments to focus on family and loved ones, to establish new routines, and to be fully present for dependents and your community will be helpful for overall continuity.
  • We intend to return to remote working on March 30 with reduced operating hours. We will check in with the team to better understand what your schedules look like, what makes sense within the new normal, and figure out the best team hours together. (Maybe even by PDSAing work cycles?)
  • By the end of the day today, our priorities are to communicate solidarity to our partners and colleagues, and to establish project redundancies on all projects to do right by them. We remain in service to this work and to each other. As always, in the case that you or someone whom you care for gets ill, we do not expect you to work. For many projects this is already set up, but we will set up clear documentation for each project that outlines who is the person designated to pick up seamlessly in case of your absence, make sure that these redundancy assignments will be manageable across the board, and make sure the latest information has been conveyed to the assigned person.
  • During this time off from work responsibilities, you will receive your regular salary from HealthBegins. We realize that this is a time of economic uncertainty for many people, and as a small business, we recognize that it is important for us to remain transparent about any downturns that we may experience. At this time, we believe that taking this time to readjust will lead to an increase in our personal productivity, and that our work is more relevant than ever. We encourage you to recognize downstream effects of your economic choices at this time on others, such as small businesses and domestic workers, and to act responsibly and with compassion.
  • During this time off from work responsibilities, we encourage everyone to invest in activities that will nurture your mental health. Explore your public library online, create new activities for your family, set up routines to encourage exercise without being in proximity of others, reach out to friends and neighbors, and commit to a schedule of outreach. Reach out to your local community organizations and see how you can contribute to your community fabric, such as by setting up neighborhood grocery runs, volunteering to Facetime with folks who may be isolated, such as seniors or young people in the foster system, helping a local org get proficient on Zoom, fostering animals. Be creative and please use this time to set up positive habits that you can continue as we return to a work and life environment that will remain physically distant for the near future. Feel free to share best practices with the team as you come across them, and we will certainly ask about them when we come back together.
  • Stay socially connected to us. To emphasize the last point in the bullet above: please keep the team updated regarding the developments in your life. This isn’t like our general policy on traditional weekends where we discourage communication unless urgent. Here, feel free to reach out — maybe to send pics of friends or family or to let us know about your latest meal planning effort. We can remain a consistent source of companionship for each other during the hiatus. We’ve set up a Slack channel to provide an additional venue for that, and we can help you set up notifications so that notifications only come through from that channel.

Of course, the information we are getting daily makes this a fluid situation, and we must remain flexible and adaptable. These policies will change as we move ahead. Please share any ideas, improvements, or reflections you may have on any of this as we lead, partner, and support among friends, family, and colleagues. And we’ll continue to navigate these waters upstream together.

 

With gratitude for you,
Sadena & Rishi