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Chicago’s Best Workplaces™ Are Stepping up for Their Employees Amid COVID-19

Chicago’s Best Workplaces™ Are Stepping up for Their Employees Amid COVID-19

True, the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. But the best workplaces are making their way through this crisis in deeply familiar ways. They are taking care of employees, taking care of customers and taking care of their communities.

You see this quite clearly in the companies we just named to our 2020 Best Workplaces in Chicago™ ranking. The 80 organizations on this list earned their spots based on data collected prior to the pandemic.

The 2020 Best Workplaces in Chicago:

  1. Okta, Inc.
  2. Bain & Company
  3. Snowflake Computing
  4. CarMax
  5. Salesforce
  6. Plante Moran
  7. Comcast NBCUniversal
  8. Baird
  9. Davidson Hotels & Resorts
  10. Slalom, LLC.

See the full list of top Chicago workplaces here. 

But these companies have continued to support employees, clients and Chicagoland during coronavirus crisis—they’re just doing so in novel, creative, even moving ways.

Radio Flyer – New paid leave benefit

“We will have no layoffs as a result of this pandemic,” Robert Pasin, the head of iconic wagon maker Radio Flyer, told his 80 employees.

Pasin and his team also launched a new paid time off benefit, providing “Flyers” with an additional 20 days of time to use in conjunction with potential COVID-19-related challenges, such as an employee’s need to provide childcare.

FONA – Executives join the front lines

Employee safety and well-being is a major theme that runs across the dozens of responses we received. Consider the commitment to employee health by the executives at FONA, which creates flavors for food, beverage and nutritional companies.

A FONA representative told us that, “FONA invested in equipment and materials to conduct disinfecting ‘fogging’ in our facilities as an added measure to our daily sanitation.

“It was our Executive Leadership Team who gathered to learn the equipment and have been rotating evenings and weekends to fulfill a robust rotation at our locations. On evenings and weekends, you can find our COO and EVP of Sales disinfecting our offices, our EVP of Quality fogging our labs, or our EVP of Research & Innovation sanitizing our locker rooms and cafeteria.”

Zoro – Helping people ‘home from work’

Online retailer Zoro is among the organizations aiming to support employees as whole people — as people who may be playing many complex roles during the pandemic.

A Zoro representative told us, “Many of us now have become daycare professionals, at-home school teachers, chefs, procurement specialists and caretakers, all while balancing being a good spouse, parent, ‘virtual friend’ and work team member.

“It has been a surreal experience, and everyone deals with this in different ways. We knew that the most important thing we could do was to make sure we are checking in with our team members and ensuring that they have the tools/resources they need to care for their own emotional and physical wellness, as well as their families and their work.”

Mather – Caring for employees like valued customers

At the Best Workplaces in Chicago™, continued dedication to clients is another common feature.

Mather’s customers are some of the most vulnerable members of society amid COVID-19 — the company operates senior living residences. Mather leadership is working to protect the health of both customers and employees.

For example, Mather recently provided cloth face coverings and hand sanitizer to every employee’s home — enough for members of their household.

Mather made its commitment to employees even more tangible with pay increases. The company established a bonus program during the COVID-19 pandemic so that:

  • All employees working in senior living residences receive an additional 10% of their base pay
  • Those permanently assigned to work in care venues are getting an extra 20% of their base pay

KPMG – Supporting local nonprofits

Acts of community service and generosity are striking among Chicago’s Best Workplaces. For example, professional services firm KPMG U.S. and the KPMG U.S. Foundation, Inc. have pledged more than $2 million in grants and funds to support non-profit organizations across the country affected by COVID-19.

Locally in Chicago, KPMG’s donations are benefiting the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund in conjunction with the City of Chicago, United Way and Chicago Community Trust to support local nonprofits.

KPMG also pledged to match employees’ donations to local hospitals, including Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Loyola University Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Rush University Medical Center and University of Chicago Medical Center.

EY – Backing the next generation

Professional services firm EY has shown its social responsibility in another way: supporting disadvantaged college students struggling during the pandemic. In particular, the Ernst & Young Foundation provided emergency grants to 120 collegians who experienced financial distress due to COVID-19.

The College MAP Just in Time Grant Fund, which helps College MAP students stay in college, covers necessities like food, shelter and online connectivity. EY’s College MAP program helps students from underserved high schools with mentoring and support as they pursue post-secondary education goals.

When asked about the emergency grant, one student said, “My mother is a home health aide and an essential worker, but the money she earns is not enough to support the five of us. Our food is being consumed too quickly and we can’t afford to replenish. With this grant, we will have food security for the time being.”

Horizon Therapeutics – Helping healthcare

Biopharmaceutical company Horizon Therapeutics, for its part, donated $1.5 million to COVID-19 response efforts in Illinois and in other affected communities where its employees live and work, including Washington, D.C.; Canada; Dublin, Ireland and South San Francisco.

Of the total, $500,000 went to the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization Institute’s COVID-19 Response Fund toward the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This has resulted in 3,000 goggles; 13,500 pieces of protective clothing; 50,530 clean-room gloves; 3,620 N95 masks; 14,930 surgical masks and 1,100 testing swabs.

Quality Logo Products – Virtual huddles

The Best Workplaces in Chicago make sure to maintain camaraderie through the changes.

A department at Quality Logo Products, for example, hosted a virtual pizza party during a lunch hour.

“Managers ordered delivery to each of the employees’ homes and just spent some time chatting about life,” the marketing services company told us. “It may seem like a small act, but in times like these where it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all, we were proud to see that kind gesture.”

Plante Moran – Finding new ways to have fun

Professional services firm Plante Moran has organized virtual lunches, meme competitions and virtual cooking competitions.

“A Yammer site initially intended to answer our staff’s technology questions has morphed into discussions on everything from recipes to binge-worthy TV shows to tips for home-schooling,” the company told us. “In some ways, it seems we’ve become even more connected over these past weeks.”

Want to see your company on a Best Workplaces™ list?

If you think your company is ready to join this community of Best Workplaces, learn how to get recognized for your company culture here. 


Ed Frauenheim