From the editor: a care parcel of empathy and reassurance

Some employers have provided care parcels to employees through lockdown or as they return to the office. What would you put in one?


The pros and cons of LinkedIn are for another column. They say it can help you find work, though it sometimes feels like there’s a secret society that knows the golden rules for getting the most out of LinkedIn. It’s certainly a drain on your time and attention like all social media sites. (See Netflix hit The Social Dilemma for how they do it)

But browsing it this week I came across a post about care parcels. An HR professional had returned to the office for the first time and found a care parcel waiting at her desk. It contained some spare face masks, a pen, a forehead thermometer, tissues and lip balm.

Later that day the PM announced new Covid restrictions including the work from home directive that represents the latest chapter in the push-me-pull-me where to work saga. So just as well she’d bagged the freebies while she could.

A cynic might suggest her employer was shifting a bit of responsibility for her wellbeing on to the employee. But a more generous reading would be that it showed two key qualities that employers are going to need as we plod through this pandemic – empathy and reassurance.


As someone who was furloughed for a few months I know the feeling of returning to work unsure of what the future may bring at work and away from work.

It’s important employers provide reassurance. That they back their employees to cope with the challenges but understand that it won’t always be easy.

The contents of that care package demonstrate that the employer understands everyone’s going to get ill but that they will provide what’s necessary to deal with that.

I took part in a podcast for Aviva this week – winners of our Best for dads award last year. Danny Harmer, the firm’s Chief People Officer, stressed that reassurance had been a key plank of the company’s approach when lockdown kicked in back in March. People had enough to worry about then without fearing for their jobs and the firm ensured line managers got the message out that people should keep work worries in perspective.

And that speaks to the need for empathy.


I was also involved in an event this week (which I’ll write more fully about next week) looking at how companies ‘harnessing the power of flexible working to support the families of today’. There was plenty of valuable discussion about the nuts and bolts of flexible working. For example, I learned what happens when a job share duo want to ‘divorce’ or apply for a promotion as a twosome. But I was keen to talk up a more airy-fairy concept: empathy.

We’ve all been in each others houses over the last six months. Not physically, and certainly not for the foreseeable given those new restrictions announced this week. But via Zoom and Teams and Houseparty.

We’ve witnessed the hinterland of employers, employees and colleagues. The paraphernalia of the hobbies that’ve kept them occupied through lockdown. The demands of homeschooling. The cats that walk across your keyboard during an interview. We’ve all come to understand more deeply that the people we work with don’t just exist in work hours.

Empathy is good for the soul. But it’s good for business too. Understanding each other helps us work together more effectively. And it can fuel flexible working. Those of us who have worked part time or flexibly in a workplace will know the look colleagues give you as you leave early. The feeling that they think you’re getting something they aren’t entitled to. Now we’ve all seen exactly why we each can benefit from flexible working and why different flexible working arrangements work for different people.

Care parcel

A care parcel might look like a few items bought in Boots. But it signals something huge and vital going into this winter.

The author of the original post on LinkedIn asked me what I’d put in a care package.

The best I could come up with was some Post-It notes to help people keep on top of reminders etc and avoid getting overloaded. But then I’m the sort of workplace dinosaur that hasn’t got to grips with Trello.

Have you received a care package at work? What was in it? What would you put in your ideal care package for an employee or from an employer? Please use the comments section below to let me know. Maybe I’ll try assemble the ideal care parcel and come back to this in a couple of weeks…

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