Like all businesses, Kroger had to pivot operations quickly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kroger not only employs thousands of essential workers, but also serves as a vital resource for community members each day.
During the pandemic, Kroger has been committed to helping employees (referred to as associates) maintain positive health and well-being through enhanced cleaning procedures, improved mental health resources, financial assistance, free COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and internal vaccine confidence communications.
1. Establishing a COVID-19 task force
A COVID-19 task force was created to help maintain the supply chain and ensure associate and customer safety. The health and wellness team served as a vital resource for credible information as Kroger kept associates and customers informed on the latest developments.
2. Enhanced cleaning procedures
Kroger has invested more than $1 billion since March 2020 to reward and safeguard associates and customers through the implementation of more than 30 policy and safety measures. These measures included cleaning commonly used areas more often, placing extra hand sanitizer throughout stores, and providing disinfectant wipes at store entrances so customers could wipe down shopping carts.
3. Prioritizing associate health and safety
To keep associates healthy, Kroger is offering free COVID-19 testing and flu shots, emergency leave, and reduced-cost virtual visits with physicians. An associate hotline was created to answer any questions associates have about the COVID-19 virus. Staff also have access to free mental health services to help ease stress and anxiety and support holistic well-being.
Prior to recently eased restrictions, safety measures at the height of the pandemic included:
- Face masks provided daily.
- Temperature checks.
- A mask mandate for customers and staff.
- Protective shields installed where associates and customers interact.
- Social distancing floor markers and one-way aisles.
- Reduced customer capacity in stores.
4. Building vaccine confidence through education
Kroger leadership is boosting COVID-19 vaccine confidence among associates. Kroger’s chief medical officer regularly discusses vaccine safety and eligibility, immunity, variants, the importance of masks, and facts versus fiction in articles and video clips featured on the associate network. Huddles with store teams reiterate the importance of getting vaccinated and share information about associate-only vaccine clinics to make the process quick and convenient. As a bonus, Kroger is paying $100 to associates who are fully vaccinated.
5. Moving the needle on community vaccination rates
Kroger is committed to making a positive impact in the communities they serve. Kroger Health has offered mass COVID-19 vaccine clinics in many stores across the state, giving over 200+ doses to community members each day. Off-site clinics were also organized at schools, places of worship, businesses, and food banks to make the process quick and convenient. To date, Kroger Health in Michigan has provided over 230,000 vaccines to Michigan residents.
As an incentive for associates and customers, Kroger’s Community Immunity Giveaway is giving away $5,000,000 worth of prizes. Associates and customers who received at least one vaccine from a Kroger Health Provider have a chance to win $1,000,000 or groceries for a year. Learn more.
6. Utilizing the Employee Assistance Program
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a voluntary, work-based program providing free and confidential services to associates with personal and work-related problems. These programs can help staff deal with stress, substance abuse, trauma, grief, family problems, and other issues that impact emotional well-being. In response to the pandemic, Kroger’s health and wellness team updated the company’s EAP to better serve associates:
- $15 million was offered through the Kroger Family of Companies Helping Hands fund to provide financial assistance to associates who face hardship due to COVID-19.
- Emergency leave guidelines allow paid time off for associates diagnosed with COVID-19, placed under mandatory quarantine by their medical provider because of COVID-19, or practicing self-isolation for symptoms verified by an accredited health care professional. All eligible associates received their standard pay for up to two weeks (14 days).
- Extended work-from-home policy for associates in corporate and division offices.
“Employee feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” explained a Kroger spokesperson. “Our associates know that Kroger cares about their total well-being, both physically and mentally. The initiatives Kroger has implemented not only kept our stores stocked so we could continue to serve our communities when they needed us most, but they also kept us safe while doing that.”
Kroger’s staff is playing a pivotal role at a time when their communities are depending on them for essential resources. The organization’s leadership and health and wellness department made this possible by prioritizing associate health and safety through enhanced cleaning procedures, improved mental health resources, financial assistance, free COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and internal vaccine confidence communications.