Schaumburg saying thanks to in-person workers with 'Pandemic Relief Day'

In appreciation for two years of in-person work under trying conditions, the village of Schaumburg is granting its 547 employees a paid "Pandemic Relief Day" day off.

"It has been a difficult two years and we don't have a lot of remote workers here," Human Resources Director Ann Everhart said. "This is kind of a nice way of saying thank you for being at work when so many people weren't."

The idea appears to be homegrown, based on the village's emphasis on self-care and wellness among its staff. Officials at both the Illinois Municipal League and the Northwest Municipal Conference said they are not aware of similar relief days in other towns.

Everhart said the village expresses the same general philosophy to its employees that airplane passengers hear after boarding - you can't help anyone else if you don't look after yourself first.

Presidents Day, Feb. 21, was selected as the day off for most employees because it's already a holiday for the area's school districts and has the potential to deliver the maximum benefit with the minimum disruption, Everhart said.

For those who must work on Feb. 21 - mostly the village's first-responders - the paid hours can be used later in the year.

While workers everywhere may be feeling the stresses of the pandemic, Everhart said there's a particular impact on those who never paused or went remote.

"We did close the buildings (to the public) for a short period, but we didn't stop coming to work," she said. "I remember coming into work after the mall closed, along empty streets."

"We're a government business; we still had to keep people coming in," Mayor Tom Dailly added. "Staff were really cooperative in working with us."

Schaumburg officials have been considering how best to express their gratitude to the employees for the past two years. Dailly said he had a number of conversations with Village Manager Brian Townsend about possibilities, such as a staff luncheon or outing. Then they hit upon an official mental health day.

Everhart said the idea took shape in a discussion she had with Townsend late last year, and it officially was approved by a unanimous vote of village trustees last week.

"I do want to just express my appreciation to the board for granting the relief day to the employees for their work during the pandemic," Townsend said at the time. "I know that it will be very well-received by the employees, and I know many of them very much appreciate the board's support."

The financial cost is considered to be the nearly $9,000 that 90 part-time employees, who don't normally get paid time off, will be paid for what would have been their shifts that day.

"We want to make sure that they're included," Dailly said of the part-time workers.

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