Business in the New Normal: The Hidden Challenge of Reopening
As several states including Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia lift COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, small businesses have begun to implement their plans for bringing back employees. But like airline flights after 911, and banking after the 2008 financial crisis, certain aspects of the business will never look the same after COVID-19; no one knows this more than your employees. Overburdened and overwhelmed with uncertainty, they’re fearful. With a vaccine a year or more away, this fear doesn’t stop at the door just because they punch a clock at the beginning of a shift. Implementing CDC guidelines eases the worry about their physical workspace, but how do you plan to address their psychological well-being on the job?
From headlines to social media, there seems to be no shortage of bad news on the pandemic front. Is it any wonder people seem a little more anxious, more cautious? Uncertain times surrounding traumatic events can result in a wide array of emotions, from concerns about the health of loved ones to anxiety about school disruptions to increased stigma because of age or race.
As stay-at-home orders lift, there’s no need for your business to sacrifice engagement, morale and productivity; these effective steps can make it a little easier for everyone:
- Acknowledge the stressful, anxious times we live in by addressing the elephant in the room. No one is immune to lockdowns, paper shortages or feelings of isolation. Let them talk about what they fear. More importantly, come prepared to the conversation with ways to help; you could provide extra gloves, more sanitation stations, update sick leave policies or consider safer ways to process in-house sales.
- Start an Employee Safety Task Force. Working collaboratively with HR gives employees a bit of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. Working together across departments lets employees see how others are handling their workload too. It could also lead to new policies and procedures that might keep everyone safer including customers. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration website is packed with good information about protecting employees across all industries including retail, restaurants, and manufacturing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Enlist the help of supervisors. Train supervisors about how to spot the signs of extreme sadness, anxiety, or depression. Plan to address this without crossing the line of discrimination by assuming someone has a mental health problem. A recent report from Limeade, a software employment consultancy group based in Seattle, noted that 47 percent of employees have experienced negative consequences from disclosing mental health issues. To avoid this situation and reduce employee turnover, connect and talk about the CDC guidelines on coping with COVID-19. You’ll find links to websites including the Disaster Distress Helpline and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. All numbers are toll-free. Make these resources available to your employees by posting signs or posters around the break room.
- Implement daily check-ins. Encourage supervisors to set time aside to check in on their team beyond just what work they’ve accomplished. In that same Limeade survey of 1000 workers, 1 in 5 employees left their positions because their employer did not support their well-being. To avoid disengagement and boost morale, have supervisors or leads discuss how they are doing in general and how they feel about the ‘new’ normal.
- Encourage wellness. Whether you want to share apps on meditation or yoga or provide help through local churches or agencies, there are plenty of local resources that can help your employees with babysitting, groceries, and delivery.
- Educate employees about the validity of available COVID-19 resources. Discuss how to differentiate fact from fiction to keep them safe online. Prepare and discuss how your employees can avoid COVID-19 scams and misinformation through social media, phone, and email.
Employers or small businesses can find more information about COVID-19 and the state of business in Texas at the Texas Workforce Commission website. For more complete information about the Texas Paycheck Protection Program and small business assistance, check out what the chamber created.
The Lynch Law Firm is happy to walk you through best practices in adjusting for a post-COVID-19 world. Contact us now to connect on these topics.