The Secret To Protecting Your People During The Time of COVID-19
- Unemployment Isn’t The Way To Go
- If You’re An Essential Businesses, How Can You Protect Your Employees?
- Your Role In All of This
There’s no secret that the recent outbreak and further development and spread of coronavirus has disrupted nearly everything that the world has come to know. Supply chains are disrupted, schools are closed, businesses are shuttered, flights canceled, and cruise ships float endlessly along the coastline of nearly every continent searching for a port that is willing to accept them. Let’s face it – the world has changed in a short period of time, and the idea that it might return to normal any time soon seems to drift farther and farther away with the passing of each day.
When it comes to business, it should come as no surprise that nearly every industry is hurting in one way or another. And sure, a business owner wants to do everything they can to ensure that their business stays afloat during these unprecedented times, but they also have a bigger responsibility; their people. Workers are the ones who are really suffering the most during the time of COVID-19. And all around the world, business owners are struggling with the task of keeping their heads above water, while also ensuring that their workers can put food on the table for their families. It’s sure not an easy task, and it’s even quite daunting. But that’s exactly why we’re here to lend a helping hand.
There are actions that you can take to protect your business’ most prized assets. There are ways for you to mitigate the risk of losing your business, while still ensuring that you’re taking care of your employees. They might not be the type of business solutions that you’re used to, but then again, this isn’t the same old world that it’s always been. Things have changed, and they might continue to change before things get better.
In the meantime, it’s up to you to do everything you can to protect your business and your workers – and that’s true if you’re considered an “essential business” or a “non-essential business.” So, take a look down below and learn more about some steps that you can take today to keep your workers satisfied during the time of COVID-19.
Unemployment Isn’t The Way To Go
On March 24th, 2020, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis published a prediction for what they foresee the unemployment rate in the United States to be following the spread of COVID-19 in the country – and to much astonishment, that prediction was nearly three times more than the highest point of unemployment during the Great Depression. The number? 32 percent.
This shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise to anyone – after all, governors throughout the Untied States are forcing non-essential businesses to close for the time being. Schools are closed, restaurants and cafés are only permitted to offer takeout and delivery service, and most grocery stores are operating with fewer employees than before the outbreak because many people, quite frankly, just don’t want to be out during all of this.
However, even with those justifications, that number is absolutely mindboggling. As a business owner, you’d have to imagine that at some point during all of this, the prudent decision might be to cut labor costs, which means that some of your very own people might end up contributing to the accuracy of that prediction. But remember, there are always other options that simply laying off your workers to save money – especially during a time where they need all the help that they can get.
If you’ve been deemed a non-essential business and have been forced to close, then it’s safe to say that finances are currently a concern. If you’re not able to offer your services, to create your products, to accept new clients, to complete jobs, etc., then it’s likely that you’re not bringing in revenue during all of this. However, there are still bills that need to be paid, right? How can you go about paying back lenders, paying rent or a mortgage for your location, keeping up with vendor and supplier invoices, salary, healthcare?
Take A Look At The US Department of Labor
The US Department of Labor is offering a number of different resources to help businesses better manage the employment crisis that is only poised to grow over the next number of weeks. In addition to some workplace safety practices as outlined by OSHA (something we’ll talk about next), there are some useful resources that can help businesses better navigate the payroll issues that will soon become much more pressing.
Aside from the formal government options that include the Fair Labor Standards Act and Family Sick Leave, businesses are beginning to get a bit crafty about the ways in which they go about keeping their operations up and running with as many employees on board as possible.
The Idea of Going Remote
Work From Home – WFH – has become a regular phrase in our vernacular – something that past generations of workers have certainly never had the opportunity to say! But with businesses forced to close their doors, working from home has provided business owners with a new way to continue to conduct some of their business with their regular staff during the outbreak. For instance, media companies and technology companies have shifted their operations from the workplace to remote work. They utilize web conferencing platforms and collaboration platforms like Zoom and Slack to get things done from home, to communicate with clients, and to maintain somewhat of a working business structure. Even colleges and universities have moved their entire curriculums online, allowing faculty members to teach their courses online and continue to get paid and receive their full benefits.
But what about businesses with an outdated infrastructure? What if they’re unable to work remotely? What if their entire business model revolves around their physical location? These types of businesses could include service-related businesses, manufacturers, retail (other than grocery stores), restaurants, real estate agencies, etc. This is where things begin to get complicated.
Taking Advantage of The Option To Furlough
Many of the country’s largest retail chains like Macy’s, Kohl’s, Gap, and more have furloughed their workers – this essentially “pauses” their employment for the time being, but still guarantees that they will have their position back once the social distancing restrictions are lifted, or at least until they become a bit more flexible and lenient. For businesses that can’t continue to pay a large scale workforce to work remotely, or for others where that option just simply isn’t feasible, furloughing your employees is still a fair and viable way to pause your operations, cut costs, and still play fair by your biggest and most important assets. At the end of the day, this situation isn’t ideal for any party involved – businesses, employees, or consumers, but it’s simply one of the best – and in some cases, the only – options available to ensure that businesses can remain afloat during this pause, and that employees can stay isolated at home until things begin to get better.
If You’re An Essential Businesses, How Can You Protect Your Employees?
Let’s make a shift to the other part of the equation. With governors all around the nation calling on all “non-essential businesses” to close and reduce their workforce by 100%, that leaves us with another subset of businesses that have been deemed “essential.”
Now, what businesses are considered essential?
The State of New York website lists several different criteria to help business owners determine if they’re an essential business. And in fact, this list is so extensive that they’ve gone to great lengths to divide this list up by industry. In other words, there are essential industries, and essential businesses within those industries.
Just to give you an indication of how this list breaks down, there are essential infrastructure businesses, which would include public and private utility companies, telecommunication companies, airports and airlines, hotels, etc. From there, you can sort through essential manufacturing businesses, essential healthcare businesses, essential retail businesses, and even essential services. So, if your business falls within the criteria listed on the website, then you have a different set of challenges to face.
You might not be struggling to find a way to protect your workers financially; instead, you’ll be looking to protect their health. If your workers are able to continue working for your business, then it’s up to you to keep them safe on the job.
OSHA’s “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces For COVID-19”
The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a comprehensive report detailing the measures that all businesses should take to ensure that their employees are protected during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re a business owner, then you are already well aware that you’re required by law to provide “safe and healthful workplaces” for your employees under the Occupational Safety and Health act of 1970. With that said, it is within your duties to ensure that if you’re considered an essential business, you must do everything that you can to keep your employees safe when they enter the workplace each and every day.
Social Distancing At Work
One of the most important steps that you can take as suggested by OSHA is to ensure that proper social distancing guidelines are followed within the workplace. This means that your employees should never be closer than six feet from one another. If you work in an office setting, ensure that individual office doors are kept closed. If you have a cubicle setup, try to determine if there’s a way to shift some employees around if their workstations are positioned closer than six feet apart from one another.
Encourage your employees to stay home if they’re feeling sick. Even if you’re an essential business, you can still try to find ways to limit density in the workplace. Any employees who would be able to work from home, should probably be encouraged to do so. If you can manage to keep only the most essential employees in the office at any given time, you can reduce density and mitigate the risk of contracting the virus for your employees.
Sanitize any and all surfaces, including workstations. Encourage all of your employees to keep their desks, offices, and workstations clean, tidy, and most importantly, sanitized. If you have a cleaning staff, make sure that they use the correct disinfectants as listed under OSHA’s guidelines.
When it comes to sick leave, try to be more flexible whenever possible. OSHA highly recommends that employees who are feeling ill – even if it’s just a common cold – to stay home. If you have employees who don’t have any sick time, try to be accommodating to ensure that they’re still taken care of in the event that they’re unable to come to work. In addition, recognize that your employees may very well have sick family members who might require care; in these instances, be as accommodating as possible to ensure that they can do what they have to do.
You can browse through the document on OSHA’s website yourself, but the tips listed above should be considered “essential practices for essential businesses.”
Your Role In All of This
Whether you’re a non-essential business or an essential business, you do have a role to play in all of this. Your role is to keep your biggest and most important assets safe, healthy, and protected at all times. As a business owner, you depend on your employees – and at the same time, your employees depend on you. By doing everything you can to keep your employees safe at home or safe at work isn’t an option – it’s a necessity, a must, and a responsibility.
Be sure to remain current on all of the options that you have available to you to ensure that you can take care of your employees during this unprecedented time. Whether it’s finding a way to keep your employees on the payroll even without revenue, or if it’s keeping your employees safe and healthy in the workplace, it’s your duty to find an answer. And as a business owner, you’re an expert at finding answers.
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