There isn’t a single person who isn’t impacted by the spread of COVID-19, in some way. With the sheer number of businesses, public spaces, and schools closing, we are all finding ourselves in positions we very likely have not planned for very well.
This is a time unlike any other that we have experienced, and we’re seeing it hit the job market in a big way. Thousands of people have been laid off across the country as businesses close their doors, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes due to government intervention. One poll conducted over March 12th and 13th reported that in 18 percent of US households, someone lost their job. That number is climbing. Unemployment centers and websites are overwhelmed and experts are projecting that the number of unemployed will expand to 4.6 million before the pandemic is through.
Therefore, while you are undoubtedly very concerned about your business, your employees may be very on edge as well. They’re wondering whether their jobs are at risk, whether they’ll get the virus themselves, whether they’ll be able to take care of kids who have been sent home from school, whether elderly parents are going to be ok, and so on.
We have a few recommendations about how to inspire your team to persevere in the face of all of these anxieties.
Be proactive about checking in with them.
You might be doing a great job right now of minimizing your news exposure. Every few minutes there’s another news item about climbing numbers of infected or unemployed. But even though you may be keeping your distance for your own sanity, your employees may be glued to the news. Many people will also be distracted by worries about loved ones or other complications in their lives that have nothing to do with work. While you can’t dictate their news intake or make their problems go away completely, you can be a grounding and caring presence for them.
Regularly ask your team how they are feeling and whether there are people in their lives who have been affected by the virus somehow. Listen to suggestions about how to keep everyone healthy and happy, and try to implement them when you can. When people stew in their worries in silence, it doesn’t make for a good working environment for anybody involved.
Create safe space for your team members to share their fears with you, and with the other members of the team, letting them know they don’t have to push down their feelings, but that you are available to hear them. Provide them with reassurance that you will do everything you can to include them in decisions, and keep moving forward.
And, make sure that YOU have safe space to share your fears, get them out and then get into proactive action on how to make the best of this challenging situation. If you need help there, please contact us. We can help.
Implement leave policies that provide flexibility and encourage trust.
One of the biggest concerns working people have right now is that, if they get sick, they will not get paid time off and will not be able to pay their bills. These concerns can quickly cause people to spiral into full-blown panic, and your group morale will plunge. You, however, have the power to give your people peace of mind and a reasonable safety net.
If at all possible, we recommend you consider extending paid sick leave for two weeks to employees. This not only gives them the best possible chance to get well, it limits exposure for you and your other employees. If you need help with the nuts and bolts of changing your sick leave policies, we can help you with that.
Encourage working from home to the fullest extent possible.
As we have been told repeatedly by health officials, by the time someone experiences COVID-19 symptoms, they may already have passed it to others. Depending on the type of business you run, it may be impossible for you to let employees go fully remote; however, letting people work from home is one of the safest ways to limit the spread of the virus. Even just moving to part-time remote work or alternating how many staff are working at once can help people practice physical distancing.
You may be anxious about not being able to see your employees in person, but there is plenty of software available that will help you collaborate and be present with your employees even from your respective homes.
Plus, if you have already set a precedent of trust, gratitude, and generosity during this crisis, they will probably be more on board to be a contributing member of the team. If you need help establishing ground rules for remote work, you can ask us for more guidance.
Rally your team to provide as much value to your customers as possible.
So you are totally on board with showing as much compassion and trust to your employees as possible, but now you’re wondering how you will ever be able to afford to make these changes!
That brings me to my final recommendation: keep everyone’s eyes on the customer and how you may be able to serve in a new and innovative way. Pull your team together to brainstorm what new offerings you could create, together. An outward focus and a heart for service is really the best way to unite your team, and to also make enough money to put these recommended leave policies into practice.
If you and your employees have anxieties about the current state of the world, your customers certainly do too. Work as a united front, think about what your business can do to meet a particular need they have. Can you grow the e-commerce arm of your business? Make deliveries? Have everyone get involved in finding creative solutions.
For example, we’ve heard of one landscaping company delivering DIY gardens to their community, and a wine shop offering virtual happy hours with wine tastings. What can you offer? Contact us if you’d like to brainstorm possibilities.
You might even find a brand new niche that helps keep your business afloat, and your employees confident about going in—or logging on—to work every day.
We are here to support you with any business advice you may need during this time.