Across social media, people have made reference to how each day seems a month long or how many years it seems since the first physical distancing started. In most small businesses, the rush and uncertainty creates the same effect.

What happens next is partly unknown. You do control your planning and how you are treating employees now. The HR world and a fair amount of public comments have highlighted those employers who have not treated employees well. Zoom meetings to tell everyone watching they were out of a job, cuts in pay at lower levels only, and poor safety are among those you are most likely to have seen. I mention this because how any employer treats people during such an emergency directly hits future retention as well as hiring.

  • Are you or your managers talking to employees individually?
  • Do you make time for asking how they and their families are doing?
  • For a little small talk beyond just a work assignment?
  • Offering some help with a problem that is hindering their work?
  • Have you maintained regular communications across the organization too?

Sharing articles is another helpful form of communications. Here is one on working from home –  New rules for remote work-pandemic edition

A guide on coping and developing resilience is from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good center   Guide to well-being

What Are You Planning for the Future?

Now is the time to think about what your organization will look like in one month, three months, and through the end of the calendar year. Yes, this shutdown has no defined end yet. And there are indications a future shutdown is possible later this year.  But you need to plan, based on your values and the current conditions of your organization.  Carpe diem indeed.  

If you had to furlough or lay-off employees,

  • What will you need to happen to start bringing them back to work?
  • How are you keeping in touch with them now?
  • How will you decide who returns and when? Common methods are – those in specific roles, with critically needed skills, by seniority, or by performance level. Or
  • Will you seek to bring everyone back at once?

If you have everyone working still – whether from home or in their normal situation – what will you do about physical distancing needs moving forward? About possible changes in work hours to accommodate those whose children’s school or daycare is still closed?

On pay – do you have reason to expect sudden increases in pay rates for any of the types of people you employ? In past major disasters, from Katrina to California fires, there have been some fields where employers faced such tight labor markets that pay rose significantly.

A recent Gallup poll indicated that 59% of workers who are now working from home, but did not do so before the shut-downs, would prefer to continue working from home once their normal workplace re-opens. People who have had their hours or shifts cut as well as those who work in places that cut jobs are already seeking new employers. What impact could those factors have on your operations?

Would new college graduate hiring make sense for your organization? Many new college graduates have not yet gotten job offers. Normally an economic slowdown like this results in many of them losing the first few years of their careers. IF you could use such skills or could upgrade your operations by hiring these new graduates, there is less competition now and for several months for them.

Does your fiscal year end in June or September? Now is the time to plan for what you will do about accrued leave. Whether you normally allow some roll-over of hours or not, look at your policy and decide what temporary allowances you might make. Be sure to communicate that as soon as possible since people whose vacation was cancelled by events or who have not been able to take such time off will want to know. And you do not want your first few weeks back in a more normal situation, when that comes, to be a time when critical employees are all taking last minute time off to meet an old policy’s requirements.

The roll-out of many federal benefits have been slower than most small organizations need. The rules on several major programs were delayed or changed after the programs were announced. Part of this is the impact of large bills flying through the legislative process with immediate implementation expectations. But that does not help us much.

If you need help, talk to the counselors at your local small business development center as soon as possible. If you are not in significant trouble, help the small businesses you work with by paying their bills on time.

If there is anything I can do to assist you or to provide ‘an ear’, do not hesitate to contact me.