Accepting The Unknown: How To Deal With a New Working Reality

Disclaimer: For the most up to date information on COVID-19, please check with the CDC or the WHO.

Everything is uncertain. From getting toilet paper to wondering how we’re going to pay bills, we’ve never experienced anything like this in our lifetime. Every hour, it feels like the news is changing: updates on COVID-19, how to stop the virus from spreading, proper handwashing techniques, school and business closures, and more—all of it is dizzying. 

One thing is for sure: those of us lucky enough to work from home will be spending a lot of time getting to know our families and roommates. Business is eventually going to have to move at a different speed. The economic fallout is massive, but in reality, the world at large will have to work together to bring markets and jobs from the deep red and into the black.

One thing that everyone, no matter what industry they’re in, will experience is an urgent wake-up call. “Business as usual” has been upended. Grocery stores are hit hard and the restaurants that remain open are offering take-out only while working with a skeleton crew. Everything is just – crazy. (If you’re picking up food, some cokes, coffee, whatever – overtip.)

 

The rise of the hourly worker

A lot of folks are out of a job right now. But, one thing that the rest of the country is realizing is that the working classthe hourly workeris the backbone of our country. Our dedicated medical workers, nurses, and EMTs are all out on the frontlines and we couldn’t be more thankful.

There are teams of folks putting their own health on the line and helping keep the rest of us fed. They’re working overnights, stocking shelves and putting in the work to help strengthen our communities, one pack of tortillas at a time. We are all in this together. 

Then there are the folks stocking shelves, driving the trucks, moving goods on the trucks, making sure that millions of people have food to eat, are getting their medicine, and have access to cleaning products. These are the unsung heroes, the ones hustling late into the night, working in shipping, dealing with an ever-changing logistical nightmare, but always making sure deliveries are made. We’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the countries biggest retailers to help solve problems, to keep groceries coming in daily. 

There are the cleaning crews out there making sure that spaces are detoxed, and then there are a ton of companies providing our kids with stuff to do and ways to keep learning, despite the circumstances. 

Companies are hopefully reviewing policies that involve not only customers but also how things move internally. As the virus spreads, there are a few key questions companies are going to have to think about for the foreseeable future. 

 

Should my people stay at home? We really need them. 

Yes. The disease is transmitted through exposure to respiratory droplets (coughs and sneezes from someone who has contracted the virus within the past 14 days but also from people aren’t showing symptoms.)


This is the stuff we’ve heard and know well by now. But like all things, it bears repeating: wash your hands, and if you’re feeling even kind of sick, stay home. 

Your dedicated people will try to power through whatever’s bothering them (whether it’s allergies, the cold, or the flu), but don’t let them do so in the proximity of their coworkers. Make it known that working from home is acceptable and okay and that their grind is not taken for granted. The only way we’re beating this thing is together.  

 

What about benefits policies? This is getting complicated. 

Companies are going to have to review policies: paid time off, sick leave, working from home, all of it will need to go under the microscope – ok, pun intended. As of right now, there’s no timetable on how long some workers will be home. Are your workers going to be furloughed? What is your plan?

It’s time to sit down with HR and hammer this out immediately and get the word out to all workers. This isn’t the common cold or just an achy day. In cases like this, we need policies that are effective and fluid that will enable us to adapt to the current situation.

Government programs are popping up, and those will impact business and inject funds into the private and public sectors. 

The particulars of the stimulus are still being worked out. How those funds will be allocated to the service industry is unclear, but from what the numbers are telling us, every sector of the American economy is feeling the squeeze right now. Everything we knew about benefits, time off, what’s legal, what’s allowed, what’s not – all of it is evolving. It’s important to keep up with official sources of information in regards to how the stimulus will affect American lives, and businesses, too. 

 

How clear is our work from home policy? 

While there are a lot of jobs in the hospitality, service, retail, medical, and emergency service industries that require people to be physically present, many other jobs can be done remotely. With technologies like Slack and Zoom, people can manage their workload from home and in their pajamas. 

Set the guidelines for what working from home looks like. Is there a morning stand up, or do people need particular resources for specific jobs? Everything needs to be on the table. On the bright side, if there’s any good to come out of this, we’ll know what meetings could’ve been emails. 

 

Are you keeping everyone informed with legitimate information? 

This news cycle is nuts. Things change every time we open an app or pop on cable news. What was yesterday’s boiling point is today’s solvable mystery. HR teams need to keep a sharp eye on what factual information is out there and how to use it to combat any misinformed hype. 

Rumors and fear spread quickly if not contained. Misinformation is a big part of all of that, so stay in communication with your team, and let them know what’s going on, and what the company’s official stance and response will be

 

What about business travel? 

Right now, no one needs to be traveling and pretty much everyone’s travel plans are on hold. There are multiple worldwide travel bans in place. 

 

Have you trained your managers correctly? 

There needs to be a unified front. Supervisors and managers should know what the company policy is, and they should be keeping track with the developments as they relate to COVID-19. They should also be able to provide information to direct reports, especially as it relates to how the company will react to help prevent the spread of infection. Right now, it’s critical that all forms of management take the point of view of not if, but when. 

When the market comes back, when people are working, and the dust settles, we’ll see a new world where teams are hopefully stronger and more in sync than they were before. Things are going to change. We like to remain optimistic. It’s for the better. If you need our help getting your hotel or restaurant or event back on its feet, we’re here and we’re ready. But until that day comes, take care of your people and yourself.

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