What Your Business Can Do To Promote Employee Wellness
We’re not jumping on the hype train with this post. But, with the current focus on the Coronavirus outbreak, it brings up an important topic: how we treat our employees and how to promote employee wellness more generally.
Thanks to the socio-political landscape, it’s time to have real conversations about how we treat employees in the hospitality industry, especially when it comes to people working while sick. Right now, the laws are not set up in favor of those who are tasked with cooking and serving our food, turning over rooms, and handling our things to ensure security at events. Really, this applies across all kinds of industries, but for this blog’s sake, let’s lean on the hospitality industry because of its dependence on people who need a day off and won’t be getting one.
As of right now, there are around 92K cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with America claiming around 100+ cases. It’s believed the virus spreads from person to person via coughing and sneezing. These are two things that signify—if you feel sick—you need to stay in your own home.
The problem is that a lot of people are coming to work because they don’t have an option; they’re either lower wage workers who don’t have sick days or their company’s internal system doesn’t allow for them to take off because there’s no backup plan.
Under current U.S. law, there isn’t a guarantee of paid sick leave. There is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which gives someone up to 12 weeks off for serious medical conditions. Try selling that to the average restaurant boss who’s got tables filled with hungry patrons.
This is complicated. Very complicated.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been pretty clear about this: if you’re sick, stay home. It’s not rocket science. But, for a lot of US workers, that’s not going to happen. For some folks, it’s a point of pride to not let a sniffle keep them down for the count, while on the other hand, others simply can’t afford to let a sniffle keep them down for the count thanks to their chosen profession. A lot of Americans have no choice, and that’s a problem.
We’ve all seen how it goes: one person is sick, they come into work, and slowly but surely, the bug creates a domino effect and one by one, everyone is sick. (Somewhat similar to what most parents have resigned themselves to: when one kid gets sick in the house, the whole family is not too far behind.)
It never fails. Culturally, we’ve designed our systems to break on the shortest straw, which in a situation like this, isn’t a good idea. People need to stay home if they’re sick. That applies in more situations than an outbreak of a novel virus; that applies during cold and flu season, too.
Our system for paid sick leave isn’t exactly what you’d call “strong.” Instead, we work people like crazy regardless of the state of their health and wellbeing. A lot of times, lower-wage workers run the risk of working sick or losing their gig thanks to industries that never slow down—no matter the risk. This is a scary proposition and needs to change.
What we can do moving forward in the face of a crisis
First, don’t get caught up in the news cycle. If you’re monitoring every little thing, you’re going to drive yourself nuts. The news organizations will keep pushing a narrative on development rather than the raw numbers with perspective. Things change constantly, and people feed into something that might be a little out of their realm of understanding. Take a deep breath.
Understand what “crisis” is
If someone is sick, they need a day off. They shouldn’t be judged for not coming in. Making someone come in despite clearly poor health is an abusive tactic. Even if your company is large, there needs to be some flexibility. If someone is contagious, they need to get some rest and get better; it equates to better business results in the long run.
Stay away from red tape
Don’t let bureaucracy stop people from taking a sick day. Don’t get wrapped up in processes and paperwork. Assemble a team if you have to, but realistically, a manager should be able to handle sick workers.
If your employees are sick, keep these things top of mind:
There will be conflicting information – keep people up to date on what company policy is and what course of action will be taken should workers get sick. Communicate policies along with pertinent information, as well as the reasoning so employees can take the initiative in unanticipated situations.
Be clear on remote work
If folks are going to stay home, keep these things in mind:
- What’s possible
- What’s not
- How they’ll work
- What a daily review cycle looks like
Because this is the service industry we’re talking about, remote work really isn’t a thing, but for all other sectors, you can use this information at will.
Thanks to a lot of people across industries being out sick, expect delays in the supply chain. It’s just likely to happen, given the spread of the virus. Planning around this should be expected.
Do what you have to do to keep your people safe. Let workers stay home, or bring in temporary workers to take their place, but as we’re navigating the situation, workers and their families should come first. That’s what’s most important.