With schools closed, empty shelves at grocery stores and people it a general panic, it’s hard to imagine how one carries on, business as usual. If you’re like me, your mind has been sucked down every what-if rabbit hole imaginable, finding it hard to envision what “normal” looks like and how your work fits into this new reality. As the leader of your business, it will fall on your shoulders to create a plan that not only looks at how to maintain productivity but also, how to create some stability and flexibility for your workforce who, no doubt, are concerned with being able to manage their responsibilities and avoid illness during this chaotic time.
First things first, remember that your business is not a self-sustained organization. You will need your workforce to maintain productivity through the outbreak. It’s also important to remember, this is a temporary situation and during this time, how, when and where people work will deviate from the norm. We must look out for each other and each organization will have to do what makes most sense for their business and team. While working from home is being encouraged across the country, that’s not always an option. For those businesses who need people in the workplace, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidance here, which includes separating sick employees and encouraging those who are ill to stay home, routine cleaning of shared spaces and limiting us of shared spaces/equipment. If telework is not an option for your organization, consider staggering shifts to reduce the number of employees in the workplace at one time. Retail stores and restaurants experiencing a reduction in sales may consider delivery services. Now is the time to get creative!
Flexibility will be the second thing to consider when developing your plan. With the situation changing daily, sometimes hourly, it is impossible to come up with any blanket policies. We are all trying to figure out how to juggle our responsibilities, childcare, health and work being among the top three. In the past it may have been relatively acceptable for an employee who was feeling ill to come to work, that is not an option at this point. All employees who are ill should stay home and be allowed to work from home if well enough to do so. You’re also going to have to offer additional flexibility for those employees who will have to care for their children who will be home due to mandatory school closures. And what about those employees who are responsible for caring for sick family members, including the most vulnerable older population? Consider each employee’s need as it comes and work with them to help balance their responsibilities. Offering compassion when collaborating with your team will build loyalty and result in greater productivity and stability for your organization.
Finally, managers should shift their priorities to focus on communicating with their teams. Especially when changing to a more remote workforce, regular contact with your team will be essential to the cohesion of your employees. Providing accommodations that align with each new development will create an environment where your employees feel secure and supported even when things are turned upside down, generating appreciation that will live long past this pandemic. This too shall pass and together with strong leadership, compassion and understanding, your organization will endure. We are in this together, don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance.