As the phrase “stay at home” increasingly becomes part of our everyday vernacular, business owners across the country are doing some critical strategizing because of the coronavirus. Not only are they facing the challenges of keeping their businesses running and profitable while the world goes on lockdown, employers must work out new management policies to keep employees safe, reassured and productive under extremely difficult conditions.
The legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “Things turn out the best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” Here are five ways to guide your team to a winning mindset and help keep your business in the game.
With the world feeling uncertain about the future, you don’t want your employees feeling uncertain about their futures at your business. If your business is not in a state that has issued a stay-at-home order, but is considered nonessential, chances are you’ll need less staff for the time being. Be honest and let employees know you have to cut hours and/or lay people off. Things are changing day to day and employees will understand their schedules are in flux. But, it’s important to communicate and let everyone know you’re working on a plan.
2—Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Besides moving the IRS tax filing deadline to July 15 and adding much-needed money to many relief funds, the Coronavirus Response Act also includes emergency paid sick leave and expanded paid family leave benefits. Effective April 2, 2020, the new law applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees and is in effect until December 31, 2020. Here’s what the Act entails:
- Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Full-time employees can receive two weeks of paid sick leave. Individuals who are working part time or hourly are also eligible for paid sick leave which is to equal the number of hours the employee works on average over a two-week period. Leave time is in addition to other paid leave provided by the employer. An eligible employee may take paid sick leave if he/she is unable to work (including telework) because:
- The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation due to the coronavirus (COVID-19)
- A health care provider advised the employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19 (self-imposed quarantine without medical advice does not qualify under the Act)
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus and is seeking a medical diagnosis
- The employee is caring for an individual (not limited to family members) who is either subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation due to the coronavirus or has been advised to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19
- The employee is caring for their child whose school has been closed or place of care is unavailable due to the coronavirus precautions
- Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave if unable to work (including telework) because employees must care for a child or children under 18 years of age and whose school or place of care has closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This is a temporary expansion of the FMLA eligibility requirements.
To cover the costs of the leave, the government will give employers a refundable payroll tax credit as well as a refundable income tax credit for self-employed individuals.
Depending on your industry, your employees may be able to work remotely and not miss any days of work. If you do allow employees to work from home, make sure they follow your cybersecurity policies such as password protection, use of a strong antivirus program and never transferring sensitive data over public Wi-Fi. For more help, the FCC offers a free cyber planner wizard to create a custom guide for your business.
If your business is still open and you do need to cut staff, try and spread shifts around so everyone still gets a paycheck (plus having fewer workers helps with social distancing). If product delivery is an option for your business, create a delivery team to make sure customers can still get what they need in a timely manner. Deliveries should be made keeping the health of the delivery person and the customer in mind. Already UPS and FedEx drivers are either suspending the signature requirement or having the customer use his or her own pen.
Now is the time to do all the research you can to keep employees and your workplace safe from contamination. Check for an approved list of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to the recommendations any employee that exhibits flu-like symptoms should be sent home and then your business should be completely cleaned and sanitized. Have cleaners wear protective gear and throw away any food or utensils the infected employee may have touched. For food businesses, the National Restaurant Association has published a state by state guide on coping with the virus and promises to update the resources regularly.
5—Filling Job Gaps
Do you have a contingency plan if your staff can’t work? While many employers have decided to hold off on hiring for the moment, there is a possibility you’ll need to fill some positions temporarily if employees fall ill from the virus.
Even before the outbreak, most people and businesses turn to online resources to search for jobs or talent. Because things are changing so rapidly, it makes sense to create a plan to fill jobs in your business before you actually have the need. Start by creating a worksheet with job descriptions for all the roles in your company and assign specific responsibilities for each role. Next, for each role make a list of qualifications and experience needed, and salary/benefits offered. By preparing job descriptions now, you’ll be ready at a moment’s notice to post your job on one of the top hiring websites such as Indeed and Upwork. With layoffs sure to increase, your talent pool will be even bigger.
The coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. is likely to get worse before it gets better. So try to be flexible, understanding that even if you plan, circumstances can render those plans moot. The key is to regularly communicate with your staff, whether they’re at work or working remotely.