The current crisis has had devastating impacts on public health and business. And while the tragedy of this virus and its toll on individuals and families can’t be overstated, one thing about crisis that often goes overlooked is its revelatory powers. Whether it’s a mirror that shows us ourselves at our worst (panicking, hoarding toilet paper, and ignoring basic safety precautions) or a telescope looking forward at the horizon and showing us the direction we should be heading in, and the best ways to get there, a crisis can be a learning opportunity. And failing to take the lessons learned on board, failure to learn from both the successes and failings it shines a light on, dooms us to repeat them, and causes us to fall behind those who rose to the challenge.
A New Normal
From hazard pay to moving work online, companies across the board have had to make sweeping changes to general workflow and employee structure. While some services were deemed essential, and other work was able to be completed online, many beyond that were simply out of work for the foreseeable future. This was the new normal. Furloughs, cutbacks, unemployment, and lots and lots of video conferencing. The problems begin to arise, however, when we see companies failing to adequately adjust to this new normal, failing to be sensitive to the fact that it is an adjustment, and failing to adequately compensate those essential workers who now have to work in potentially dangerous conditions.
We’ve all heard the horror stories, companies ending hazard pay before the crisis has abated, businesses using small gifts and modest one-time store-credit rewards in lieu of hazard pay, even some companies requesting that employees pay back some of their hazard pay after being “over-paid” emergency pay previously provided to them. What’s the through-line here? It’s simple: companies that value a few dollars here and there over their own employees during a global pandemic are easy to spot and return an immediate reaction of disgust and distrust.
How To Do Better
If the common denominator problem is the clear valuing of employees below modest emergency benefits, then the inverse is the goal. And it’s a win-win. Investing in employees is one of the best things you can do to keep your workforce happy, motivated, and invested in the success of your company. Treating them poorly and nickel-and-diming their emergency pay will inversely keep them unhappy, unmotivated, and unconcerned with whether or not the business succeeds or fails. If your workers are essential, treat them as such. If your workers are having understandable difficulties adjusting to the new normal, be patient, be understanding, be instructive, and work through it together.
On the other side of things we have companies that have gone out of their way to show their appreciation for their workers. And this even applies to companies that have had to close their doors or alter their business practices. For example, many full-service restaurants have had to scale back to curbside takeout-only restaurants and, as a result, have had to let waitstaff, bartenders, and other workers go for the time being. What sets some of these restaurants apart however is often no more complicated than simple communication and small gestures. Some restaurants have been very open and honest to their workers about plans to reopen, the general state of the business, and what proposed reopening schedules at low capacity might mean for individual workers. Some of these businesses even go out of their way to provide a small appreciation reward. While these gestures will, by no means, compare to regular working earnings, they are still often very much appreciated. Not strictly because of the actual value of the rewards themselves, but because they show an appreciation for the employees and their understanding and patience.
With the increased need for social distancing, many businesses are trying to shy away from in-person interactions which means physical gifts can be an impossibility. Fortunately, we now offer virtual gift cards which are a great way to show your appreciation without anyone needing to break quarantine or leave lockdown to enjoy.
A Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way
As we can see with the restaurant industry example, responding well to the difficulties that workers find themselves in isn’t always about increasing pay. Sometimes furloughs are simply out of the hands of the businesses. And while monetary rewards are always appreciated, open communication channels, and sincere demonstrations of the appreciation you have for your employees, and recognition of their value as both employees and as people, go a long way.