The COVID-19 crisis has had a crippling effect on businesses and how they operate. Companies have resorted to taking business online or shutting down in-person interaction completely. Many smaller businesses had no choice but to close the doors. Hopefully, it’s just temporary. But there is so much more to business than just money and profits. For most small business owners, employers and employees are a part of something bigger, more like a ‘family’. Heck, some coworkers spend more time together than real family members!
Coworkers, especially in small businesses, grow close to one another. They develop co-dependencies and real bonds of friendship. It’s hard to cut off ‘family’, even if you are struggling to stay open in the middle of a crisis. But you are still faced with the hard decision: permanently close shop, commit to trying to restart and retain your best employees, or rip off the band-aid and let them all go. It’s not an easy choice, and there are no clear right answers.
Here are a few things for the small business owner to think about as you navigate these tough times:
Business in the Age of Social Distancing
Before the virus, people thrived on the interaction and talking through problems or brainstorming solutions or new ideas. This is especially true where strong morale and team spirit exist as a key driver of success. Social distancing is making people more isolated with less and less interaction outside of family. As an employer, look for ways to foster a continued sense of connection between co-workers and the business. Think of small projects that might take some collaboration. Incorporate digital gatherings like Zoom or Hangouts as alternatives to the worksite until employees are ready to share offices again.
When you do start bringing people back you will need to decide on things like a mask policy and a policy on social distancing. Here again be careful what you put in place, you could be stuck with it for a long time. In the team building world, they have a term, “challenge by choice”, which means a person’s individual choice to participate or not participate in an activity is respected and acknowledged openly. As it relates to return to work and virus related policy, this seems like a safe middle ground. Perhaps the same is true with customers.
Businesses with social settings like gyms, restaurants, and movie theaters rely on people in social settings for revenue. COVID-19 has people stuck at home for weeks nearly forbidden from engaging with the outside world. These businesses that bring us closer together might be some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. These types of businesses will likely be testing out social closeness before other types of businesses may be comfortable testing these waters. ‘Customers by Choice’ seems appropriate here as well, meaning your customers may not come back immediately until they regain confidence socializing in these types of settings. And that’s okay. Spend this time meeting customers where they are and continue fostering the lines of communication through digital marketing and online business operations, where possible.
Caring For Your Work Family During the COVID-19 Crisis
Developing a solid strategy to get back to business may be met with concern from some team members. Others may be pushing to get back to work sooner than you feel comfortable. There is a lot riding on the wheels you set into motion. Here are a few options you have available to come out of this crisis intact or better than before and to show your ‘work family’ that you still care:
- A call every now and then can go a long way. Check-in on them, see how they are doing. It would be appreciated.
- Keep them engaged by asking them to help you by communicating with customers on social channels
- Ask them to assist you in planning the reopening of the business after the pandemic.
- Use social messaging to connect with employees and customers to keep them updated and optimistic about the future.
The most concerning thing for your employees is the security of their job and if there be a continued source of income after the pandemic.
Furlough vs. Termination
During these times of huge uncertainty, you are probably looking for costs you can cut. You want to do what you can to ensure your employees have a job to return to once the lockdown has ended. There are often two options available for your employees: furlough or termination. A furlough is a short-term layoff from work, but employees are still able to come back to work when the furlough ends. People who have been furloughed are usually not paid their salaries; however, they are able to retain their employee benefits. Termination is when you dismiss your employee permanently. Unless you extend an offer of rehire they are unable to return to their jobs.
The most expedient option is to terminate some members of your team. This can be a particularly hard decision to make, especially when you are dealing with the livelihoods of people that you consider to be family. Luckily, the US Senate has passed a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package, which includes a $367 billion employee retention fund designed specifically for small businesses and more on the way.
The coronavirus rescue package has been specifically made to assist employees who remain on your business’ payroll or who have, unfortunately, lost their jobs as a result of the economic effects of the pandemic. As an employer, you can apply for these funds to make sure that your employees are able to receive their wages in spite of the lockdown.
Providing for Your Work Family As Best You Can
With so much uncertainty and doubt about health related issues right now, your people will be more worried than ever about paying for their medical expenses. Employees love the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have a way to pay if things go wrong health-wise. As an employer, you might help them to understand their options.
For example they may qualify for COBRA continuation coverage, but that can get really expensive. Another option to consider is medical cost-sharing, a more holistic alternative that is significantly less costly. Medical cost-sharing has a strong community element. So employees feel like they are still a part of a family that supports them in their time of need. COBRA is just expensive health insurance and lacks the personal touch. You can also help your work family with applying for their government benefits, like unemployment insurance, so that they can have an income, even if you are left with no choice but to terminate their employment.
How Scoop Health Can Help You
Scoop Health offers an exciting and affordable alternative to health insurance. Instead of counting on a profit minded insurance company, members count on a like minded community to pay the bills. For a small monthly contribution, your people can rest easy knowing they are a part of a community that is ready to help them pay for any medical expenses that may arise.
The pandemic has pushed good health to the top of the agenda. If you plan on getting your business back up and running, great health benefits will help. But expensive health insurance is not a viable option. Medical cost sharing is simple to understand, easy to use, and really affordable.
Get the whole scoop at: www.ScoopHealth.com