Communicating About COVID-19: Shortened Work Weeks

Shortening your work week can help balance losses due to the coronavirus, depending on your type of business. Here are some tips and tricks for handling the situation in a constructive way.

grocery-store
What you should consider about shortening work weeks, and how to communicate it to your staff

There’s no denying that these are trying times for everyone across the globe, both personally and professionally. There are also extra barriers that small business owners have — riding on razor thin margins. One way that many small businesses are dealing with the crisis, whether out of choice or necessity, is by shortening work weeks to balance losses.

When making a move like this, there are a few key things to discuss:

Nothing like this is ever easy, but if you find yourself having to slow working hours in response to the coronavirus, here are some tips and tricks for handling the situation in a constructive way.

Should I shorten business hours because of COVID-19?

There are many considerations to make when weighing whether or not to shorten your business’s hours.

What kind of business do you have?

The first depends on the kind of business you’re running. If your company operates in the healthcare field, you are probably extending working hours.

Stores like Target and Walmart have shortened their store hours in order to spend time on restocking and sanitary measures.

Other businesses, like restaurants and bars, are forced to close their brick-and-mortar establishment due to government restrictions.

Of course, few situations are that cut and dry, but you get the point: It depends on the industry your business is in.

When deciding whether or not to shorten hours, the balance you’ll want to strike is setting yourself up to not go out of business while still providing the job-related resources that your employees rely on — from their paychecks to healthcare insurance.

What’s realistic for your business?

The next element to weigh is what you’re realistically capable of doing. If you’re not under a mandate to close or remain open, you have questions about feasibility to confront:

  • Are you able to stay open in a way that doesn’t endanger the health and wellbeing of your employees?
  • On the other hand, are you able to scale back hours as a recession begins?

Many people would argue that it’s not a business’ job to consider the personal lives of their employees, but times like these call for more empathy and consideration for others than what might otherwise be considered appropriate.

When deciding whether or not to shorten hours, the balance you’ll want to strike is setting yourself up to not go out of business while still providing the job-related resources that your employees rely on — from their paychecks to healthcare insurance.

How should I let employees know about COVOID-19 shortened business hours?

Target CEO Brian Cornell said on Facebook that the decision to shorten hours due to the coronavirus was made, in part, in order to “replenish and deeply clean our stores for guests.” As this statement shows, messaging matters. The same goes for you when deciding to communicate about whether or not you’re going to be altering work hours in response to the global pandemic.

If or when you do decide to shorten work weeks or otherwise make changes to business as usual because of COVID-19, you’ll need to consider a lot in the process. Communicating effectively with your employees about all of the decisions you have reached (or will reach) about the job-related resources that impact them is key.

As Gallup explains, crisis management teams within companies across the United States are assessing how to answer and manage a wide range of uncertainties resulting from business hour reductions or closures by “assessing risks to their employee’s physical and financial wellbeing.” Their focus has been on weighing:

  • Whether or not to use standing sick leave, extended sick leave, vacation time, paid time off, or flex-work policies to cover absences
  • Revising employee compensation and benefits policies
  • Increasing sick leave or other PTO policies on a case-by-case basis
  • Allowing unlimited time off without penalty
  • Offering childcare or other dependent care benefits or subsidies
  • Paying for time spent in quarantine
  • Offering or requiring work from home or remote work policies
  • Adjusting schedules due to school closures
  • Reconfiguring meeting areas, break rooms, and the like to promote social distancing practices

What information should I include in a memo to employees?

As you think through and eventually decide on your plan of action moving forward, once you get to the point of beginning to draft communication to employees the best thing you can do is place yourself in their shoes.

What would you have concerns about and want to know if you were in their position and received your memo? Chances are you’d find comfort knowing what the status of your employment, payment, and benefits are moving forward as well as how long the new policy will be in place. Share all of the information you have in the memo so that your employees can have the maximum amount of information possible.

Even as you work to try to anticipate all of your employee’s needs, everyone is unique and will have different worries and concerns. One of the best ways to handle this is to make sure that resources are available to handle employee questions.

Whether that’s one-on-one communications, or a list of local, state, or federal resources that have been deployed in the crisis so far (or something in between). If you don’t provide an avenue for questions to be answered they’re probably going to just start coming to you regardless. You’ll also want to provide a communication channel and schedule for updating employees as things evolve during this trying time.

While these are certainly uncertain times, a little bit of empathy and compassion can go a long way in your COVID-19 strategy and communications.

Bookmark(1)

Might also interest you