The Daily Rundown

SMB News Daily Rundown: Update for April 7

Welcome to the Small Business Rundown. Each day, we bring you stories that impact small business owners and their workforce.

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Small Business News Highlights for April 7:

  • Employers should not expect to get 100% from employees right now
  • Lockdown taking significant toll on workers’ mental health
  • Throughout history, pandemics have shaped reality for humans

As federal officials work with banks to shore up the Paycheck Protection program and Congress continues discussing the next round of aid legislation, we’re turning our attention today to some of the ways that this pandemic is impacting the workforce and shaping the experience of work. 

“This is like wartime. You wouldn’t expect people to be at 100% productivity when their houses are getting bombed.”

For starters, if your WFH employees seem a little distracted, it’s completely reasonable. As one expert in managing remote workers explains, the conditions that most employees are working under currently resemble wartime and expecting 100% focus and productivity isn’t reasonable. Instead, she recommends setting expectations around input and output instead of time logged online. Managers who do offer extra support and reasonable accommodations during this chaotic time will most likely be rewarded with increased loyalty once the crisis passes. 

“These things spiral. The stressors build up, especially if someone has preexisting tendencies to lean in that direction. This can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

In particular, managers should be especially sensitive to the toll the pandemic is taking on mental health. While essential services workers grapple with exposing themselves and their loved ones to the virus each time they leave the house, WFH employees are struggling to balance productivity with the needs of their household. 

A spate of recent polls have addressed American workers’ concerns about finances, health care, mental health and other basic needs as sheltering in place becomes the new normal for most Americans. 

“After a pandemic, people have literally had the fear of God put in them, and there is no great sense of victory at the end.”

Finally, it’s worth remembering that we’re not the first — or the last — people to experience the uncertainty and trauma of a pandemic. In fact, pandemics have significantly shaped human society and work since the beginning of history.

One expert concludes: “Like its predecessors, this panic has probably tipped the balance in favor of labor and against capital. It will intensify distrust in governments while also intensifying the desire for governments to take a more active role in society and in markets. We will be lucky if those conflicts are resolved peacefully.”

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