SMB News Weekly Rundown for May 19

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


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Small Business News Highlights:


Overwork attributed to up to 745,000 deaths

“Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.”

After a year when many work-from-home (WFH) employees struggled to find a healthy work-life balance, the World Health Organization (WHO) released some startling data: working long hours might kill you.

The WHO published a study earlier this week detailing findings that suggest that “people working 55 or more hours each week face an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared to people following the widely accepted standard of working 35 to 40 hours in a week.”

The study looks at work habit data from the 1970s through 2018.

Small business owners leave mask wearing up to patrons

“We’ve always tried to leave it to the customers, period, even when the mandates were in place.”

The CDC announced that fully vaccinated people no longer need to mask up in most places and states are removing restrictions right and left, but many small businesses are proceeding more cautiously and letting customers decide whether or not to continue wearing protective face coverings.

While many larger retailers, such as Walmart and Target, have dropped the mask requirements, small business owners indicate that they’re inclined to follow patrons’ lead and allow people to wear or not wear masks based on their own comfort levels.

dog at vet office

Employers add new perks to attract talent to post-pandemic workplace

“Frankly, we sort of expected maybe people would enroll less frequently and would want more money in their checking and savings accounts just because incomes could be a bit less stable. But we’re really seeing the opposite.”

A recent survey examining workplace benefits found that employers are or plan to offer more voluntary benefits in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The trend indicates that employers are responding to employees’ desire for more security given the economic and health uncertainty of the past year.

Voluntary benefits, defined as benefits that are available but not subsidized by the employer, include perks such as hospital indemnity insurance, pet insurance, and financial planning assistance. According to the research, 94% of respondents indicated that they expect these types of benefits to play an important role in attracting and retaining talent in the coming year.


House to revisit Pregnancy Accommodation Bill

“If there were ever a time where there was an appetite to protect the most vulnerable in our workforce, the post-pandemic period is it.”

Congress is poised to consider the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act again and policy experts believe that the legislation, aimed at providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, has a better chance of passing than many of the other items on President Joe Biden’s social policy agenda.

The bill was passed by the House in 2020 and must be approved by the Senate, where it could meet some resistance from Republicans despite the fact that many provisions in the bill have bipartisan support.

working from home with children

Return to work path less straightforward for working mothers

“Roughly five million women still can’t work due to child care issues.” 

As economists and policy makers consider how the persistently high unemployment rate and labor shortage fit together, many women across the country have a pretty good idea: the jobs that are available don’t fit the needs of their family.

Returning to work is a less than straightforward proposition for the women who must be available to shepherd children through virtual school or quarantine. Additionally, finding a job that offers both flexibility and wages to compete with expanded unemployment benefits further complicates the issue.

woman going to work wearing face mask

States offer “Return to Work” bonuses to lure workers back to employment

“The biggest challenge facing Oklahoma businesses today is not reopening, it’s finding employees.”

More than 20 states have withdrawn their participation from the federal government’s expanded unemployment benefit program in the face of ongoing labor shortages. Montana, Connecticut, and Oklahoma have decided to offer employment bonuses instead.

The one-time payments are intended to incentivize returning to work and range from $1,000 to $1,200. People who return to full-time work for a set number of weeks would be eligible for the payments.

The Latest from Workest

Reopening the office isn’t necessarily as simple as turning on the lights and expecting everyone to show up for work on Monday. Make the transition back to the workplace as smooth and stress free as possible with Catherine Tansey’s Guide to Planning a Return to the Office.

May is already half over, but there’s still time for your business to recognize the achievements and contributions of Asian and Pacifc Island Americans. Check out these 6 ways your business can celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

Finally, before we say goodbye for the week, here are 3 things you should know:

  1. Baby Boomers are behind the…well…boom in the small business mergers and acquisitions market.
  2. Bank of America is leading the charge in raising the unemployment rate and plans to up minimum pay from $20 per hour to $25 per hour by 2025.
  3. Keep your paws to yourself. Pet-friendly workplaces may prohibit petting other peoples’ dogs as workers return to the office.

Check out our People Ops Podcast episode “Are You Ready for a Summer PTO Exodus?” 


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