There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel
It’s official—2020 has been the most stressful year of HR leaders’ careers. Now, as we approach 2021, good news about vaccines means things are finally looking up. But it’s not over yet. Cases of COVID-19 are once again surging and affected communities across the country are getting a familiar sinking feeling. This time can be different, though. If businesses learn the lessons of the crisis so far, they can stay safe, remain open and even thrive.
An Unprecedented Year
In spring, in what felt like just a few days, we faced with an unprecedented public health and economic crisis. Suddenly, employees feared for their jobs and their health. Unemployment reached 14.7% and 62% of the workforce went remote.
Business leaders had to take action without knowing what was coming next or how long the crisis would last. We were in the dark about the science of the virus, how it was transmitted or best practices for keeping workplaces safe. We couldn’t predict what action would be taken by local or federal authorities. And it wasn’t clear how companies would handle going remote-first.
We’ve All Learned a Lot
It’s been more than 6 months since the crisis really hit, though it might feel longer. Businesses have been asked tough questions but they’ve delivered (literally, in the case of restaurant industry). They’ve adapted to the new normal and made unexpected pivots. The economy has rebounded in style—U.S. GDP grew 33% in the third quarter, the largest rise on record.
Workplaces have stayed open thanks to precautions like mask policies and regular testing. Businesses have taken advantage of never-before-seen levels of government spending and while employees have faced burnout, HR teams have rallied and done everything they can to keep employees engaged.
The Risks of a New COVID-19 Surge
Suddenly, though, all the progress of the past few months seems to be at risk. Businesses may be planning for when vaccines arrive, but the reality is, they likely won’t come in time for a winter surge. There’s an increased risk of new outbreaks, lockdowns and general uncertainty.
Companies should be prepared for a sudden return to working remote (if they aren’t already), for unexpected leave requests and the possibility of key organizational leaders being unable to work.
Tough Business Decisions
Businesses need to be prepared. By now, you’ll be experts at keeping your workplace safe. Consider switching to a remote-first workforce before it’s absolutely required. At a minimum, you’ll want have systems in place in place to pay employees remotely, as well as recruit and onboard new talent.
The next few months are about survival, and CFOs will be focusing on minimizing expenditure, and renegotiating obligations and taking advantage of new governmental financial assistance programs and tax credits. But their HR colleagues can help—smarter scheduling and more efficient people management can help make up for shortfalls elsewhere.
Looking Longer Term
The good news is, no matter how tough the situation gets in the short term, it will only be temporary. When vaccines do arrive, the economy has the chance to bounce back like never before and HR teams will once again have a big part to play as businesses ramp up. If you have spare capacity, work on a long-term plan so you’re in the best possible shape going forward.
If a new surge of COVID-19 hits your community, business will have to act fast to keep employees safe while maintaining financial stability. Paycor is offering a downloadable checklist of tips for businesses featuring effective cost-reduction strategies and actionable advice.