This time of year has traditionally been a time of joy and anxious anticipation for kids across America. They put on their “first” backpack for the first day of school and reunite with their old friends for a new school year.

Covid-19 has broken that tradition. The stress and uncertainty surrounding the reopening of schools have had a powerful impact on businesses and their workforce. Parents across America are presented with the difficult decision to jeopardize their children’s health, their personal physical and mental well-being, or the income that supports their household. The anxiety and stress of managing these new risks overflow into their work life, impacting productivity, efficiency, and morale.

In addition, the possible return to “in-person” classes may increase the risk of the spread of COVID in your business. As a population that is prone to being asymptomatic congregates in mass, the possibility of bringing the virus into employees’ homes and work increases

Obstacles Facing Parents and Business Owners

Traditionally, school reopening takes place in early August and mid-September. This year many schools are opening late or not at all for in-person classes. Schools operate locally, so the policies will differ by district. It is essential to be abreast of the general situations in the districts in which your employees live. The best source for this information is your employees’ school district websites.

A general snapshot of the various reopening plans across the country includes full in-person reopening, virtual school all year, and a hybrid. Part of the student body goes virtual while others participate in in-person instruction. What the hybrid model looks like can vary greatly, and the best source for what is happening in your community are your employees or the school district websites.

Another variable thrown into an already confusing and stressful situation is that schools continuing in-person classes can shutdown overnight if COVID cases spread out of control. Some of the schools that have opened in August have already had to shut down to quarantine staff and large numbers of students. For example, a school in Georgia’s Cherokee County School District with a body of 1,100 students, teachers, and staff were quarantined only two weeks after opening their doors.

Due to safety concerns, many parents are taking it upon themselves to home school their children, whether in traditional home school arrangement or pod schools. Pods are a sweeping trend across the world were parents come together and hire instructors to school their children in small in-person groups.

As a business owner, you must ask yourself, ‘what can I do to help my employees and protect my business?

Solutions to Mitigate Business Risks

Increase employee productivity

The swiftest and most visible consequence of schools reopening on your business is the drop in employee productivity. As mentioned before, this is a difficult situation for them. Fortunately, there are actions you can take to boost productivity.

  • Flexible schedules – Giving your employees the freedom to set their work hours will help employees maintain their productivity or avoid a steep decrease in production. Flexible schedules allow employees to work when they have the most focused and time to complete their projects. This option does require trust from you, the employer, and discipline from the employee. Not all roles and individuals are ideal candidates for this kind of arrangement, but if they are, it is a win-win situation for everyone. Flexible schedules do not have to be an all or nothing situation. It should be customized to meet the needs of your organization.
  • Work from home – In the last 90 days, we have heard a lot about working from home. This solution is even more relevant now that parents must manage their households’ health and manage their children’s education. We have an excellent article on tips to optimize the effectiveness of this arrangement.  Check it out!
  • Full to part-time – Moving an employee temporally to part-time can be a compromise you can take to maintain productivity and not sever the employee-employer relationship. The options you have available might be limited based on factors like budget, infrastructure, or industry. Be sure to comply with your local laws and make the proper federal classification adjustments. If you are one of our clients, please reach out to your HR representative to walk you through the process and keep your business compliant.
  • Temporary unpaid leave – If your resources are severely limited, and you want to maintain the employee-employer relationship, temporary unpaid leave is another option. This option can reduce your cost in the long run if you can operate without filling the position. You will not incur the charge for recruiting and onboarding a new team member. Additionally, it can take up to eight months for a new employee to reach full productivity, so you risk losing even more time, work, and talent by letting an employee go and hiring an employee who needs to get up to speed.
  • Help with childcare costs – If your organization has the financial resources, you can help stabilize productivity and increase employee engagement by helping with childcare costs. Alleviate some of the stress and burden for your employees. This can take different forms:
    • Dependent care flexible spending accounts– Dependent care flexible accounts (DCFSA) work similarly to Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). They allow employees to use pretax dollars to pay for childcare costs. This reduces their tax burden and increases their overall take-home pay. In the case of Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts, employees can use those funds to pay for dependent and childcare services. There are restrictions on the types of services that can be paid with these funds. A few of the services allowed are childcare, babysitting, elder care, and preschool.
    • Paying for childcare services– You can establish an onsite childcare service or contract with a childcare facility for your employees. If you start your own in-house childcare service for your employees, you can claim up to 25 percent of constructing and maintaining the property. Your business can also claim 10 percent paid to provide childcare resources or the cost of working with a childcare service.

Decrease stress and boost employee morale

Childcare concerns do not only impact employees with children but will invariably impact coworkers and team members. Any stress one population feels will necessarily affect their coworkers and team members. You can expect communication issues, missed deadlines, and flaring tensions. As a result, it’s essential to keep your employees engaged. Here are some ways to relieve stress:

  • Start by communicating with your employees, listen to their challenges, and empathize. Your leadership team should take active steps to create opportunities for your employees to share their thoughts and vocalize their needs. This feedback will provide a more accurate reading of your workforce’s state of mind. You can make better decisions so you can weather the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Connect your employees to mental health resources. This will help alleviate stress and boost morale. Make your employees aware of the mental health resources covered by their benefits plans. You can also compile a list of free and paid resources to help your workforce manage their stress.

COVID in the workplace

The need to protect your employees and customers from COVID persists. Remember to follow the CDC guidelines to reduce the risk of the spread within your labor force. Try to reduce the number of individuals in the workplace whenever possible. Working from home and leveraging technology to move in-person activities online are very efficient. If you need staff present in the workplace, consider staggering shifts to make social distancing easier. All these will help boost employee and customer confidence in your organization and help keep everyone healthy.

This crisis continues to permeate through every aspect of American life. It touches every business, household, and individual. This does not mean that we are powerless against it. There are actions you can take to mitigate its effects on your businesses and communities.

For over 25 years, we have helped businesses grow faster and become more profitable. To learn more about how we can help you and your business, give us a call (800) 776-0076 or send us a message.