Image from Medical Plastics News
Service workers are scared. They have every right to be. They see first responders, doctors and nurses getting the virus and plenty are dying. And now, they are being ordered back to work. They are between a rock and a hard place. Do I go back to work and risk my life? Or do I stick with unemployment benefits until they run out? Worse yet, I will lose my benefits if I am offered a job and don’t take it.
These are decisions that will drive the reopening, or not, of the economy. It is not up to CEOs who make millions of dollars a year. The economy hinges on people making minimum wage. And many of them are saying no to returning to work. They do not want to risk taking the virus home to their loved ones. They certainly can’t afford to isolate away from home even if they decide to go back to work. Not an easy choice when you have very little to start with and you generally live from pay day to pay day.
How do we reassure and protect the workers while getting things moving again? You do your upmost to protect them. Plenty of PPE (personal protective equipment), full tilt: the gloves, the gowns, the masks. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as the PPE used in health care, just similar. Do not run out of PPE. Do not put your employees in a position of having to reuse gloves and masks. That causes more stress and fear which then leads to employees quitting.
Take more steps to make it work. Put the company logo and the employees’ names on the gowns. That will show everyone that the employer is taking this seriously. It will help the employee own the situation instead of dreading it. Most important of all, arm the employees with education. Teach them infection control techniques the same way that health care providers learn. The proper way to put the stuff on, how to take the stuff off and know when it has to be changed are steps anyone can learn and are rooted in common sense. Most nurses can teach this. Hospitals should be taking the lead on this and provide an educational service to the community.
Reopening the economy is a complicated process with varying opinions on how to proceed. No amount of PPE will convince most service workers to return if the virus numbers are not coming down to a manageable level. Before attempts are made to open a store or restaurant, owners should gauge the feelings of service workers. Don’t make their decision more difficult than it already is. Once all the right measures are in place, then ask the employees to come back to work. A few may still say no. Most will feel more comfortable about coming back. I think most would say yes.
Image from Forbes