03.23.2020

Handling Coronavirus/Covid-19 in the Workplace - Part 3 of 3

Part 3 – “This is undeniably terrible – tell me something good”

Right now, this situation is truly heartbreaking on both a personal and a business level. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and sometimes it feels like that light is a train headed right for all of us.

For employment lawyers, who are used to thinking in worst case scenarios, this has been that and then some. The difficult decisions being made by our business community, including our clients, have been hard to advise, but harder still for those businesses to avoid. Beyond the obvious workplace health and safety issues, the human toll of furloughs or layoffs has been staggering to witness.

We’re all doing the best we can to get through this, and I for one am wondering whether there is anything positive we can learn while we try to weather the storm. Here are a few possible rays of hope in these dark times.

First, for those employers and employees who have had the flexibility, fully exploring telework opportunities to preserve employment relationships may have meaningful long-term benefits. One of the luxuries of being together in a workplace is the ability to call meetings to discuss things face-to-face, but that ease also leads to a lot of inefficiency – the “meeting that could have been an email” phenomenon. Because we have to do more with less and use one another’s time efficiently, processes may become streamlined that will allow for better work to be done if and when things return closer to normal.

Second, having to be intentional about how to get the job done under these conditions could help us all see what each job actually entails – what actually are the essential tasks or functions that must be completed and by whom, and what things have we been doing that haven’t necessarily been moving the ball forward. This sort of job mapping is on every company’s wish list of things to do, but few companies have the time or wherewithal to do it thoroughly because the day-to-day work gets in the way.

Third, although this is obviously less positive for the employees who are furloughed or laid off during this period, some businesses have been able to build broader skills and capabilities in workers that remain. This may lead to more versatile workers and a leaner, but equally productive, business model on the back-end.

Fourth, on the flip side of the first point, pulling apart like this – socially distancing or quarantining or teleworking – may make us more appreciative of the value of personal interaction. Our time apart may put in relief how truly lucky we are to have a time and place to be together. That may make us more appreciative and understanding toward one another, which could build healthier organizations in the long run.

At Katz Teller, we are adapting just like you are. If you have difficult personnel decisions, questions about the changing legal landscape, or just need an affirmation that the course you’re contemplating is the right one, we are ready to help just a phone call or email away.

Click Here for Part 1

Click Here for Part 2

Click Here for Part 3