There are no two ways about it: the COVID-19 pandemic has brought havoc to hundreds of workplaces around the globe. Many have been forced to send employees home out of health concerns and those that have stayed open have put themselves and their employees at risk. Beyond that, most are dealing with boom-and-bust style business as customers either avoid their stores or buy in bulk to limit their exposure.
To say a company hasn’t been impacted in some way would be naive.
Now businesses are under more pressure than ever to reopen. As already limited and confusing federal and state aid expires, most companies are finding themselves forced to decide between paying the bills and putting employees and customers at risk. Finding creative ways to strike a balance between staying remote and opening the doors has become a goal of most successful businesses.
There are certainly pros to staying as remote as possible. The primary one being that you are prioritizing employee safety and encouraging them to look after their and their family’s health. Focusing on taking care of employees and promoting a safe workplace for everyone is a valuable bonus both for employees and customers — some employees even love working from home so much they are hoping to do so permanently.
Additionally, modern technology allows for employees in many sectors to do their jobs completely online. Likewise, employers can encourage their employees to capitalize on technology to keep track of their mental and physical health. The mental health aspect can be especially valuable when they are stuck working from home.
Of course, there are some cons to stay remote as well. The biggest most employers are worried about is a decrease in overall productivity. This can come from several things such as an employee’s inability to easily communicate and collaborate with co-workers and partners. It could also be a problem associated with the many distractions that come from working from home.
Many employers also feel as though their company culture is suffering while employees are working remotely. It can be challenging for employees to feel connected and part of a supportive workplace community. Fortunately, there are some ways to help maintain company culture while working remotely.
However, for some employees, the ability to get everything done while having employees work remotely is elusive at best. Some jobs simply require in-person service. For businesses that require some level of human interaction, opening up can be the only thing that will keep you afloat. And it might not be a bad thing — many people are eager to interact with their favorite stores in some way, even if it isn’t traditional.
Many of the reasons that business owners are hesitant with continuing to work remotely are also major pros to reopening. You can more easily monitor the productivity of employees and work towards rebuilding company culture. The idea of moving back towards normal is also tantalizing and there are plenty of ways to be successful in reopening.
The big elephant in the room for reopening is the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak in the office space. Forcing employees to come back and having an outbreak could bring all sorts of legal challenges to your business. This is especially true if your employees are completing high-risk jobs without proper protections.
Additionally, it can be a real issue for your company’s image down the road. Customers are not itching to go back to businesses that have experienced a COVID outbreak even after the risk has been mitigated. Choosing to open the doors too soon — especially with the massive rise in cases across the U.S. — could spell disaster for the company.
Making a Decision
Deciding to keep employees working remotely or sending them back to work and reopening your public-facing business is really difficult. There are plenty of pros and cons to each choice, many of which could make or break your company. As you weigh your options, think about the risks, benefits, and needs of your company.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your options either. To keep their businesses running, some companies have altered their products and services to make things that are in demand like hand sanitizer while others have greatly boosted their online services. Striking the right compromise may also involve switching things up for employees such as half coming into the office while half remain working from home.
Weigh the pros and cons, choose what is right for your business and your employees. Sooner or later we will adapt and get through this difficult time and many companies will be better off for it. What have you been considering as a business leader and what has led you to make the decisions you are making?