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Employers: Now's the Time to Cut Workers Some Slack

By Maurie Backman - Mar 19, 2020 at 8:02AM

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Give your employees a break in the coming weeks. They need it.

A friend called me frantically the other day, ready to pull her own hair out. Her boss was hounding her for progress on an ongoing project while she was stuck at home, desperately trying to juggle work-related responsibilities while caring for her two young children.

It's a situation that countless workers are in today. With schools closed nationwide, parents are grappling with the seemingly impossible task of keeping their kids safe and entertained while also attempting to keep up with job demands.

And it's not just a problem for parents who are now working from home. Even workers without kids are having a hard time coming to grips with their new reality and adjusting to their current setup, which doesn't happen overnight.

Woman with serious expression typing on laptop while holding baby

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

The point? Now's not the time for employers to come down hard on employees for not pulling their weight. And the sooner companies realize that, the easier it'll be for everyone to get through this crisis together.

Throw employees a bone

It's understandable that as an employer, your goal is to maintain productivity in spite of the upheaval COVID-19 is causing. But like it or not, now's the time to relax your standards and accept the fact that work will not, in fact, continue on its usual course. Thinking otherwise is just not realistic.

Not only are employees in a wide range of industries learning the ropes of working from home and balancing job- and family related responsibilities, but many are in full-fledged panic mode. COVID-19 is said to cause mild illness in about 80% of those stricken by it, but that so-called mild illness could mimic that of a pretty intense flu. And with over-the-counter medications in short supply, treating a mild case of COVID-19 could prove challenging. In other words, nobody wants to fall ill with COVID-19 -- even those whose immune systems aren't compromised, and employers therefore need to realize that workers' minds may be elsewhere for the time being, and not 100% focused on work.

Also, let's not forget that the mere act of buying groceries or replenishing household supplies is not what it used to be. In some areas of the country, there's no delivery service available for the foreseeable future, and physically visiting a store could mean battling crowds in a feeble effort to come away four rolls of toilet paper richer. As such, employers shouldn't be surprised that their workers are more distracted -- and less on the ball.

Does this mean that workers who are being allowed to do their jobs from home should completely blow off assignments and neglect their responsibilities? Not at all. But a healthy dose of understanding on employers' part could really go a long way right now. Not only will it help maintain morale during a trying period for our country on a whole, but it will be a solid investment in employee retention once things begin to normalize.

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