Just about every small business has seen some sort of impact from the coronavirus pandemic. Most employees are seeing the effects as well. Keeping the lines of communication open with employees during this uncertain time is essential, but small business owners may be left wondering what to say, having never had to face a situation like this. Whether you communicate with your staff in person, or through video conferences, daily emails, or personal phone calls, here are some topics that you may want to address in the coming weeks.
Benefits – Your team members may want to make changes to health care and other benefits at this time, and fortunately, some health insurance carriers are allowing changes now due to the circumstances, not just during specific enrollment periods. Check with your provider(s) and share that information with your staff. Some employees may also want to change 401(k) contributions at this time. Bring your benefits team in and discuss the possibility of making changes that people wouldn’t normally need to make.
Explain Treatment Options Available – Make sure your employees know how to access treatment options through your benefits plan. It’s essential for those who are having serious symptoms to seek timely treatment regardless of any potential concerns about the cost. Many major health insurance providers are waiving copays and other costs involved in treatment for coronavirus – check with your insurance provider to see if your plan is offering that, and make sure your employees know what to do when seeking treatment if necessary.
Communicate Your Paid Time-Off Policy – Let your staff know what your policy is if they need to take time away to seek treatment, care for a sick loved one, or take care of kids who are out of school. Not all small businesses are able to offer paid time off, but recently passed federal legislation provides sick leave pay per day for small business employees who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or caring for a family member. If you are unable to provide paid sick leave for your staff, let them know that this option is there for them.
Explain Layoffs and Furloughs – If you need to lay off or furlough employees, be honest with them and make sure you share a realistic view of the future with them. Some states allow furloughed workers to continue receiving their benefits while also collecting unemployment, and others only offer unemployment benefits to those who have been fully laid off. Do your due diligence and know the rules in your area before you speak to employees.
Be Transparent and Honest – Speak to staff one-on-one about layoffs or furloughs. Have more general conversations with your entire team and let them know about the state of your company. Many employees are worried about their future, so give them your ear and let them know you will do as much as you can for them. Group meetings are good times to let your staff brainstorm about possible solutions to problems facing your company. Many heads are always better than one!
Offer Education and/or Training – Many industries have opened up training programs for workers who are laid off or experiencing down-time at their jobs. Your industry association (PDRA) is currently offering free education for independent paint dealers and their staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, so take advantage of this opportunity to keep your employees engaged and learning new things!
Stay In Touch – Staying in touch is very important, especially if some or all of your employees are not coming in to work. Communicate to your team in person if possible while following CDC guidelines. When that is not possible, there are many other ways to remain in contact – email, phone calls and/or tele-conferences are all ways to keep the lines of communication open. Your employees will appreciate hearing from you often!