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Supporting Your Workforce in a Pandemic Environment (Part 1)

Employees appreciate work-life balance boost, flexible scheduling

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. — It’s been nearly a year since the coronavirus pandemic was declared a national emergency and COVID-19 became a term everyone is familiar with. No matter where your laundry is located, it’s no doubt been impacted in some fashion.

“Unfortunately, we don’t know how long the pandemic will go on but we do know that business owners and managers need to be prepared for this to be a marathon, not a sprint,” says Abby Schmidt, partnership development manager for Paychex.

Her company, a nationally known payroll services and human resources solutions firm, presented a webinar for the Coin Laundry Association on supporting your workforce impacted by COVID-19.

A recent Paychex survey indicates 84% of business owners are “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” about a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

The top five priorities for business owners managing through the pandemic have been managing the business as usual, managing customer relationships, reducing expenses, reopening their business, and revising their sales and marketing approach, Schmidt says.

(Editor’s note: There was a brief period at the beginning of the pandemic when laundries were included among businesses instructed to close temporarily in many parts of the country. But it didn’t take long—thanks to industry lobbying—for laundry businesses to be designated “essential” by authorities and thus allowed to remain in operation.)

“You all are deemed essential businesses and, also, your employees can’t work from home, so your experiences have been a little bit different than a lot of businesses,” says Schmidt.

She polled attendees, asking what has been their most significant employee issue during the pandemic. More than 40% said safety liability, 32% said reliability of staff and 26% said retention. No one in the audience selected eliminating staff or reducing staff salaries/benefits.

Working during a pandemic means employees face a relentless stream of competing stress factors, including general uncertainty, changes to new norms (face covering, physical distancing, etc.), fears of unemployment or loss of job by spouse or partner, economic insecurity, school/child care closures, and isolation or loneliness.

All of these can impact an employee’s mental health. A Paychex survey of more than 1,000 employees found that 51% said their mental health had worsened or been impacted during the pandemic, on-site workers are more stressed (65% compared to 35% at home), and one-third of respondents said they were having difficulty working at their typical level of productivity.

“The respondents believe the most helpful ways that employers can support their mental health is by encouraging work-life balance and allowing for flexible schedules,” Schmidt says. “Mental health is extremely important for employers, and it’s important to address year-round but especially now in the face of the pandemic.”

Check back Tuesday for the conclusion, featuring five tips for motivating and retaining workers