Just before spring ends, Utah wakes up to the news that it posted one of the lowest unemployment rates in April at 2.8 percent. That’s barely half of the nation’s average rate of over 6 percent.
The job growth rate, though, is a different story. While it is also increasing, the pace has been slow—enough to surprise many economic experts. Some are pointing their fingers at labor shortage: businesses, particularly in the hospitality and restaurant sectors, couldn’t find interested applicants.
And this problem boils down to the COVID-19 pandemic. Potential workers might be too afraid to return to work because of health concerns or struggle to meet their childcare needs.
Fortunately, companies can consider multiple approaches to attract talent and help the state’s economy recover faster:
1. Stress Employee Safety
Now is the best time for workplaces to sell safety and well-being. Offices can hire an office cleaning team that also specializes in COVID-19 disinfection. These cleaners are more likely to use electrostatic sprays that inactivate harmful microorganisms on surfaces and EPA-approved disinfectants.
They may focus on high-touch surfaces, such as desks, countertops, tabletops, bathrooms, and doorknobs. Moreover, this business may invest in more advanced cleaning equipment like medical-grade disinfectants and foggers that can penetrate inaccessible areas.
While the CDC has already said that fully vaccinated people can choose not to wear masks indoors and outdoors, other health protocols are still important. These include social distancing. Offices may skip open-floor plans for now in favor of cubicles and modular workstations.
Business owners may also consider handing out cash- and non-cash incentives to encourage their employees to get vaccinated. They can also introduce other wellness programs, like meditation, and strengthen stress management to help promote better mental health.
Lastly, those in the hospitality and restaurant sectors can take care of their employees by preventing customers who don’t follow safety rules from getting in.
2. Support Childcare Needs
Many children are back to school in Utah, but some are still stuck at home, joining online classes. This makes it harder for parents to leave their home, more so to report to work. Workplaces can support these families in the following ways:
• Maintain their work-from-home arrangement. Unless they need to report to the office or their job cannot be outsourced, these days are a good time to allow parents to work from home longer or until their kids can go back to school. Otherwise, both parties can compromise: parents can work in the office on certain days and rest at home. Another option is to offer flexible schedules for results-oriented tasks.
• Extend childcare assistance. Workplaces may provide additional financial benefits to working parents, so they can have more money to hire a nanny or place their kids in childcare facilities while they’re working. If the funds are not available, companies can still support these moms and dads by connecting them to childcare assistance programs, schools, and networks of babysitters within the area.
• Limit the stress of working parents. Workplace stress, particularly during this pandemic, can quickly lead to burnout, affecting the way parents provide childcare. Offices can help reduce this by not bothering employees with the additional workload on their days off, like weekends. They can keep Zoom meetings short, so mothers and fathers can be more productive and accomplish more tasks within their working schedule.
3. Maximize Business Grants and Other Assistance Programs
Utah still offers different grants and assistance programs, particularly for small businesses, this 2021. These options will help entrepreneurs invite more people to apply and retain their existing talent and save money, which they can divert to boost their employee benefits.
One of these is the Business Quarantined Employee Grant with a total funding of $5 million from state money and the federal CARES Act. Under this program, the state will reimburse small businesses (those with fewer than 50 employees) whenever a worker has to stay at home or be quarantined or isolated for testing positive or being exposed to the virus, provided they continue to give wages on days the employee is away.
There’s also the Economic Aid Act, which created a $325-billion assistance package to small businesses badly hit by the pandemic, like restaurants and hotels, as well as nonprofits. The money will help forgive loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The road to recovery may be slow, especially since the pandemic is not yet over, but the United States has always beaten every crisis. As for business owners, they can rise again in many ways, including securing and maintaining labor with these ideas.