COVID-19: From the Eyes of a Millennial

As we continue to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, we look to the experts to give us hope and to shine a light in the right direction. In many cases, rightfully so, we need to listen to those that have been around for a while and know what to do. However, in all the chaos, there has been a voice that has not been heard. Whether it’s because all the “experts” are jockeying to be heard or the voice is just not being listened to. I think it is more than latter. Who is this silent voice? This is the voice of the millennial; 20 to 30-year olds that are being hit the hardest by the pandemic. The following blog was written by a young professional. She worked for a major brand until it all came crashing down around her and her husband. The impact was serious enough that she sought shelter at our firm until her family could get back on its feet again. The perspective that Catie Ros-Stroud presents is very unique and is well worth our time listening. This pandemic will not last forever folks. As an “expert” I am here to tell you, the older generation will not get us out of this. We will, once again, look to Catie and her generation to be the horsepower that will kick start the economy back to the new normal.

Employee Motivation Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Catie Stroud

How do service industry employers motivate their employees to get back to work when the employees are currently making, in some cases, triple their usual pay while filing unemployment?

Due to the COVID economy, many Americans are taking home more on unemployment from their government as they sit at home watching Netflix.  Essentially, they're getting paid to do long-neglected yard-work, to paint that guest room, or to finish any household project they’ve been putting off for the last year or two.  I understand this firsthand, as I’ve experienced this during Covid-19.  However, employees, as well as employers, must accept that this pandemic too shall pass.  How do we motivate not only our employees to get back to work—but also OURSELVES to motivate them to return to work?  Shouldn’t they just want to come back to work?

Unfortunately, the extra benefits of filing unemployment (e.g. the extra $600 per week that most working Americans are receiving—as long as you are unable to work due to the Coronavirus) are temporary and will end.  Mostly service industry employees are enjoying these benefits—restaurant workers, hospitality workers, and part-time workers at most non-essential retailers.  Thanks to the CARES Act, this unemployment benefit has also been extended to freelancers and contract workers whose business has been affected by the virus.  Though the benefits expire on July 31st, state-aid is available up to 39 weeks.  That’s through mid-December for employees who stopped working in mid-March.

What’s most surprising is how little my part-time employees (and really, my fellow service-industry friends) know about taxes.  Though this is new and uncharted territory for most of us, and I too had to do my research before really getting a grip on filing for unemployment, I was surprised to find that most opted for taxes not to be taken out of their payments.  Though the original $1200 stimulus checks provided by the CARES Act are not taxable and are currently not considered to be a loan to be repaid, unemployment benefits, including the extra $600 benefit, will certainly be taxed come tax season next year.  This all could change in the blink of an eye:  some federal lawmakers are already calling for the stimulus payments to be made taxable.  And employees should keep a close eye on what their states decide.

These workers, however, are essential to getting back to normal—or just getting to a “new” normal.  Most do not realize how much our economy rests on the shoulders of service industry workers.  If your employees are loyal to your brand, if they are invested in their job, and to be quite honest, they’re bored enough from sitting at home for two months, they may return to work just by asking them nicely.  You cannot force an employee to return to work if they are uncomfortable working in this climate; however, if you’ve worked hard to develop the culture and environment of your workplace, and have instilled ownership in your employees, one would hope that they would jump at the opportunity to return to normalcy.

But what about those that do not?  Not everyone will be willing to return to work immediately.  Working with your employees and keeping an open line of communication will be crucial during this time.  Let your employees know what steps you’re taking to protect not only your customers or clients, but your employees too.  Let them know upfront what will be different and new about their day-to-day, and how it affects them directly.  Asking employees how much they’re willing to work and starting them out slow could also be beneficial.  And, perhaps most importantly, don’t underestimate the power of reminding your employees that you appreciate their role in your company and their efforts.  If you make your employees feel more in control of their schedule, remind them that they are a crucial part of your business, and show them appreciation consistently, it’s likely that a new normal can be found sooner rather than later.

There likely will come a time where employees are OFFERED employment, do not accept, and their unemployment benefits end.  We already see this with those workers who accepted PPP offers from their employers.  The difficult employee might have to discover this the hard way.  The new normal, however, will require forward-thinking, motivated employees that truly desire to work.

In reality, we need to view this time of “getting paid to not work” as not only a way to keep each other and our neighbors safe (and not to just plant that new vegetable garden or clean those baseboards), but a way to safeguard our futures in the off-chance that certain businesses don’t recover from this pandemic.  Regulations regarding protective wear and new social distancing guidelines are in place for a reason.  As a millennial myself, it’s scary to think about returning to work and adapting to a new, post-Covid normal.  However, our economy will never recover if we do not do our parts to nurse it back to health.  Cultivating a culture of hard work and dedication amongst your employees during a pandemic isn’t easy — and will take time.  But it is worth the effort.


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