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 January 19, 2022

Omicron is Causing Mass Worker Shortages. What Should Business Owners Do When They’re Short Staffed?

Man in grocery store wearing a mask & selecting a loaf of bread off an almost empty shelf.

“I tested positive for COVID-19, so I can’t come to work today.”

Millions of Americans have tested positive for Omicron, the latest COVID-19 strain, and businesses industry-wide are facing the consequences.

With so many staff members out sick and workloads continuing to pile on, business owners and other team members are burning out while covering for other people.

About 75% of consumer-packaged goods companies said they experienced more employee absences due to positive COVID-19 tests or exposure to someone with the virus.

If you’ve been to the grocery store, or really any other store recently, you’ve probably felt this absence. Empty shelves are not uncommon anymore, and shoppers must be patient and creative regarding their go-to products.

Supply chain issues and shortages of services

Consumer goods are not the only wrinkle in the system, either. Transportation services like airlines and public transit are suffering from shortages. Most alarmingly, 19 percent of American hospitals are also experiencing critical staff shortages, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

What should business owners do when their staff is out sick?

As a business owner or employee experiencing significant staff shortages, what should you do to stay afloat? How can you provide solutions to keep morale up? Here are seven tips to get you through:

1. Help your staff.

When you’re a business owner and typically aren’t very hands-on or in the weeds, it’s time to step in and help your staff to get things done. It not only will show your employees you care and don’t want them to feel overworked, but it will also keep your business running while others are out sick. So, roll up those sleeves and get your hands dirty.

2. Prioritize.

When it gets to a certain point where multiple people are out, it’s time to admit to yourself and the team that the few left standing don’t have the capacity to do it all. That means it’s time to prioritize what tasks absolutely must get done and which ones can wait until the absent employees are back to help. Make a list with these two categories, and make sure your present team members are also in the loop about priorities. Check priorities off the list together!

3. Simplify work processes.

Utilize technology or find other ways of automating work processes that seem tedious and time-consuming. Ask your team members to help think of any current processes that could potentially be simplified with certain tools.

4. Hire contractors if possible.

There are millions of unemployed Americans needing some immediate cash. Post on social media and other websites that you’re looking for urgent help for the next few weeks or months. Or, depending on what industry you work in, too, you can potentially use different sites (like Fiverr, for example) to find freelancers that could temporarily help fill in some gaps while your full-time employees are out sick.

5. Ask your employees for ideas and input.

This is another powerful opportunity to show your staff you’re listening. Ask for their insight about the situation and challenge them to brainstorm ideas and possible solutions for the team. Also, make sure to give them kudos for submitting great ideas!

6. Make sure you show appreciation for present employees.

Be outspoken about your appreciation for their dedication and hard work. In the midst of chaos and challenges, business teams can come together and figure out solutions, or they can break and burn out. It’s critical to do everything you can to show your appreciation so they don’t feel undervalued. You can even try to think of a small gift to give them (or order some pizza for everyone) to show them you care.

7. Make your customers aware.

Being open and honest with customers can go a long way. Most people will be understanding. Agitation sets in when they are left in the dark and think the staff is not treating them right. If you’re forthright about the situation, you can reset their expectations.

Talk to your lawyer for further questions on employee and employer rights during the pandemic.

If you’re going through hardships due to the pandemic, you’re not alone. Navigating these changes can be burdensome, but you don’t have to do it alone. Get a consultation from your provider lawyer to understand your rights and find possible solutions.

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“PPLSI”) provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to PPLSI members through membership-based participation. Neither PPLSI nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation, or advice. The information available in this blog is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations. The blog post is not a substitute for competent legal counsel from a licensed professional lawyer in the state or province where your legal issues exist and the reader is strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel for your specific legal matter. Information contained in the blog may be provided by authors who could be a third-party paid contributor. All information by authors is accepted in good faith, however, PPLSI makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of such information.

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