Perhaps the hardest part of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the uncertainty – not knowing what will happen next. The rapid spread of the virus that resulted in essentially locking down the U.S. is unprecedented in our lifetimes, and the inability for even the experts to predict the human toll and economic outcome causes stress and fear for everyone.
Because none of us can control the outcome, you must try to control those things you can. Following are some areas you have control over in your business:
- How you communicate. Continual, honest communication with those on your payroll and your customers is essential. Share the facts about what’s happening in the industry, the community and within your organization. Don’t be brutally honest but don’t sugarcoat things either. Be straightforward about what’s going on, both good and bad. This will help to limit confusion and gossip, as well as minimize any shocks as new information comes in.
- The willingness to listen. It's within your power to encourage open dialogue. Allow workers to express their concerns, share their ideas or simply vent on occasion. Listen to what they have to say and address any problem areas as quickly as possible. Also be sure tailgate talks and safety discussions continue to take place – from a safe social distance, of course.
- Showing compassion. Recognize that this is a difficult time for everyone, whether it’s your employees or your customers. Work with them to address specific challenges or concerns. Put the necessary precautions in place to ensure the safety of everyone entering your sites and ask them if they feel comfortable about the steps that are being taken. Allow for time off due to stress and especially illness if needed.
- Monitoring employee's mental state. Construction workers may not be on the frontlines of the crisis, but they are certainly close to it. The increased risk of exposure on top of a job that already carries a certain level of risk can push some workers over the brink. The industry already has the highest rate of suicide of any industry. Train staff to recognize signs of mental distress and suicidal tendencies.
- Giving hope. While the coronavirus may seem like a never-ending bad news story, there is reason to be hopeful and there are some signs that we may pull out of this mess in the near future. There is already talk of easing restrictions in some areas as the COVID-19 curve begins to flatten. Find the positive news stories where you can and pass them along. Reassure your employees and customers that you’re in this for the long haul. Then make sure you are by staying informed about your company’s position and managing those costs that are within your control.