In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people have lost their jobs. A record 3.3 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment as non-essential businesses have been shut down in an effort to prevent further spread of the virus.
How Employers Are Handling the Pandemic
Employer responses to both voluntary and involuntary shut downs have been mixed. In Las Vegas, compliance teams visited 113 non-essential businesses that continued to operate despite the state’s mandatory shut down. Some of them had to be forcibly shut down. In San Francisco, the Tesla plant continued to operate after the Bay Area lock down order, and even though employees were told to stay home when sick using their accumulated sick leave benefits, many expressed concern about contracting the virus, spreading to others, and potentially losing their jobs if they chose to stay home. (Tesla did close the factory a few days later.)
With President Trump’s recent announcement that he wants to see the economy back in swing by Easter, there’s some concern that employees might be forced back to work too soon, before it’s safe. They may have to balance concerns about their health, demands from their employers, and their own need for financial security.
Mark Cuban’s Take on How to Treat Employees in the Time of COVID-19
In light of this, Mark Cuban has some advice. In his recent interview with CNBC, he warned against putting employees back to work too soon, calling it a matter of both safety and business:
“How companies respond to that very question is going to define their brand for decades. If you rushed in and somebody got sick, you were that company. If you didn’t take care of your employees or stakeholders and put them first, you were that company.”
Cuban has been putting the safety and well-being of his employees first, and when the NBA suspended the season, he made the decision to continue to pay the Mavericks stadium employees for the rest of March. He has since set up a program to pay for daycare for health care workers.
How businesses treat their employees at this time will be remembered. With social media, stories spread quickly, so it won’t take long for everyone to learn how your company handled itself during the pandemic, and many people will make future purchasing decisions based on what you’re doing right now. Cuban made note specifically of younger Americans, and how they will consider any mishandling of the situation to be unforgivable.
Companies Taking Responsible Measures
Some companies feel the same way. As reported by FSR Magazine, Kent Taylor, the CEO of Texas Roadhouse, is giving up his salary and incentive bonus through January 7. “Texas Roadhouse said the additional funds would be made available to assist front-line hourly restaurant employees.” Gene Lee, CEO of Darden (parent company to Olive Garden and LongHorn), is also not taking a salary at this time.
There are many other companies offering assistance to their employees and the community at large.
- Microsoft is continuing to pay its hourly employees.
- The Southwest Airlines CEO took a pay cut.
- UHaul is offering 30 days of free self-storage to college students who may have had to move suddenly when their classes were canceled.
- When Lululemon closed its stores, it continued to pay employees for all the hours they were scheduled to work within the two-week closure period.
As you navigate this unprecedented situation, consider Cuban’s suggestion to focus on both safety and what it means for your business down the road. This difficult time may prove to be a unique opportunity to establish your brand as one that cares, one that is both a great place to work and a great place to be a customer. Contact us to learn more about what people are saying online about your brand right now.