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COVID-19: Are we sending our workers into a viral petri dish?

(BUSINESS) This remains an impossible situation for everyone involved, but COVID-19 has people nervous about going anywhere but home.

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Because you have a pulse, you already know what’s on everyone’s minds – COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged all gatherings in America of more than 50 people to be called off through April.

While that currently exempts employers, it feels like an inevitability at this point given that most employers have more than 50 people in a building at any given time.

And it’s a logistical nightmare. Making sure employees can work from home means equipping them with hardware (laptops/desktops), stable VPNs, and authentication tokens to make sure the company and their clients’ information is all protected. Some companies have literally asked employees to go through hand washing training. Others are repeatedly sending out CDC guidelines on hygiene.

But what plagues minds is that there is no end date in sight. Some, like the CDC, have set their sights on May 01, but we all know that can change. So employers are stuck wondering when business can go back to normal, not just from a sales perspective, but from an operations perspective.

Regardless, thousands of employees are in offices right now as I write this, nervous and afraid to speak up (overnight, job security became iffy for so many). Make no mistake – even employers that are using their best judgment to keep the company afloat are afraid, not just from a business perspective, but from a personal health perspective.

The startup culture perks and creature comforts like beer taps, cereal bars, snack baskets, ping pong tables, bean bags, and bathroom toiletries are all now seen as items that hold on to COVID-19 germs until the next person touches any of the perks.

People are walking through their office lobbies wondering if the person that walked in seconds before them just sneezed into the air, leaving an infected cloud for the person behind them.

Everyone is trying to keep their hands sanitized, but with COVID-19 living on surfaces anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days, people are nervous in offices, bathrooms, lobbies, and common areas.

From the front door keycard which could be contaminated, to the front door handle, to the elevator buttons, handrails, walls, chair backs, desks, drawer pulls, files, keyboards, screens, smartphones, tablets, break room surfaces, refrigerator doors, sparkling water cans, snacks, bathroom doors (and locks, and faucet knobs, and weird floss picks in an open container), it’s all fair game for this nasty virus.

The ramifications of keeping hundreds of people in a building for an 8 hour day are obvious – it may not be a 250-person gathering in the main room, but with hundreds of people in and out of the building in a day, there is a problem, even when creatively problem solving (like spacing workers out more to observe “social distancing”). You can see how even the cleanest of places becomes a viral petri dish.

“Am I a carrier? Am I spreading it? Or did I just pick it up?” the constant thought cycle permeates so many minds. People look around in fear anytime someone coughs or even sniffles, no matter their job title.

There is no clear answer here, but with a workforce often self-isolating at home, there are uneasy feelings of people in offices right this very moment. Some companies simply aren’t ready to pull the trigger on sending people home, and others literally can’t due to the nature of the work. We’ll have to see where this all ultimately takes us as a national work culture.

We have all had to rethink how we live. Now, we have to reconsider how we work – surfaces need to be sterilized, hygiene needs to be practiced by all, and nationally, you’re watching everyone realize exactly how many surfaces we all encounter in a single day.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Ted Simmerman

    March 16, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    The comments I have read all beg the question, “What if the current administration and Congress continues to delay ANY workable solution?”

  2. Thomas Johnson

    March 17, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    According to the data from S Korea, where they have been testing everyone, twenty somethings are the largest percentage of positives And probably not symptomatic. More than anyone, Millenials should be locked down. These CEO’s should be locked in a room with them.

  3. Pingback: Instagram helps pass social isolation with co-watching

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Business News

Leadership versus management: What’s the difference?

(Business News) The two terms, leadership and management, are often used interchangeably, but there are substantial differences; let’s explore them.

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leadership Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Some people use the terms “leader” and “manager” interchangeably, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there is still a debate regarding their similarities or differences.

Is it merely a matter of preference, or are there cut and dry differences that define each term?

Ronald E. Riggio, professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, described what he felt to be the difference between the terms, noting the commonality in the distinction of “leadership” versus “management” was that leaders tend to engage in the “higher” functions of running an organization, while managers handle the more mundane tasks.

However, Riggio believes it is only a matter of semantics because successful and effective leaders and managers must do the same things. They must set the standard for followers and the organization, be willing to motivate and encourage, develop good working relationships with followers, be a positive role model, and motivate their team to achieve goals.

He states that there is a history explaining the difference between the two terms: business schools and “management” departments adopted the term “manager” because the prevailing view was that managers were in charge.

They were still seen as “professional workers with critical roles and responsibilities to help the organization succeed, but leadership was mostly not in the everyday vocabulary of management scholars.”

Leadership on the other hand, derived from organizational psychologists and sociologists who were interested in the various roles across all types of groups.

So, “leader” became the term to define someone who played a key role in “group decision making and setting direction and tone for the group. For psychologists, manager was a profession, not a key role in a group.”

When their research began to merge with business school settings, they brought the term “leadership” with them, but the terms continued to be used to mean different things.

The short answer, according to Riggio is no, not really; simply because leaders and managers need the same skills to be productive and respected.

This editorial was first published here in June of 2014.

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Does Raising Cane’s have the secret to combatting restaurant labor shortages?

(NEWS) Fried Chicken Franchise, Raising Cane’s, has turned to an unusual source of front-line employees during the labor shortage- Their executives!

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White paper sign with black text reading "Help Wanted."

I wouldn’t call myself a fried chicken aficionado or anything, but since chains are designed to blow up everywhere, I have experienced Raising Cane’s.

I’m pretty sure the Cane’s sauce is just barbecue mixed with ranch, but hey, when you’ve got a good idea, keep with it.

In the further pursuit of good ideas, the company has resorted to an intriguing method of boosting staff in a world where the lowest paid among us are still steadily dying of Covid, and/or choosing to peace out of jobs that they don’t find worth the infection risk.

Via Nation Restaurant News: “This is obviously a very tough time, so it was a joint idea of everybody volunteering together to go out there and be recruiters, fry cooks and cashiers —whatever it takes,” said AJ Kumaran, co-CEO and chief operating officer for the Baton Rouge, La.-based quick-service company, from a restaurant in Las Vegas, where he had deployed himself.”

The goal of this volunteer mission, which involves 250 of the 500 executives deployed working directly in service roles, is to bolster locations until 10,000 new hires can be made in both existing locations and locations planned to open.

It’s obvious that this is a bandaid move – execs exist for good reason, and in terms of sheer numbers (not to mention location and salary changes), this is hardly tenable long-term. But I can say this as someone who’s gone from retail to office, and back (and then forth…and then back again) several times – if this doesn’t keep everyone at the corporate level humble, and much more mindful of employees’ needs, nothing will.

The fast-food world is notorious for wonky schedules only going up a day before the week begins, broken promises on hours (both over and under), horrendous pay, and little to no defense of employee dignity in the face of customers with rank dispositions. With the wave of strikes (Nabisco, John Deere, IATSE) making the news, and lack of hazard pay/brutal physical attacks over mask mandates still very fresh in workers’ minds, smart companies are hipping themselves to the fact that “low level” employee acquisition and retention needs to be much more than the ‘work here or starve’ tactics that have served since the beginning of decades of wage stagnation. The best way for that fact to stay front-of-mind is to go out and live the truths behind it.

In Raising Cane’s case, the company also announced that they’re upping wages at all locations — to the tune of an actually not totally insulting $2 per hour, resulting in a starting wage of $15 and a managerial wage of $18.

Ideally, paying people more to cook, clean, and customer service all in one job will actually attract people back to fast food work. Seriously consider the fact that the people cleaning fast-food toilets are the same people making the food that goes into your mouth. The additional fact is that it’s better for everyone’s health when they’re paid enough to care about what they’re doing and stay healthy themselves.

Of course, one does also need to consider how much inflation has affected the price of goods and housing since the ‘fight for $15’ began almost a decade ago in 2012. Now, raising wages closer to the end point of multiple goods still might not be enough!

AJ Kumaran continued, “The chicken prices are through the roof. Logistics are very hard. Shipping is difficult. Simple things cups and paper napkins — everything is in shortage right now. Some are overseas suppliers and others domestic suppliers. Just in poultry alone, we have taken significant inflation.”

That’s global disruption for ya.

It remains to be seen whether this plucky move can save Raising Cane’s dark meat, but I’m very pro regardless. Send more top-earning employees into the trenches! No more executives with 0 knowledge of how the sausage sandwich gets made.

No more leading from behind.

Why not? What are ya? Chicken?

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

This story was first published in November 2020.

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