For many people, large, life-shattering events can provide a break point for making dramatic life changes that improve life going forward. Arthur Brooks, writing for The Atlantic, suggests that the pandemic provides all of us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do just that. To take advantage of this, Brooks suggests dividing a paper into four quadrants, with columns for things you like and things you dislike, and rows for pre- and post-pandemic. In this matrix, list the aspects of work, life, and relationships that have changed since the pandemic. With the goal of happiness in mind, consider these two questions: “What did I dislike from before the pandemic and don’t miss?” and “What do I like from the pandemic times that I will miss?” This list will help you identify things from before the pandemic to consider cutting out of your life, and things from the pandemic era that you want to continue.
THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PLAN ACT (ARPA)
Restaurant Revitalization Fund
Within two weeks of opening, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund has received applications for more than twice the $28.6 billion authorized by Congress. By May 12, the SBA had received over 266,000 applications requesting more than $65 billion in funds. So far, the SBA has disbursed $2.7 billion to 21,000 restaurants. For the first 21 days of the program, funds are limited to businesses owned and operated by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged people, but the funds are likely to dry up well before those 21 days are up. At present, funds are only available for businesses with 2019 gross receipts under $50,000. It is not clear whether Congress will authorize additional funds for this program. For full details and instructions for applying, visit the SBA website, where you can also find a program guide, webinars, and a link to the application portal.
CHALLENGES FOR SMALL BUSINESS
Now that pandemic restrictions are easing and businesses are beginning to reopen, many are having a hard time finding enough workers. While many blame generous unemployment benefits for the shortage, other contributing factors include lack of child care, remote schooling, and fears about the virus. College students, who might take seasonal jobs working in agriculture, may be studying remotely from home. In big cities such as New York, anti-Asian sentiment is keeping prospective Asian employees home out of fear of attack on subways or on the streets. Older employees may also be opting out of work in areas such as truck driving out of fears of contracting the virus on the road.
First impressions are always the most important, but onboarding a new remote employee sometimes leaves those first impressions as an afterthought. By developing a consistent and thoughtful onboarding process, as recommended in this article in the Harvard Business Review, new remote workers can quickly get up to speed on their responsibilities and understand the cultural expectations. Getting off to a fast start can mean getting a new person set up with technology before the first day. Developing strong relationships across the workforce includes establishing regular 1:1 meetings between the new person and team members. Navigating company culture can be simplified when someone explicitly explains company norms for formality, dress code, and working hours. Lastly, setting clear expectations for the new hire’s responsibilities and outcomes that are tied to the company’s overall vision and purpose can help a new person understand how they fit into the big picture.
Working from home can provide time savings simply by taking away the daily commute. But with the boundary between work and life removed, it’s not always clear that the time saved is put to meaningful use, or if it gets filled with less valuable work tasks or passive activities like watching TV. Six strategies in this article from Harvard Business Review can be used to help you firm up boundaries between work and life to make better use of your time. For example, create a morning ritual like going for a walk or planning your day to mark the start of your workday. Create another ritual at the end of the workday to reward yourself for a job well done. Another useful strategy is to focus on a single “must win” for each day – a task that must be completed and which will give you a strong sense of accomplishment.
LIFE IN THE POST-PANDEMIC ERA
Although vaccination is making it possible for us to return many of our pre-pandemic routines, many people are experiencing anxiety about a return to normal. Some of that anxiety is related to a change in routine, while some is caused by the unknowns of the future. This article in Fast Company has ideas for reducing the anxiety around returning to work. First, find out what your organization is doing to keep people safe and compare that to what other similar organizations are doing. If you’ve been spending most of your time during the pandemic alone, see if you can spend time outdoors with other vaccinated people, which the CDC says is safe.
When office workers were forced to work from home last spring, that brought many changes to the normal routines and processes for work. However, as we begin to return to offices to work, before reverting wholesale to the old routines, consider whether the new, tech-oriented, remote friendly practices developed during the pandemic should be incorporated into new workplace routines. For example, at some workplaces, employees can be split into three groups based on their affinity for working from home: those who love it and want remote work to remain an option; those who didn’t mind it but are quite willing to return to the office when it becomes feasible; and those who hated working from home and never want to do it again. Crafting a remote work policy with these three groups in mind may be a better solution than simply mandating one approach for all people.
- IRS resources for stimulus payments:
- The best source for up-to-date and accurate health information is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- The CDC also has recommendations for businesses and employers
- Intuit QuickBooks has a dedicated page to help small businesses
- Entrepreneur put together a listing of free tech resources for remote work
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warnings about COVID-related scams
- Fast Company has a listing of the best productivity apps for 2020
- The New York Times has an online newsletter on K-12 and higher education
- The Wall Street Journal has a collection of articles on education
- The Atlantic has a state-by-state coronavirus tracker
We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!