The coronavirus is spreading rapidly. Governments and businesses alike are taking preventative measures to limit its impact, but what about the companies who decide that their operations will remain “business as usual”? In today’s episode, Danielle discusses why that’s a terrible business strategy and shares the #1 approach all businesses should take during crises.
Hello, and thanks for being here today. I hope many of you are listening from the comfort of your own home. We are experiencing an unprecedented time right now, with quarantines and curfews mandated in full-force all around the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
I had a different episode planned for this week, but I decided to record this one instead because, admittedly, I’m pretty pissed, and I’ll tell you why in a moment.
I’ll start by saying that I applaud state and local governments who, over the past week, have acted quickly to put measures in place to prevent this virus from getting worse. I live in New Jersey, and as of right now we have 178 cases of coronavirus.
This week, our governor essentially shut down the state. All of our public and private schools, along with colleges and universities, will close for two weeks, or indefinitely, while bars, restaurants and casinos will have a curfew of 8 p.m.
Essential businesses like supermarkets and gas stations will be able to stay open after that time, but he prohibited gatherings of 50 people or more and mandated that though all non-essential businesses must close.
So why in the world are specific companies staying open and sending out messages that things are “business as usual”?
I have friends who had to postpone their weddings. I have friends whose kids are now home from school. I have friends whose immune systems are compromised and can’t risk being exposed. And I have friends who are generally healthy and just genuinely afraid for their well-being and whose mental health is being impacted by the hysteria.
And that is why I am infuriated right now.
I’m going to put it simply: operating like things are business as usual is irresponsible and a poor business decision.
Things are anything but business as usual right now.
You could be a remote company whose operations are largely unaffected.
You could be a corporate enterprise with the highest level of safety protocol in place.
You could be a small business whose financial operations will undoubtedly be impacted by these closures.
Regardless, your business cannot operate like everything is normal.
Because your business is composed of employees, who are human beings currently operating in a state of overwhelm and panic. And right now, people are genuinely afraid of what’s happening.
So if you are an employer who has not sent out messaging regarding COVID-19, or given your employees permission to work remotely if they have the capability to do so, I’ll say it the only way that I know how: You are acting irresponsibly. It’s reckless.
Your employees are human beings, with real emotions and real concerns.
Do you want to be the business out there that stays open and becomes a catalyst for the spread of this virus in an otherwise unaffected area, extending the lifetime of this virus and the quarantines in place?
Do you want to extend how long every other business out there suffers?
Do you want to be the company that forces an employee to choose between caring for their children or losing their job?
Do you want to be the company that puts profit over the well-being of the people who, every single day, work hard to keep the lights on for you?
Do you want to be the reason that someone DIES?
Listen, as someone who’s worked in the social media industry for 10 years, I know first-hand the mistakes and missteps that companies make during times of crisis. I’ve navigated countless crises – from inclement weather, to FBI-level threats, to sexism and racism that received national attention, to people dying.
And I can tell you that the #1 business strategy in times like these, or during any crisis, is this:
BE HUMAN. Be human.
This is not about your business. This is about people. Communication and transparency are everything.
We need to hold ourselves accountable, because the choices we make in the coming days, weeks, and months will inform how long this lasts, or how quickly it passes.
So, listen to people and take their concerns seriously.
If you’re a business sending out a memo that things will be business as usual, I encourage you to rethink what you’re doing.
At the extreme, you could be the reason for someone dying. And I’m no lawyer, but I would think that you could be opening yourself up to a lawsuit that could put you out of business, when you could’ve simply closed your doors for two weeks and cared for the people who work for you.
Or, at the very least, you’ll lose valuable employees. They’ll quit, because you chose to show that you don’t truly value the people who work for you. As a business owner, you have a responsibility to the people who work for you.
Listen, I know there are many small businesses out there that will suffer, mine included.
Some of us can’t afford to pay employees for extended time off. Some will likely have to close their doors forever, and I feel truly sorry for that. Once this is over, we need to rally to get them the support they need in the coming weeks and months when it’s time to rebuild.
And the government needs to do more too…They need to fund universal health care. They could do their part and put a moratorium on things like student loans, rent and mortgages and nationalize basic utilities like wifi. We need to remember this and hold them accountable, especially come November since this is an election year.
No matter where you live, look up what your state government is doing to support unemployment benefits or pass additional legislation.
If you live in New Jersey like me, they have pending legislation for a Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program to allow people to claim pay they lost during the outbreak.
But right now… Most companies out there have every software, tool, and technology at their disposal to keep basic operations running…and you can do it in your sweatpants, from the comfort and safety of your own home. There are remote companies out there with hundreds of employees, who do this every day. You can find a way to do it for a few weeks.
Even if you’re a company who physically can’t close its doors – like all of the amazing healthcare providers out there getting us through this – make sure you are sending out consistent communications, thanking them for their help, and giving people an outlet.
You need to make it work. Everyone will be better for it.
Thanks for listening to my rant. I’ll leave you today on a lighthearted note…There’s a viral tweet going around that I laughed at hard, mostly because it’s true that says:
“We’re about to find out which meetings could have, in fact, been emails.”
Stay safe and healthy out there, friends. And don’t forget…life is short, so do your best to make it a darn good one.
And wash your damn hands.
I’ll catch you next time.