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Pandemic Staffing: Why Some Employers Are Struggling to Rehire

By Dr. Helen Ofosu

Now that Stage 3 of reopening is allowing The Heart of Orléans Business Improvement Area (BIA) businesses to resume, some employers are finding it a challenge to get everyone back into the physical workplace.

Some employees are concerned about the health risks associated with working during a pandemic. Some employers may also be having difficulty competing with the $2,000/month CERB. 

Childcare is one of the major factors for many who are deciding whether or not to return to work. With so much uncertainty around back-to-school plans, many parents, especially mothers, are reluctant to commit to work. There is still a wage gap at play. Caucasian women earn approximately $0.87 for every dollar earned by men. Due to systemic racism, BIPOC women usually earn even less. This makes it likely that women are the lower earner in a heterosexual (or traditional) couple, which makes it more practical for them to care for children while their higher-earning spouse works. Single parents are in an even tougher position.

Tips for Attracting and Retaining Staff

When hiring, look beyond a candidate’s charisma. Look instead for people who are hard-working, able to learn and adapt to changing circumstances, and who have excellent listening and interpersonal skills. Sincerity should take precedence over a “big personality.” 

Soft skills, including emotional intelligence, will matter even more than they did before Covid-19.

You can make your workplace more welcoming by:

·   Having a consistently implemented health and safety plan — a legitimate fear of infection is keeping some people from working

·   Offering flexible hours, and the option to work from home when possible

·   Ensuring liberal access to work-supplied PPE

·   Fostering a positive workplace culture. It costs very little to make sure your staff feel valued, and that efforts are recognized.

In some communities, affluent parents have been creating private “pandemic pods” to navigate the new homeschooling reality. Healthcare workers started organizing this way when the pandemic started. It’s a radical idea, but could BIA employers pool resources to create shared childcare options? It might make coming back to work an easier decision. Less radical is reaching out to our MP and possibly our municipal government for coordinated support. Sorting out some of the constraints and obstacles imposed by the pandemic is a tall order for BIA employers but it may be nearly impossible for individuals who have even more limited financial resources.