In most parts of the country, we’re dealing with heat waves and the back-to-school hustle. Who’s thinking about winter? If they know what’s good for them, it’s corporate leaders and hiring managers. In March 2020, as business and commerce ground to a halt due to the Covid pandemic, companies were forced to quickly implement work-from-home programs, restructure communications and make other adjustments to keep employees and the public safe. They also learned soon enough that certain changes to the workforce may be required, and contingencies built in to account for future restructuring, should it be needed. It provided a framework for dealing with public health challenges.
Winter will force us indoors and closer together, and ultimately create viral conditions we can’t ignore. While companies are identifying workforce challenges post-pandemic, they can’t ignore the fast-spreading BA.4 and BA.5 Covid variants and the newly declared public health emergency of monkeypox. Companies may again have to confront the task of adapting and reorganizing a workforce on the fly. But this time they’ll know what’s in store.
What’s Coming This Winter?
In addition to Covid and monkeypox, flu season is nearly upon us and is among the public health challenges that companies may have to overcome. Health experts are looking to Australia to determine how severe the U.S. flu season will be – and the news is not good. The current flu season in Australia is its worst in five years, with children being hit the hardest.
We can assume that a percentage of American employees will come down with a flu virus that sends them home and removes them from a company’s operations for at least a short time. But more may be forced to stay home with sick children, or perhaps elderly relatives in their care. And when combined with other viral threats, and given the effects of long-tail Covid, the flu could leave some companies short-handed for long enough to make a contingency plan a must-have going into the winter.
Creating a Plan for Workforce Challenges
While committing to prevention measures, such as having employees stay home when they or a family member contracts a virus, companies must also keep the trains running on time, so to speak. A flexible workforce will be key to ensuring that projects stay on track and the needs of clients are met.
Example: Let’s say an employee tests positive for Covid but is asymptomatic. That worker can work from home until they’ve tested negative for the virus and can return to the office. In this same vein, parents who are Covid-negative but need to stay home to care for family may still be able to work, given that the infrastructure is there for most companies to accommodate work-from-home options.
Additionally, a hybrid work schedule might help slow the spread of these viruses within companies, reducing the time that employees spend face-to-face and allowing staff to spread out physically while sharing time in the office.
How Contractors Can Help
There will be times when employees are not only unable to come into the office but are also too sick to work. In these situations, it might be necessary to pull in a contractor or freelancer to take over for the sick employee. For instance, a CPA tests positive for Covid and is symptomatic. Even after testing negative for the virus, this employee might need to continue to recover at home, either because their symptoms are severe or they’re suffering from long-tail Covid. Public health challenges are very dynamic.
This is where PeopleCaddie shines. Employers can access the PeopleCaddie talent cloud and select independent contractors to fill in for staff employees who are out of the office. Managers will know they are selecting from vetted contractors, and they may be able to select contractors that have worked with the company in the past. Some companies will even want to bring one or more freelancers on board in advance of the winter as a sort of insurance policy, onboarding and training contractors to gain experience and work on a limited basis until (and only if) there is a need to ramp up their hours to backfill while other workers are out.
Like it or not, winter is coming – and with it we can expect more cases of Covid, monkeypox and the flu. Companies that prepare now, putting the necessary contingencies in place, will be in the best shape as these challenges arrive.
Contractors are the next generation of employees. See how PeopleCaddie is attracting them to its talent cloud.