What are the economic needs after lockdown?
After two months of quarantine, relaxation is eagerly awaited, but it's alsocombined with fear. Out of the state of emergency, however, economic agents do not benefit from protection measures for employees or for their economic activity. Companies will face a paradox - on the one hand companies are encouraged by the situation to keep people at home, because they are responsible for maintaining their health as they travel from home to the office, on the other hand work from home, as it is currently defined in the conditions of emergency state, will no longer be a legal act in force, and all employers will automatically refer to telework framework, which is very difficult to implement for many employers. Thus, some of them are rather in the position to bring their people to the office than to implement telework. This is because the infrastructure needed for teleworking requires a considerable additional investment in safety procedures, IT infrastructure and, last but not least, time-stamping systems. Investments that very few employers had budgeted last year and which are becoming a too distant goal after the economic shock caused by the pandemic. At the same time, even with having your employees at home, the cost of rents stays the same even if the employees are at home, while cost efficiency becomes a pressing need for many of them.
What is the solution? What can be done to support companies during this period? Let's first understand what pressures them.
Individual and organizational anxiety
The fear and anxiety that exists at the individual level is transferred to the organizational level. Economic agents take over the employees' fears regarding both the maintenance of health and the job, these being corroborated with their own anxiety related to profitability and sustainability. Authorities manage, at the macro level, the major stress factors that society faces, but at the micro level we still notice a lack of effective support given to the individual. Involuntarily, some of it is also transferred to companies, which already feel enough pressure. All that employers can do is to treat the symptom, but effective support in combating the escalating fear is still lacking.
What employers can do
Employers can arrange their offices in order to maintain the safety of employees at work. They can make sure that there is enough space, they can provide masks, gloves and disinfectant, but they cannot take full responsibility for the way the individual travels to the office, nor do they have the necessary skills to educate their employees about how to react to fear - sometimes through over-protection or absolute lack of protection. These complex psychological mechanisms, which are natural, are the prerogative of psychologists and less of organizations, which are in the situation of managing unpredictable, heterogeneous, complex reactions. Quarantine and pandemic can have a major effect on our mental health. Studies show a high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder and post-SARS depression in Toronto.
Mental health has not been a national and organizational priority so far, and the pandemic has suddenly turned it into one of the most important issues that needs to be managed, in addition to physical health and constant care for survival - both at the individual level, as well as organizational level. In addition, companies are now implementing their survival plans. Manage an uncertain period. They have tomake quick decisions. They are the subject of a high degree of stress. They have to be innovative and creative, in unsafe conditions. They are in a position where they ask employees for the same thing. They have to pass a hard exam. Therefore, they need adequate leverage, not just help on the spot that saves them from a short-term problem, but does not necessarily ensure their survival.
So, what do companies need?
First, companies need to share the responsibility for bringing the employee to work. Given the need to be concerned with efficiency and ensuring the survival of the entity and the retention of jobs, the employer is unable to take on additional responsibilities without adequate support.
Physical and mental health education and care needs to be accompanied by specific and compulsory programs. Companies can implement, but not all have the resources to provide such programs themselves, starting from scratch. The risks of post-traumatic stress, depression or anxiety in pandemic times still exist, they have been confirmed by similar situations in other countries, and the only way we can prevent these problems that will affect us all, micro and macro, it is by providing adequate support.
In addition to the general safety and reinsurance dispositions given by the State, gradual and yet safe relaxation is done by individuals and local executive institutions. City halls must turn on the light. Find solutions to bring employees to the office safely. City halls can meet with companies in each city to understand their needs, specifics and to find transport solutions. This is not a temporary situation, but one that will continue, at least until the end of the year. Parents will go to work and children, starting from autumn, will go to school. In the current conditions, it is difficult to say how they will do this.
For businesses where telework is possible, it needs to be redefined so that it can be implemented quickly, even when not all the infrastructure conditions currently required by law are ensured. Economic agents cannot risk, in these already stressful conditions, taking unnecessary risks, leaving employees to work from home without a legal basis in this regard. In addition, some of the employees are also parents, and the schools are closed until the end of the year. With whom should the employer share the risk of low productivity or stress to which the parent is subjected, being in the position to perform both duties at the same time no alternative solutions available. Teachers and educators who could take over some of this responsibility, even remotely, are needed in such an equation. At the same time, telework and flexible work should be redefined.
Rent negotiation is another important aspect that can save jobs. Although we are all going through an unprecedented situation, developers are sheltered by well-made and hard-to-attack commercial contracts, especially by small and medium-sized businesses, which are the basis of a healthy economy. Without some intervention measures from the State, they will be obliged to limit their activity.
The dose of trust
On the top of all these things, it’s mandatory to limit panic and to adapt messages about a potential economic crisis, make them more appropriate and specific. Otherwise, this anguish will also disturb activities and economic contracts that do not need to be interrupted. Hypervigilance, as well as the lack of vigilance, can both have serious consequences.
Let's trust our ability to be resilient, especially since many aspects were still developing.