Even before the year began, half the country’s workforce hadn’t received a raise in more than 12 months, according to a survey from Bankrate. And then a pandemic kicks the ass of almost every business on earth, remodelers included. Eighty-four percent of remodelers were reporting project delays or cancellations by April, according to data collected by The Farnsworth Group’s Weekly COVID Tracker. Even that early on, nearly half were already expecting “much less revenue” than the year prior. Long story short, 2020 did little to better the financial situations of middle- and lower-class families. It more likely hurt their situation, like in Houston, where NPR found that more than 60% of households are experiencing “serious financial problems” as a result of the virus.
There are more ways than money to improve your employees’ work-life.
I’ve talked to some remodelers that gave their workers raises last year to keep them happy and their eyes from wandering—gave them raises because they were well prepared and had the means. I’ve talked to more that had to layoff half their staff and take machetes to their budgets. That’s not a knock against those remodelers. The nature of business is to survive. It’s unfortunate surviving this pandemic means mostly operating in an uncomfortable position.
Maybe you can’t give your employees the raises or bonuses, or fill in the blank, that you want to. As both an employee of a company surviving the pandemic and a professional observer and commentator on the remodeling industry, I recognize employers are in a pretzel when it comes to budgets right now. But there are more ways than money to improve your employees’ work-life.
The country is facing a mental health crisis by the name of “stress.” That’s not my speculation. The designation of “crisis” comes from the American Psychological Association, which has warned against the multitude of serious stressors facing modern American adults daily like the pandemic (78%), health care (66%), rising suicide rates (51%), opioid/heroin epidemic (45%)—suffice it to say the list is depressingly long. The physical and mental effects of stress are wide-ranging and serious, but if you’ve ever been buried in it—as I’m certain most of us have—then you know that carrying that weight persistently is exhausting. More money can ease stress in certain areas, sure, but so can listening and understanding. Why not give a floating free day for mental health? Why not ask “How are things?” a little more? Acknowledge what they’re going through.
LISTEN TO THEIR IDEAS
In my experience, for whatever it’s worth, I’ve long found people privileged with, and by, power to forget that good ideas do not have a prerequisite of title. As an employee, it can be insulting. Four out of five employees surveyed by management software provider Sideways 6 claim they have ideas that could help their companies. One in five don’t share their ideas because they’re afraid to come forward. Nearly a third say that even when they do present ideas, the company doesn’t value them. Prove me and those survey results wrong. Listen to your employees and make it easy for them to share. Give them ownership in the business by incorporating their ideas.
CELEBRATE YOUR EMPLOYEES
I recognize the trick nature of money: employees want more and you may not have enough. An easy “solution” to this is employee contests in the vein of “Employee of the Month,” where you tell one person they’ve performed the best for whatever reason (maybe it’s something quantifiable) and reward them with some money or a gift card, or fill in the blank again. In a normal environment where raises and bonuses were more commonplace, I may suggest something of the sort as a means to motivate. But when employees are struggling against both your budget cuts and the imposition of a global pandemic on their personal lives, telling one person among the many of hardworking that they are the sole deserver of a pay bump, however small, is a figurative missile to the gut (the place where morale lives). This is not the time to publically single out good performances. This is the time to celebrate your entire workforce.