Workplace Culture

What are employers doing for workers amid the increased stress of COVID-19?

Meghan McCarty Carino Nov 13, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Drazen Zigic/iStock via Getty Images
Workplace Culture

What are employers doing for workers amid the increased stress of COVID-19?

Meghan McCarty Carino Nov 13, 2020
Drazen Zigic/iStock via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The United States is dealing with a lot right now, collectively: record COVID-19 cases, record hospitalizations, widespread unemployment, financial insecurity — and many won’t even be able to spend the holidays with loved ones.

Some employers get what their workers are going through, and they’re responding to the increased stress. Some employers don’t.

It’s been a tough couple weeks for Courtney Copenhaver, a pharmacy technician at a hospital in Elkhart, Indiana, that’s seen a surge in COVID patients.

“We’ve been severely short-staffed,” Copenhaver said. “I mean, we don’t really have time for lunch breaks.”

Copenhaver said she has struggled with depression and anxiety, and woke up recently with a migraine coming on, so she took a mental health day off of work.

“You know, how can you take care of patients if you can’t take care of yourself?” she asked.

In a recent Marketplace-Edison Research Poll, about a quarter of respondents said their employer had given them additional paid time off during the pandemic.

Mike Spinale is the head of HR at Boston software company Appneta, which is giving employees every other Friday off until the end of the year.

“The intent was step away from your screens, step away from your Slack, take time for yourself,” Spinale said.

But these kinds of benefits most often go to those with higher-wage, white-collar jobs, potentially leaving out many low-wage essential workers.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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