The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a massive financial downturn, impacting businesses and industries all over the world. In the US alone, roughly 6 million workers have lost their main sources of income, leading to almost 10 million people filing for unemployment claims in the latter half of March 2020. Experts claim that this is the largest setback experienced since the Great Depression, and that the situation is highly unlikely to improve over the next few weeks.
Given the current financial crisis, hourly workers find themselves in a precarious situation. Despite the fact that hourly workers take care of the day-to-day operations of most companies, not only are they not given health insurance or benefits, they are also typically among the first to get their working hours reduced or be let go entirely. On the other end of the spectrum, those who are fortunate enough to still have work are often found at the frontlines of businesses, such as in grocery stores, gas stations, and even healthcare facilities - increasing their risk of being infected.
Based on an internal report by Workstream on how the coronavirus has affected healthcare hourly workers, the current COVID-19 situation has led to longer hours, increased demands, and lower compensation. A survey by Willis Towers Watson revealed that only 65% of their respondents in the healthcare industry would pay hourly workers should they need to stay home if they tested positive. This number falls even lower to 42% when asked if they would pay hourly workers working in healthcare organizations should their workplace experience a closure.
In this article, I hope to share strategies, ideas, and tactics on how each one of us can support hourly workers, to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on them as well as their families. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but as a jumpstart to supporting our essential employees. Here are some of the tips I have implemented in my daily life to help out:
1) Share new job postings on social media and tag your friends who may need a new job. Let them know about work opportunities from Amazon, Kroger, DeliverThat, or local businesses that may still be open.
2) Donate to or create a funding campaign to help hourly workers. You can start with a $100-campaign to help a family get a week's groceries.
3) Order a week's worth of grocery online via Instacart or Amazon for your friend or favorite hourly worker.
4) Buy products or gift cards from local businesses that are still operational, so that they can keep their business afloat.
5) Tip very generously when you order food from Instacart, DoorDash, or UberEats. Or any delivery services in your area.
6) Write an online review on Yelp, Google Reviews, or Facebook, taking care to mention the hourly worker who delivered your food or prepared your takeout order, and thank him or her for the great service.
7) Donate to local food banks that are helping out hourly workers.
8) The next time you buy groceries from your local Safeway or Trader Joe's, show your appreciation to the staff by saying a big "Thank you!!"
9) Start a virtual tip jar for hourly workers in your neighborhood and encourage people in your network to donate.
10) Consider creating an extra job by hiring a virtual assistant or outsourcing some of your work online.
11) Contact friends who are hourly workers or your favorite local hourly worker who works close to your home - check in on how they are doing and show them that you care.
12) Encourage employees to share sick leave with fellow employees.
13) Share a Tweet, Facebook or LinkedIn story about your favorite interaction with an hourly worker
14) Spread the word on how each of you can help other hourly workers in your personal networks
We interact, meet with, and depend on many hourly workers every day. They work in multiple local businesses that we know of - from your favorite supermarket and cafe, to the gas station you drive to every week. They are the hardest hit in this current crisis, and we should be doing our best to give back to them and their families in our little way.
Desmond Lim is co-founder and CEO of Workstream, an automated hiring platform for companies hiring hourly workers. He is a graduate of Harvard and MIT Media Lab, former product manager at WeChat, and investor at Dorm Room Fund. He is based in San Francisco and lived in Palo Alto with his wife and two young daughters.