As Pandemic Fatigue Sets In at Work, Employers Try to Help

People are tired. Between a global pandemic, economic crisis, social unrest, & political upheaval, the past year has been physically and emotionally draining for just about everyone, and perhaps most for essential workers.

Across industries, workers struggling with pandemic fatigue are facing burnout more than ever. For leaders, keeping these employees engaged and motivated is a challenge in itself. While some leaders are turning to incentives like gift cards and cash to help support employees, others are taking a softer approach, investing in relationships and focusing on workplace communication.

Money Talks

When the pandemic began, the hospitality industry fell off a cliff, says Liz Neumark, founder and CEO of Great Performances, a catering company in New York City. She knew keeping everyone employed would be difficult until her business could find another source of revenue apart from events, which eventually came in the form of preparing meals for essential workers and people unable to quarantine at home. While some of her employees, such as those in sales or event production, saw salary reductions, chefs, kitchen staff, and other employees making food for essential workers kept their full salaries and got help with transportation as well.  

The founders of P. Terry’s, an Austin, Texas-based fast-food restaurant chain, give employees gift cards and cash to help pay for groceries and offer them interest-free loans. They also incentivize employees to participate in community and civic causes, including paying hourly wages for volunteer work.

Justin Spannuth, chief operating officer of Unique Snacks, a sixth-generation, family-operated hard pretzel maker in Reading, Pennsylvania, increased hourly wages by $2 for all 85 of his employees. The company also hired additional temporary employees to provide a backup workforce. Spannuth says the move helped persuade employees with possible symptoms to stay at home by easing the guilt that employees can have about not coming in and potentially increasing the workload on their colleagues. 

“The last thing we wanted our employees to do was get worn out from working too many hours and then have their immune system compromised because of it,” says Spannuth.

Helping Employees Connect

Andrea Ahern, vice president of Mid Florida Material Handling, a material handling company in Orlando, Florida, says it was difficult to keep morale up when the business was clearly struggling; employees were uncertain about the company’s future, and their own. To help ease the stress, the company held a wide array of picnic-style meals in the company’s parking lot. It was a light distraction that still followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Now, she says, morale has started to rise.

“With the release of the vaccine and the so-called ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ we’re starting to see the industry get a lift in activity, and associates feel good when they know their jobs aren’t at risk. However, it wasn’t always this way.”

These kinds of events can, of course, also take place virtually. Company leaders across industries are encouraging staff to treat Zoom as a virtual water cooler. But while casual online gatherings after work can help colleagues maintain friendly relationships, they can also contribute to “Zoom fatigue”–the drained feeling that comes after a long day of video calls, which often require more concentration than in-person meetings.

Matt McCambridge, co-founder and CEO of Eden Health, a primary/collaborative care practice based in New York, says while his teams hold regular virtual water coolers, they switch it up. For example, the company hosted an interactive “dueling pianos” virtual event over the holidays, as well as a magic show. 

Better Communication From the Top

Communicating support work-life balance at a time when many people are remote and facing trauma is critical. Neumark notes that when her catering company was pivoting and in the process of providing hundreds, if not thousands, of meals, the team was relying mostly on sheer adrenaline. Months later, now that the novelty is gone and fatigue has fully set in, the boundaries she set are crucial.

One rule, for example, is weekends off, unless there’s an urgent, unavoidable request. “The weeks are still so intense, and people need their private time right now,” says Neumark.

It’s essential that leaders understand the issues their employees may be facing and not try to gloss over them, says Dr. Benjamin F. Miller, a psychologist and chief strategy officer of Well Being Trust, a foundation aimed at advancing mental and social health. “When your boss is pretending that everything is OK, it doesn’t create a conducive work environment for someone to talk about having a bad day,” says Miller. That’s one reason virtual water coolers often fail, he notes. While they’re great at getting people together, there’s little benefit if people can’t speak openly and honestly.

It’s also OK to tell employees that you, as a leader, are not having an easy time. Showing vulnerability doesn’t show weakness, Miller adds. You’re setting an example that shows that it’s OK to be honest and acknowledge that not everyone is not having the best time. If you aren’t aware that someone is in a crisis, he says, you may lose the opportunity to reach out to that person and help.

By Brit Morse@britnmorse

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ZDoggMD

Cases rising, news orgs banging the drums of doom, yet Americans seem to be throwing up their hands. Here’s what’s up with #pandemicfatigue​, LIVE. Transcript, audio podcast, and more: https://zdoggmd.com/pandemic-fatigue-…​ Your support keeps this content independent and awesome, so join the Supporter Tribe to get exclusive videos, live discussions, and other crazy perks: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/zdoggmd/…​ Facebook: http://facebook.com/becomesupporter/z…​ Patreon: http://patreon.com/zdoggmd​ PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/zdoggmd​ Merch! https://supportertribe4lyfe.com/​ (Facebook and YouTube supporters get 25% off) Website: https://ZDoggMD.com​ Podcast: https://ZDoggMD.com/podcasts​ Facebook: http://facebook.com/zdoggmd​ Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gD8_D1​ Twitter: http://twitter.com/zdoggmd​ Instagram: http://instagram.com/zdoggmd

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U.K. Hit By Worst Economic Contraction On Record Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

Britain’s economy shrank by a record-breaking 9.9% in 2020, new figures by the Office of National Statistics show, highlighting the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, employment uncertainty and reduced demand, with limited growth in the final quarter narrowly avoiding a double-dip recession.  

The Office for National Statistics said Friday that the U.K.’s economic output fell by 9.9% in 2020, the largest annual fall on record.

Though the economy grew 1% in the last quarter when looser restrictions boosted the services industry, overall output was down 7.8% from the last quarter of 2019, the ONS said. 

The slump is twice that of the 2009 financial crisis and is possibly the worst in 300 years, with models from the Bank of England suggesting a decline of 13% during the Great Frost of 1709.

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U.K. finance minister Rishi Sunak said the figures show that the U.K. has suffered a “serious shock” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While there are some positive signs of the economy’s resilience over the winter, we know that the current lockdown continues to have a significant impact on many people and businesses,” Sunak said, adding that his focus “remains fixed on doing everything we can to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods.”

Key Background

The pandemic and associated public health restrictions made for an economically bumpy 2020, especially in economies like the U.K. which are heavily reliant on services. In the U.K., the first and second quarters of 2020 shrunk the economy by 2.9% and 19% respectively, but there was record growth of 16.1% in the third as restrictions were lifted. 

Tangent

In contrast, the U.S. economy shrank by a record 3.5% in 2020, the worst year since the aftermath of World War 2.    

What To Watch For

Strict public health measures and a resurgent wave of Covid-19 infections driven by a dangerous new variant of the virus have the U.K. economy likely falling again in 2021. While the U.K. has the worst coronavirus death rate in the world, it also has one of the best vaccination records, priming the country for an economic comeback. The BBC reported Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane describing the economy as a “coiled spring” ready to release large amounts of “pent-up financial energy”.

 Further Reading

GDP first quarterly estimate, UK: October to December 2020 (ONS)

UK economy suffered record annual slump in 2020 (BBC)

UK economy shrinks by most in 300 years (Financial Times) Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Robert Hart

Robert Hart

I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at rhart@forbes.com 

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BBC News

The “economic emergency” caused by Covid-19 has only just begun, according to the UK’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak, as he warned the pandemic would deal lasting damage to growth and jobs. Please subscribe HERE http://bit.ly/1rbfUog​ Official forecasts now predict the biggest economic decline in 300 years. The UK economy is expected to shrink by 11.3% this year and not return to its pre-crisis size until the end of 2022. Government borrowing will rise to its highest outside of wartime to deal with the economic impact.

The government’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) expects the number of unemployed people to surge to 2.6 million by the middle of next year. It means the unemployment rate will hit 7.5%, its highest level since the financial crisis in 2009. Newsnight’s Political Editor Nick Watt and Policy Editor Lewis Goodall report. #BBCNews#Newsnight#Coronavirus​ Newsnight is the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs TV programme – with analysis, debate, exclusives, and robust interviews. Website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsnight​ Twitter: https://twitter.com/BBCNewsnight​ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bbcnewsnight

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How to Ensure Love Doesn’t End Your Business

Surely you have ever heard that mixing love and business is not a very good option, which is not necessarily true, since the success of a business will always depend on how its owners manage it and not on their kinship.

The simple fact of starting a business is a great challenge that generates fear, and if your idea is to start with your partner, this can become an even greater challenge, which few dare to try. According to figures from the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Annual Report, approximately 34% of entrepreneurs are afraid of failure.
So that this does not happen to you, it is necessary that you take into account the following tips, which will be very useful when starting a business together with your partner:

1. Define objectives: before starting your business, it is important that you define the objectives you want to achieve in the short, medium and long term, as this will help you to have a guide for decision making.

2. Make a budget: it is essential that from the beginning they consider what expenses they will have month after month and that they keep an updated record of their income and expenses. To do this, I recommend you download the Monthly Budget format for free, with which you can significantly improve your business finances.

3. Establish their functions: discuss and agree on what functions they will have, the position they will carry out and the specific and general objectives. This will help them to have a better organization and avoid conflicts.

4. Separate personal finances: when they have defined what functions they will perform, it is necessary that each one has a salary assigned, since one of the worst financial mistakes they can make is to take the money that is destined for the business to pay your personal expenses.

5. Emergency fund: they must take into account that if they decide to work in the same business, all income will depend on a single source of work, so if the business stops operating, the income of both can be seriously threatened. For this reason, they must have a cash emergency fund that allows them to cover at least three months of their monthly expenses and which they only use for a true emergency.

Remember that love should not be an impediment for a business to grow and be maintained, undertaking as a couple can also bring you great benefits that improve your relationship. The only thing that must be maintained is communication and organization.

By: Alejandro Saracho

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TEDx Talks

Community growth expert and business mentor Best-selling author and business strategist Jadah Sellner believes that all business is personal, and that love has a very important role in the workplace. Why You Should Listen: At no other time in our history have humans been so connected — and so lonely. And companies that can tap into our innate need to be part of a tribe will stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

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How The Pandemic Has Changed Our Lives in 2020

To say that 2020 was a year unlike any other would be putting it mildly. The COVID-19 pandemic left few parts of daily life unscathed. From forcing legions of children to attend school via Zoom to revising how we work, travel, and shop for food, here’s a look at some of the most notable ways life changed in 2020.

Related: Americans’ Top 10 Biggest Fears About the Coronavirus Pandemic

With urban hubs like New York City making headlines for being COVID-19 hotspots, the suburbs have never been quite so appealing. A variety of studies have found that Americans of all demographics began adopting suburban life during 2020. In particular, the moving resources and information company MyMove conducted a study of change of address data from the U.S. Postal Service and found that more than 15.9 million people moved during coronavirus. The MyMove report notes that “people are leaving big, densely populated areas like Manhattan, Brooklyn and Chicago and spreading out to suburbs or smaller communities across the country.”

Related: Pandemic Phrases That Have Infected Our Vocabulary

COVID-19 also triggered a massive shift in how we work. At the onset of the pandemic, countless Americans created home offices overnight in order to adapt to the new normal. And while it seemed initially that the shift would be temporary, more than a few of America’s most well-known employers have since announced long-term work from home plans and policies. In fact, Flexjobs has said working remotely may very well be the way of the future, pandemic or not, with some companies even deciding to let employees work from home permanently, including Coinbase, Infosys, Lambda School, Nationwide Insurance, and Nielsen.

Related: 18 Big Companies Letting People Work From Home Long-Term

Students of all ages have seen their worlds altered dramatically. Remote learning has become the norm for all ages, from elementary school through college. As 2020 draws to a close, the remote learning continues for many, with many school districts around the country — from San Diego to Chicago and Boston — pushing back any plans to return to in-person education as the pandemic rages. Zoom classes, it seems, are here to stay for a while longer.

Related: 25 Top-Rated Products on Amazon for Working From Home and Remote Learning

School and work aren’t the only parts of life that have moved almost entirely online. More Americans than ever are grocery shopping online, we’re holding virtual happy hours, and even taking part in Zoom doctors’ appointments more routinely. Computers have likely never played a more central role in our lives. An article from MyMove calls it the “telepresence boom” noting that entire families are now performing basic functions from their homes via a computer and an internet connection. And many of those changes are not likely to ease any time soon.

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Ah, the good old days when we attended big concerts without a second thought, as well as weddings, festivals or sporting events. The year 2020 significantly altered this part of life with social distancing and lockdowns being the rule. As an article in Physician Sense notes, all of these things will be back at some point, but even after the pandemic has subsided, large gatherings are likely to be forever altered in some ways.

Related: 12 Things You Likely Won’t See at the Next Wedding You Attend

The pandemic of course, changed our eating habits, a topic worthy of an entire article of its own. But let’s start with the renewed or increased focus on beans. This humble, protein-filled staple has taken on new importance amid COVID-19. The New York Times reported in March a huge boom in bean sales, which makes sense, right? Beans are filling, nutritious, and inexpensive.

Related: Best Beans and Rice Recipes From Around the World

The past year has been stressful, unnerving, boredom-filled, and more. So, it’s no surprise that we’re reaching for comfort food more regularly. A poll released in September found that two out of three people are eating more comfort food. This includes an increase in the consumption of pizza (55 percent), hamburgers (48 percent), ice cream (46 percent), and more.

Related: 20 Comfort Food Recipes That Freeze Well

While we’re seeking out the comfort food, we’re ditching the healthy stuff. Forbes found Google Trends data suggesting that searches for terms like “salads” and “veggies” were lower in 2020 than at the same time in 2019.

Related: Top Google Searches Before & After Covid-19

With restrictions on dining inside restaurants in 2020 thanks to social-distancing guidelines, drive-thru became the next best thing for many people. Restaurants far and wide responded by redesigning their customer experience to include many adding drive-thru lanes or creating spaces for curbside pickup — even if they already had drive-thru lanes. What’s more, a recent article from Forbes says that curbside pickup is here to stay, even after the pandemic ends. The publication reported that Starbucks CFO Pat Grismer says curbside service is part of the chain’s plans for longer-term recovery.

Related: How Drive-In Restaurants Are Catering to Customers Amid the Pandemic

Before COVID-19 altered our world, about 20 percent of Americans shopped for food more than three times each week. A study by consulting firm McKinsey, however, found that number was down to 10 percent by June 2020. Meanwhile, Supermarket News reported that online grocery sales skyrocketed, rising from $1.2 billion in August 2019 to $7.2 billion in June 2020.

Related: Online Grocery Delivery Comparison: Is One of These Services Right for You?

Remember when it seemed almost rude not to greet the individual who delivered food to your home? The days when we would meet him or her at the door and perhaps provide a cash tip. That’s a distant world, isn’t it? Now we practically cower inside our homes fearing human contact, requesting the delivery driver drop our food on the doorstep and be gone. Close contact with strangers became a health hazard in 2020 and we have adapted accordingly. Doordash, Seamless, and many smaller delivery services offer a contact-free option.

Outdoor dining used to be far more prevalent in Europe than the U.S., but with social distancing being the new normal and the fact that the hazards of COVID-19 are reduced in fresh-air environments, restaurants that never before considered al fresco offerings have scurried to set up tents and tables in parking lots, on sidewalks and in roadways. Some 67 miles of streets were closed to vehicular traffic in New York City, with more 2.6 miles dedicated to the city’s Open Restaurants program, which has been made permanent. Some restaurants are also making structural alterations, building patios and decks. As Architectural Digest reported: “Masked waiters, tables spaced six feet apart, plexiglass barriers, and even stuffed animals occupying seats — these are some of the changes you might encounter the next time you dine out.”

Related: Beloved Restaurants and Bars That Closed Permanently This Year

A Statista survey conducted during the earliest days of the pandemic revealed our personal hygiene habits had also begun to change significantly in 2020. Back in April, 79 percent of the Statista survey participants said they wash their hands more regularly. Not surprising under the circumstances. And the reality is that stepped-up hand washing is still a necessity as the pandemic rages on.

Related: How to Disinfect Without Harming Your Stuff (or Yourself)

Headline-grabbing protesters aside, it seems the need for making face masks a part of our lives has begun to sink in as the year draws to a close. A HealthDay/Harris Poll found that “more than nine in 10 U.S. adults (93%) said they sometimes, often or always wear a mask or face covering when they leave their home and are unable to socially distance, including more than seven in 10 (72%) who said they always do so.” And until vaccines become more widely distributed, masks will continue to be an important part of life.

Related: Masks and Accessories to Make Covering Your Face More Comfortable

To say the travel experience changed in 2020 would be an understatement. This is a topic that has received immense coverage. Some of the most immediate impacts to our lives include the lack of travel altogether and the bans on Americans visiting many countries around the world because of the COVID-19 rates in this country. But travel has changed in more subtle ways as well, with some airlines blocking middle seats from being used to keep passengers from sitting too close together, and cruise lines practically ceasing operations, while hotels are redoubling efforts to provide clean, sanitized rooms when you check-in.

Meanwhile, more Americans are taking road trips and rediscovering America again. A survey conducted by Cooper Tires and reported by the New York Post earlier this year found that 43 percent of those surveyed had replaced canceled travel plans with a road trip of some sort.

Related: I Drove Cross-Country During the Pandemic — Here’s What I Learned

Another sign of the times, public transportation has become a highly undesirable way to get from place to place. A Statista survey conducted in April found 38 percent of respondents said they had begun avoiding crowded modes of public transport. It’s a shift that’s not likely to reverse course any time soon.

The gym industry has also taken a beating this year as have the exercise habits of Americans in general, with many hesitant to spend extended periods of time in confined spaces with fellow exercisers who are sweating and breathing heavily.

As Time reported, sweeping and repeated lockdowns have made Americans more sedentary than ever before and the effects are likely long-lasting. One survey reported by Time revealed a 32 percent reduction in physical activity among U.S. adults who had previously been meeting recommended exercise guidelines. Meanwhile, many gyms and personal trainers began offering virtual exercise sessions in 2020 in order to stay afloat, bringing their services to our living rooms for a change. No more rushing to get to your gym in time for an exercise class.

Related: 18 Fitness Challenges to Keep Pace (and Your Distance) During the Pandemic

While carrying cash was largely becoming a thing of the past prior to 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has hastened this trend. It’s not unusual to walk into a store these days and see a sign that says “Credit cards preferred.” That April Statista survey found that cash is being used far less day-to-day by 36 percent of survey respondents. For those still not clear on the why behind this shift in daily life — a scientific study explains that “paper currency by its very nature is frequently transferred from one person to another and represents an important medium for human contact.” And as we all know so well now — human contact is the big no-no of 2020.

Related: Cash-Based Businesses That Must Change to Survive in the COVID-19 Era

By: Mia Taylor

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Black Businesses Receive Tech Industry Push Ahead Of Holiday Shopping Bonanza

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt Black-owned businesses a tough hand. Stifled by stay-at-home orders, on-again off-again store closures and stricter limits occupancy limits, many businesses are struggling to outlast the seemingly unending virus outbreak.

Although they’ve rebounded slightly in recent months, Black-owned stores have experienced the greatest decline this year, plummeting from 1.1 million businesses in February to 640,000 in April—a 41% drop.

But spurred by a national movement to support Black businesses, which kicked off this summer, a new number of corporations are taking small steps to put the Black in Black Friday.

Black Friday online sales pulled in a record $7.4 billion in 2019— the second largest online shopping day ever and a 19.6% increase over the previous year—while the holiday season overall generated more than $72 billion in online sales, according to Adobe Analytics. Online sales for this Black Friday are projected to generate $10.3 billion.

The surge in digital spending over the holiday season and the heightened visibility that’s been awarded to small businesses through corporate sponsorships could have a considerable impact on Black businesses in particular, sustaining them through the a few more months of the pandemic.

Facebook, for one, launched its #BuyBlackFriday initiative and a corresponding toolkit and gift guide in October as part of a broader three-month campaign to buttress small businesses during the holiday season.

The gift guide features products from Black-owned businesses and was curated alongside the U.S. Black Chambers and several corporate partners. 

“Black-owned businesses have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, closing at twice the rate of other small businesses,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a blog post announcing the initiative. She added, “But we know that millions of people want to help.”

The campaign runs through Black Friday on November 27, a symbolic starting gun for the holiday shopping season.

More recently, Google partnered with Grammy-winning musician Wyclef Jean and the U.S. Black Chambers to promote its #BlackOwnedFriday campaign, an effort to make November 27 “Black-owned Friday” and galvanize shoppers to buy Black beyond the Thanksgiving weekend.

The tech giant has also showcased Black-owed businesses on its social platforms since mid-October and now allows users to find nearby stores that identify as Black-owned through its search engine.

“I’ve seen firsthand the strain and struggle that Black-owned businesses face,” Jean said in a statement. “For many of them, this holiday season will be critical to their survival.”

TikTok, the latest viral social media platform, threw its weight behind Black-owned businesses months after facing censorship allegations from Black creatives in June. Earlier this month, the video sharing platform, which has about 200 million monthly active users in the U.S., launched Support Black Businesses, a digital hub to amplify Black entrepreneurs. 

TikTok also announced #ShopBlack, an in-app campaign that allows users to create videos spotlighting their favorite Black-owned businesses or to share their experience as a Black entrepreneur.

As small businesses reel from the pandemic’s economic disruption, many big retailers have had breakaway growth. Amazon’s profits and sales exceeded analysts’ expectations, reporting a 37% sales growth and tripling its third-quarter profits as more shoppers turn to the e-commerce giant during the pandemic. 

But celebrities and influencers alike have started to leverage Amazon’s omnipresence to highlight Black sellers on the platform. Nearly 70% of the products on Oprah Winfrey’s highly anticipated annual list of her favorite things are created by Black-owned or Black-led businesses this year and all are available for purchase on Amazon.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

The billionaire media mogul has partnered with Amazon on the list since 2015 and her yearly picks have provided brands with considerable gains in sales since the list’s 1996 advent.

Black Americans have developed a growing presence among small businesses owners and could stand to gain considerable sales from dedicated shopping holidays like Small Business Saturday, which raked in an estimated $19.6 billion in 2019. And while physical distancing measures will significantly curb foot traffic this year, more than 112 million Americans visited a small business on that day last year, a record high.

As shoppers increasingly reject winding lines that snake around the store, a trend that’s long been in the making but was exacerbated by the pandemic, they’re also looking to support independent local businesses—a potential boon for niche Black businesses with an online presence this holiday season. Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

Ruth Umoh

 Ruth Umoh

I’m a reporter covering the various aspects of diversity and inclusion in business and society at large. Previously, I was a reporter at CNBC, where I focused on leadership and strategic management. I’ve also dabbled in video journalism, working as a breaking news digital producer for New York Daily News, followed by a yearlong stint as a producer at Rolling Stone. My work has been featured on New York Daily News, Yahoo Finance and Time Out. I’m a proud alumna of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, receiving honors for my investigative thesis on the alarming number of physicians dying by suicide. Tweet me @ruthumohnews or send tips to rumoh@forbes.com.

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Black business ownership fell more than any demographic group since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We spoke to some across the nation who are still fighting to survive. See this video on MarketWatch: https://www.marketwatch.com/video/sec… MarketWatch provides the latest stock market, financial and business news. Get stock market quotes, personal finance advice, company news and more: https://www.marketwatch.com/ Follow MarketWatch on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marketwatch Follow MarketWatch on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarketWatch Follow MarketWatch on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/marketwatch/ Follow MarketWatch on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mark…

Tracking The Recovery: What Manufacturers Can Learn From One Another

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The recovery from COVID-19 in manufacturing will not be one uniform push. Rather, just as the virus worked its way across the globe, the recovery will be uneven as disparate regions and sectors move toward the next normal.

This won’t make things easy for manufacturers. But the one advantage of a staggered recovery is that it allows you to draw on the insights of regions and sectors that are ahead of you in the cycle. And based on several podcasts I recently recorded with colleagues who advise on manufacturing across the globe, everyone seems to be facing the same key challenges.

Supply and demand

No doubt the biggest disruption that manufacturers have experienced in this crisis are interruptions to their supply chain. When China closed down early on in the pandemic, there was a short spell where manufacturing around the world continued as usual. But then the last container ship left China—and that was that. Manufacturers knew just when supplies would run out. And if you are manufacturing a car, even just one missing part means no car.

So what’s the lesson manufacturers can learn here? That supply chains going forward must be more agile and resilient. Manufacturers now and in the future must have the flexibility to adjust their supply chains in terms of geography, sourcing, and complexity when a crisis hits. This means cost may no longer be the most critical factor when it comes to supply chains. Keeping costs down has its advantages—but not when it means closing a factory down due to a lack of parts.

Being flexible also means having the ability to retrofit production to accommodate changing market demands. The ability to simplify and reduce their product range and cut down on the complexity around the production process was what allowed many manufacturers to keep operating in this crisis. This is especially important given that demand for certain products practically dried up during the early stages of the pandemic while demand for others soared. No one knows when demand as we knew it will bounce back—especially with many economies now in recession.

Health & safety

The well-being of workers is top of mind for all manufacturers right now. While the shift to remote work was highly challenging, figuring out how to keep workers safe who could not work remotely was even more so.

Manufacturers have worked hard to provide PPE for employees who remained on the factory floor. But some manufacturers are being more creative about worker health, coming together to privately fund consortiums that provide a range of health needs, including regular testing. Others have reworked their floor layouts to increase distance between workers. And as more workers return, temperature checks and other personal health safeguards are being deployed.

Digital

Digital will be connected to every aspect of the recovery from COVID-19, from worker safety to reorganizing supply chains. As such, any digital plans and investments in the works pre-pandemic will undoubtedly need to be sped up. And manufacturers who haven’t embarked on the smart factory journey or invested in the connectivity to make it happen will need to start playing catch up.

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But digital is playing an important role in the here and now. Digital has not only enabled remote work, but also the work that has had to stay within a factory. Using technologies such as apps and wearables, employees can be warned if they are straying too close to other workers. Advanced tools for taking temperatures are also helping employers monitor health and keep their staff safe.

Digital technologies—AI, IoT, analytics—are also critical in the near term. With the trajectory of the virus still unknown, businesses will need to rely heavily on forecasting and scenario planning to inform their business strategies. The more data they can gather and analyze, the more complete the picture will be. These technologies can also help manufacturers illuminate supply chains and address complexity.

Workplace

It’s becoming abundantly clear that the workplace will be a much different place post-pandemic. Even as the virus comes under control, it won’t be business as usual. With virtual work now an accepted—or at least expected—mode of working, leaders will need to rethink their workplace strategies. And the changing and uncertain environment will require new skills and roles—especially as the need for forecasting and scenario planning increases.

As operations begin to ramp up, manufacturers need to think about some key questions sooner rather than later. How do you get virtual teams to work together effectively and productively? How does remote work impact your talent and HR policies? How will manufacturers need to reimagine and redesign roles to accommodate changing needs and markets post-crisis? Flexibility will be key in order to optimize productivity and thrive in the new normal.

Recovery

 Recovery is about more than bringing workers back and ramping up production. For many manufacturers, it’s also about finding opportunities. Opportunities to scale innovative processes that worked well at the start of the crisis. Opportunities to leverage digital tools to greater effect—such as the use of scenario planning and remote work. And even opportunities to merge or acquire new entities.

It’s not insensitive to understand the opportunities a crisis presents. As seen in the past, all crises will have their winners and losers. Manufacturers that see how this is an opportunity to assess the future of customer value, their business models, and their capabilities and assets are more likely to be the winners.

Manufacturing post-pandemic

No one, of course, knows when COVID-19 will abate and how markets will react. For right now, uncertainty is the only certainty. That means scenario planning is the mantra of most manufacturers as they prepare for the current and future business cycles.

But overall, there’s consensus that resiliency is more important than anyone realized. Resiliency in this context means the ability to reconfigure your processes and operations and strategies to meet whatever comes next. Because if there’s one thing manufacturers definitely agree on, it’s that this crisis is far from over.

Vincent Rutgers is the Global Industrial Products & Construction (IP&C) Sector leader with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (Deloitte Global) and a Consulting partner with Deloitte Northwest Europe based in The Netherlands. The IP&C sector is among the largest in Deloitte’s global portfolio in terms of revenues and covers six segments, including: Aerospace and Defense, Construction companies, Industrial Conglomerates, Industry Products, Heavy Machinery and Equipment, and (Japanese) Trading House clients. Vincent directs a global network of partners and professionals to grow Deloitte’s relationship with strategic clients, delivering the full suite of business solutions and capabilities that Deloitte has to offer.

Prior to joining Deloitte, Vincent worked in various consulting roles for other professional services firms. His distinguished 30+ years of experience includes roles within industry focused on production process optimization for global manufacturing and telecommunications companies including Texas Instruments, Philips and AT&T Network Systems.

Vincent holds an MBA in Marketing from TiasNimbas Business School and a Bachelor in Commerical Engineering from Twente university, both in The Netherlands. He also completed post-graduate courses in marketing management and strategic thinking from Wharton Business School in the United States.

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Discover The 4 Practices a Salesforce Vet Uses To Connect With Customers as This Crisis Pulls Us Apart

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My job is to ensure every customer gets the most value out of Salesforce, but my passion is establishing and building trust. As the Chief Adoption Officer, I spend more than half my time meeting with customers all around the world. It’s that face-to-face interaction that helps me help them.

On any given day, I’m landing in a new city with a packed schedule, shuffling from plane to car to client meeting to hotel and then back the other way. That all changed overnight.

As worries over the coronavirus escalated, out of an abundance of caution, Salesforce asked many of us to start working from home. I went from knowing where I was going to be every single day for the next four months to scrambling to set up my next meeting… over video.

So what should sales leaders do to deepen our connection with customers during a time when digital communication becomes the form of communication? What do we tell our teams when they’re cooped up at home? And how do we be there for our people without physically being there?

Below are a few practices I’ve implemented these past few weeks to maintain strong customer relationships and build new ones, even while I’m not out on the road. I hope that by sharing, you too will be able to strengthen your bonds during these trying times.

1. Listen to your team

Let’s be realistic. Your team members aren’t going to be thinking about how they can help their customers if they’re worried about what’s happening at home.

First and foremost, focus on building an inclusive, empathetic culture from the top down. Your team is watching to see how you react. Show them you care. Open up a team call or one-on-one with a personal story and invite them to share their own.  Then probe deeper: How can I help? What boundaries can I respect? What are the things we should all agree on as a team?

One of the first things I did at home was organize a call twice a week with my team just to talk. This led us to create a Quip doc, where we could collect our thoughts and share what we’ve learned. You can also try inviting people to virtual happy hour. You’d be surprised to find how nice it feels – even when it’s just 15 minutes in front of a webcam.

At Salesforce, we’re helping our employees redefine their work through a variety of tools and channels – but no matter what technology you have at your disposal, every leader can be empathetic and listen. That creates team members who are ready to do the same.

2. Listen to your customers

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This is a time for deep listening. It’s important now more than ever. Remind your teams to really hear what their customers are concerned about and to show that they’re really there for them.

How do you do this? Set up a virtual coffee. Talk about what they’re facing. Brainstorm how to work together. Propose ideas that could solve their problems now.

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One customer recently told us they needed an emergency preparedness portal to communicate with their customers. Our team turned around a prototype in two days. That customer may or may not ultimately sign a deal with us, but they’ll remember we helped them when they needed it most.

While many things feel uncertain right now, people still need to do business. Contracts are still being written. And pain points still need to be solved. Listen to your customers with empathy, and you’ll end up creating true value for them.

3. Be mindful of customers’ time

Building relationships is a fundamental part of sales and customer success. Of course, treating a prospect to dinner isn’t possible right now.

Sometimes, the best way to show respect is to be mindful of your customers’ time. Don’t let small talk overstay its welcome. Keep agendas tight and focused so your customers can get back to their work and home priorities.

If a customer made time to meet with you, treat the meeting start time like a covenant. Take careful notes, send follow-ups, and, again, focus on how you can help.

4. Learn together

Quite frankly, I don’t have all the answers. But here’s one thing that’s true no matter the situation: We are stronger when we work together, when we double down on our relationships and our community (or Ohana, as we like to call it at Salesforce).

This month, in response to the coronavirus, we hosted our very first online only World Tour, an event that normally brings our customers physically together for a day of learning and networking. We had 10 days to pivot.

When we were transparent with our customers about the switch to digital, we received an outpouring of support. While we were dealing with our new virtual reality, so were our customers. Together, we came out the other side – better than ever.

How are you managing customer relationships while working remotely? I’d love to see what you and your teams have come up with. Reach out to us on @salesforce and share what you’ve learned.

And if you’re looking for more inspiration on how to work remotely, check out this Trailhead module on virtual collaboration.

Our Leading Through Change series provides thought leadership, tips, and resources to help business leaders manage through crisis. Check out some of our most recent articles:

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