Business Update – May 26 2021
A year ago, consumers were snapping up essentials like cleaning wipes and toilet paper in a panic-driven frenzy. Today, as economies around the world reopen, businesses are in a similar panic-driven frenzy to stock up. Supply lines have not yet recovered to pre-pandemic capacity, and recent events, including the Suez Canal blockage, a deep freeze in the southeast, and disruption of an East coast pipeline from hacking, are all combining to create shortages of almost everything all over the world. A little-known index, the Logistics Managers Index, seems to be forecasting an increase to inflation as inventory, transportation, and warehouse expenses all increase as a response to consumer demand. Shortages of key components are forcing manufacturers to produce based on availability of key components rather than the usual forecasts of demand as competitors buy twice as much as normal, even at twice the price. With no end in sight, at some point, manufacturers will have no choice but to pass the additional costs on to consumers.
THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PLAN ACT (ARPA)
Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
Online access has become a necessity of modern life, and the pandemic has made it even more essential. A provision in ARPA will make broadband service more affordable to qualifying households by offering $50 monthly coupons for online access. Eligible households qualify if they meet at least one of these criteria:
- Recipient of Medicaid or food stamps
- Child in free or reduced-price school lunch program
- Income below 135% of federal poverty guidelines
- Substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020
In addition, eligible households may receive a $100 discount towards the purchase of a laptop or tablet. Tribal members may qualify for $75 per month in broadband assistance. Funds may run out quickly, so apply soon if this applies to you. Full details and application information can be found on this dedicated website.
Restaurant Revitalization Fund
In just three weeks, the SBA received more than 303,000 applications for more than twice the $28.6 allocated to this program. Consequently, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund shut down on Monday, May 24. The demand for funds speaks to the tremendous losses suffered by restaurants and bars during the pandemic.
When we all had to shift to remote work overnight, early reports indicated an increase in productivity. However, as the work-at-home experiment morphs into a permanent option, managers need to be aware of and proactively mitigate bad habits that some remote workers may have fallen into. For example, some team members may be intentionally hiding out during video meetings by keeping their video cameras off. Setting clear expectations that cameras are to be on with mics off and making a point of asking each participant for their point of view can help break that habit.
While most companies report that working remotely was largely successful, some managers are not convinced that those who want to work remotely are as committed to the company as those who prefer coming in to the office. As this article in the Wall Street Journal points out, several prominent business leaders, including the CEO of WeWork, have publicly stated that the most engaged employees want to be in the office. However, the article also points out that while managing a remote team is different that managing a team in the office, many examples of workplaces that combine remote work and opportunities for career advancement exist. As remote work will likely become more of the norm than exception that it was pre-pandemic, team members and business leaders alike will need to adjust their approach if they want to keep their best people.
LIFE IN THE POST-PANDEMIC ERA
Identifying the best hiring candidates
Even before the pandemic, the ability to learn new skills was beginning to be seen as the key to success in today’s rapidly changing world. Lifelong learners tend to be the highest performers over the long run, but how do you identify these candidates? An article in Harvard Business Review suggests asking a simple question: How do you learn? Asking this question during the interview process and as part of an annual performance review helps companies find, hire, and retain the best team members.
Even as the pandemic appears to be waning, many employers report having a difficult time finding enough candidates to fill needed positions. In Connecticut, Governor Ted Lamont is taking a novel approach by offering long-term unemployed a $1,000 bonus after eight weeks at a new job. Lamont hopes that the extra funds will make it easier for people to pay for childcare, transportation, or whatever they may need to return to the workplace.
Even as companies are adjusting to an all-remote or hybrid workplace, college graduates from the class of 2021 prefer in-person work and in-person job interviews. These new candidates want to develop relationships and network on the job and crave in-person collaboration. Some may not have an appropriate area or the right equipment for working remotely. This means that employers may need to be creative in developing a collaborative and rich work environment for their newest team members.
How to keep your vaccination card on your phone
Vaccine cards don’t fit easily in wallets alongside credit cards and drivers’ licenses, and with the ever-changing rules, it’s not clear when or if you might have to produce yours. This article in PC Magazine explains how to keep yours on your phone.
- IRS resources for stimulus payments:
- The best source for up-to-date and accurate health information is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- The CDC also has recommendations for businesses and employers
- Intuit QuickBooks has a dedicated page to help small businesses
- Entrepreneur put together a listing of free tech resources for remote work
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warnings about COVID-related scams
- Fast Company has a listing of the best productivity apps for 2020
- The New York Times has an online newsletter on K-12 and higher education
- The Wall Street Journal has a collection of articles on education
- The Atlantic has a state-by-state coronavirus tracker
We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!