19 May. 2020 | Comments (0)
There is much to consider as we think about reopening the economy. There are financial, social, and health implications for companies, employees, and communities. While reopening has led to more COVID-19 infections and higher death rate projections, people are restless and in some cases taking their frustration to the streets. Whatever a community’s health restrictions, there is a great strain on governments, hospitals and clinics, and NGO/nonprofits in delivering services. It has never been more important for companies to take a strong view of shared humanity and community responsibility.
There is still need for immediate pandemic relief efforts in hot spots in the Western world and more broadly in the Global South. Some immediate relief is transitioning into long-term support. The work of corporations collaborating with governments and nonprofits will be critical in this next phase as we discover our new normal(s). Here are some top issues to consider for our roadmap:
Who you are and where you are often determines the degree to which you are affected by the pandemic and economic crisis. Socio-economic level, race, age, access to healthcare, and underlying health define how one weathers this storm. While some safely isolate at home, many cannot socially distance. Regardless of personal circumstances, essential and frontline workers have a much higher risk of infection. Migrant workers, stranded, often lacking basic needs, and with their families sometimes thousands of miles away, are at great risk for infection and bad outcomes.
Healthcare, Hospitals and Clinics
The pandemic has drained resources from hospitals and healthcare facilities. Both spent time and resources gearing up for and treating COVID-19 while experiencing drastic revenue loss as nonessential healthcare was put on hold. We are already seeing hospitals and clinics closing, especially in rural locations. The pandemic has highlighted the lack of access to healthcare in some communities.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals and now the Sustainable Development Goals have helped to lift vast numbers of people out of poverty globally. However, the pandemic has already pushed eight percent of the world’s population back into poverty, according to the World Bank. That’s about a half billion people. This only intensifies the needs being addressed by corporate citizenship initiatives, both in emerging markets and the developed world.
At one point, nine of 10 children have been physically out of school due to the pandemic, UNESCO reports. The efficacy of remote learning ranges from very good to poor. In some locations, students are not logging on. In others, lack of access to Wi-Fi and hardware are barriers to learning. And as long as physical distancing is an issue, reopening schools will be costly due to the need for deep cleaning, requirements to have fewer students per classroom (with resulting implications for teachers), and increased physical spacing required on school buses, which may require many more buses. All of this may lead to more poorly prepared students, with effects on graduation and job readiness.
Unemployment, Underemployment and Jobs
We are experiencing the worst unemployment since the Great Depression. Those still employed may be on reduced pay, furloughs, or otherwise underemployed. Job placement and training programs will need increased support.
NGO and Small Business Wellbeing
For many nonprofits and small businesses, revenue has disappeared or been greatly reduced. This crisis has emphasized the similarities in for-profit and nonprofit entities. Closed doors mean no customers, audiences, or patrons. Those operating virtually or as essential businesses are finding that aid, donations, and decreased discretionary funding are not always sufficient to maintain operations. Small businesses and nonprofits provide jobs, often with health insurance, purchase goods and services, and are a vital part of the vitality of a community. Sadly, many will fail.
The mental health effects of the pandemic and the economic crisis will be felt long after both are behind us. Isolation, fear, and, for some, real danger affect psyches; financial strain heightens family stress. Frontline workers are experiencing PTSD. People learn to cope, but the results of coping are not always positive. Anxiety, depression, substance abuse, physical abuse, and child abuse are all effects we are seeing. Community mental health services will need greater support.
Many governments and organizations are providing financial aid and other assistance. There is concern that the assistance will run out before the recovery ends. Food providers are talking about sustaining food-assistance capacity. Supply chain, distribution, funding, and staffing all play into sustaining basic needs.
Many nonprofits and government agencies are starved for the physical volunteers they once had. For valid health and liability reasons, organizations stopped providing and using hands-on volunteers. Suppliers of volunteers scrambled for virtual volunteering options, which have often proved successful. But hospitals, food banks, shelters, child and elder care, schools, and many others rely on physically present volunteers to meet their mission. Points of Light has guidelines to help individuals determine if they can safely volunteer.
While the lockdown temporarily reduced air and water pollution levels in some places, climate change will continue to strain populations. Droughts, food shortages, sea-level rise, and other issues will influence how and where people live. It will be crucial to take the effectsof climate change into consideration as we prepare for a post-COVID-19 world.
Trust and Reputation
How companies manage and respond during the pandemic and through the economic recovery is already being judged by employees, customers, and communities. Transparent communication will make a positive difference in how stakeholders view a company’s efforts to navigate crisis and recovery.
Last: Meaningful, Positive Impact
As corporate citizenship continues to contribute to those in need, the importance of empathy and kindness cannot be overstated. The world is hurting, and the private sector is being looked to for help in easing the pain. Recovery will be a long and winding road, and companies have an opportunity not only to help lead but to help take us to a more green, humane, and thoughtful world.