In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic erupted forcing many businesses to quickly adjust to the evolving public health crisis. COVID-19 has resulted in businesses:
- Changing how they operate
- Adapting to various legislation changes
- Revamping technology to support customers
Businesses across various industries have adapted to the “new normal,” and are strategizing a business plan for the new year and riding out the impact of COVID-19 into 2021. Here is part one of a two-part series exploring how businesses are adapting to COVID-19, looking at essential industries, including healthcare, restaurants, and grocery stores.
In response to COVID-19, a mental health crisis emerged. As a result of social isolation, financial strains, and other personal impacts COVID-19 has had on individuals, families, and businesses, many health insurance providers have developed, revamped, or promoted telehealth services. While some services cannot be offered remotely, healthcare services such as mental and behavioral health have significantly increased.
A 2019 health benefits report predicted that in 2020, 91% of employers will offer telehealth services to their employees. With the average wait for a new patient scheduling a primary care physician appointment 29 days, and even longer in bigger cities like Boston (109 days on average), telehealth offers countless benefits to users, including access to healthcare professionals, affordable healthcare costs, and improved patient care.
Businesses have implemented telehealth services or explored it during benefits renewal discussions. This is likely because telehealth assists business owners by decreasing employee absenteeism (i.e., taking time off to go to a medical appointment), increasing productivity (i.e., improved health can help focus), and improving overall health (i.e., by providing benefits employees actually want to use).
Another trend that has resulted from COVID-19 is pharmaceutical companies’ stock market increase. For example, in July 2020, shortly after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pfizer and BioNTech that they had initiated a late-stage clinical trial on a coronavirus vaccine. Pfizer’s stock plummeted when COVID-19 surfaced, but regained its standing by July after making great strides towards developing a vaccine.
Many restaurants across the globe, specifically non-franchise restaurants, suffered a significant impact to their revenue. When COVID-19 first emerged in March 2020, over eight million restaurant workers were laid off or furloughed. Additionally, 83% of total restaurant staff were terminated and 41% were laid off or furloughed.
However, with the help of third-party delivery services, such as DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub, and Uber Eats, restaurants have been able to survive. Over 80% of restaurant owners credited third-party delivery service providers from laying off staff members. Because 63% of young adults rely on third-party delivery apps, it makes sense why restaurants are partnering with them.
While some restaurants, specifically small restaurants, are struggling with the commission fees, some larger cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago have capped the commission fees third-party delivery services charge, ranging from 5% and 15%.
For restaurants fortunate enough to either never had to close their doors or were able to maintain takeout and delivery orders, many have adapted by implementing safety measures for both staff and customers. Some common examples include:
- Restricted dining space: Limitations may be in the form of requiring a reservation, reserving empty tables to add space between parties, and/or spacing tables further apart to ensure adequate physical distancing guidelines are followed. Additional precautions, such as spacers between booths and point-of-sale setups, paying the bill via app or on-table kiosk, one-way entry and exit, and floor markers for physical distancing, have been implemented.
- Face mask: Most businesses are mandated to require staff and customers to wear a face mask with the only exception being when eating or drinking.
- Online or one-time use menus: Numerous restaurants have implemented QR codes for customers to scan and access their online menu. Others have implemented one-time paper menus for customers to use.
- No-contact delivery/takeout: Third-party delivery services and restaurants that have their own delivery systems are utilizing no-contact delivery. For example, Papa John’s zero-contact delivery requires delivery persons to leave the item(s) at the door and ensure adequate physical distancing with the order recipient. The item(s) may not be handed directly to the resident.
- Cleaning and sanitation: Sanitation stations and frequent cleaning regulations have been implemented in most business establishments. Public venues and commercial buildings have also replaced their air filters with higher-grade filters to ensure adequate air quality and circulation throughout commercial spaces. Some businesses sell or give out free masks for those who enter without one.
However, not all businesses are in favor of lockdowns. Waffle House CEO, Walt Ehmer, publicly criticized the COVID-19 restrictions explaining how devastating the impact COVID-19 has already had on the industry and its employees and how lockdowns exacerbate that issue.
Grocery stores, such as Walmart, Kroger, and Albertsons, are offering online ordering, contactless pickup, and some even offering delivery. Walmart has introduced Walmart+, which is a membership that provides access to free shipping with no order minimum requirements, free delivery, gas savings at select fuel centers, and mobile scan and go. This program is aimed to provide members safe shopping options, as well as save time and money.
Another alternative to grocery shopping is ready-to-cook meal delivery services, such as Blue ApronTM, Hello Fresh, and Home Chef. These service providers offer no commitment subscription-based meal kits, which include customizable recipe, delivery, and frequency options. Each meal kit comes with easy-to-follow recipes including nutritional information, high-quality ingredients, convenient packaging to fit in the fridge, and perfectly proportioned meals ready to eat for the week.
Navigating the evolving COVID-19 situation can be difficult for businesses. Legislation is constantly changing, which can make compliance difficult. Additional issues related to employment, workplace safety, and discrimination may fluctuate based on temporary extended protections. As the situation continues to evolve, employee benefits are likely to be a trending topic as employers and employees alike will likely be seeking alternatives to traditional healthcare benefits. Further, employers may unfortunately be dealing with unemployment claims.
Whether you need assistance with managing legal HR updates and compliance to employee benefits and unemployment claims, partnering with a PEO like VensureHR can alleviate those pain points. Our dedicated HR compliance and benefits teams can provide industry best practices, tools and resources, and customer support for all your business’s needs. Let VensureHR customize our business solutions to your unique business demands.