Get to work on getting back to work

For many, the changes to our lives caused by the onset of COVID-19 are fading in the rear-view mirror.

The nation’s top public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last week relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines. It dropped quarantine and social distancing guidelines. The changes were driven by a recognition that an estimated 95 percent of Americans 16 and older have acquired some level of immunity, either from being vaccinated or infected, agency officials said, according to The Associated Press.

For restaurants, however, the hits never stopped coming. And ongoing staffing shortages are forcing some to make drastic decisions.

In Columbus, WBNS reported one restaurant, even today, is planning to close down entirely for a couple of months, to try to get back up to full staff, with the hope of reopening eventually. “I’d say a couple of months is probably as far as we can go before we have to throw in the towel,” Smokehouse Brewing Company founder Lenny Kolada told WBNS.

They are not alone, and in fact the challenges faced in the restaurant industry are being faced by many other employers as well. John Barker, president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association, told WBNS the average restaurant is 20 percent short of ideal staffing.

According to Kolada, the new hires are being offered significantly more per hour than a year ago. But “no one is even batting an eye at that,” he said.

ORA recommendations for those in the industry are to establish “really good cultures,” including higher pay, and adding benefits including mental health services.

Not every employer can make those kinds of changes. It is beginning to seem, however, as though some might not have a choice. Adapt or, as Kolada put it, throw in the towel.

As the world of work evolves, neither employers nor employees can afford to cling stubbornly to “the way things have always been done.” If we’re going to create a rising tide that lifts all boats, we are going to have to get creative and leave such thinking behind, together.



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