How Businesses and Their Employees Adjust for the “New Normal”

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Employees of businesses with substantial financial reserves and are confident of regaining their profitability when things settle down can reasonably expect their salaries and other benefits to remain intact. However, employees of businesses that are not similarly situated have reason to feel worried about their continued employment. The laid-off employees would have to deal with whatever separation pay their employer can give them, assuming the latter still has the means to do so. For businesses that stand in-between and believe cost-cutting measures would enable them to maintain their operations, their employees may face the prospects of salary reduction, cancellation of some privileges or suspension of monetary benefits provided for in their employment contracts or collective bargaining agreement.

These employees may be asked to make some financial sacrifices until things get better to enable the company to keep its nose above the water. On condition these arrangements are done in consultation with and freely agreed to by the employees or their duly authorized representatives, no unfair labor practice can be imputed to the employer. Aside from possible financial issues, employees have to brace themselves for radical changes in their work activities and interaction with fellow employees. If the guidelines issued by the government on work activities are to be strictly followed, employees would be obliged to, for example, wear face masks, maintain certain distances in their work areas, eat by themselves or refrain from holding lengthy meetings.

Taking lunch together is the best opportunity for employees to relax, bond with each other and catch up with the latest happenings in the office. Socializing with fellow employees during or after office hours is considered an integral part of employment life. No doubt, a strict enforcement of social distancing and other rules on avoiding COVID-19 infection in the work premises could adversely affect office morale or the employees’ psychological disposition toward their work. It would be a challenge to employers to think of ways or come up with measures that would keep their employees safe from COVID-19 without unduly impairing their ability to work or socialize with each other in the work premises.