#5. How can I help my employees get to work safely?
This question is an excerpt from our downloadable brief, “Seven Workforce Questions that Are Top of Mind During COVID-19: A Resource for Small Businesses.”
Transportation challenges for small business employees have worsened during the pandemic, as public transportation can increase risk of illness and may be operating less frequently. Small business owners report that they are increasing communication with workers about transportation options and looking for creative solutions. Below, we share resources and innovative strategies small businesses are using to get their employees to work safely.
Reevaluate employer policies related to transportation
If you previously provided transportation stipends or reimbursements for employees, consider if this is still relevant and useful. Employees may prefer bikeshare credits, parking reimbursements or other up-front, flexible benefits. The Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation – Employer Toolkit is a useful resource for evaluating employer transportation policies.
If your employees must take public or shared transportation, make a plan for how to stay safe and minimize potential exposure to the virus. Some businesses have shifted schedules so that employees can commute during off-peak hours. At Connie’s Chicken and Waffles, co-owner Khari Parker explains, “The majority [of our employees] are taking the bus. We are giving them the option to work double shifts and minimize time on the bus. For example, an employee can work two days for longer hours versus coming in four times.” Others encourage modes of transportation that have better air circulation (for example, a bus with open windows versus an underground train). Ask your employees if public transportation schedules are affecting their ability to work certain hours and consider providing workers PPE for their commute. This includes masks, hand sanitizer, and wipes for use while on public transportation and/or before entering the workplace.
Share resources with your employees to stay safe while commuting
Health experts have compiled useful information, some of which can be found at CDC – Protect Yourself When Using Transportation and at WebMD – Transportation: Getting Around During an Outbreak. Knowledge about COVID-19 is evolving rapidly, so it’s important to stay current about health and safety information, including information about safe transportation. Your employees may also be interested in learning about groups in your community working to expand transportation access, like the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition. Some community lenders like On the Road Lending may be able to help workers purchase vehicles at affordable interest rates.
Small Business Perspectives
“There are so many systemic issues that are being highlighted by COVID-19. A lot of our kitchen team doesn’t have access to a car and took transit and ride shares. People are hesitant now. It’s hard to support our team with transportation because we don’t have money. The best solution we have right now is taking employees to work in our cars.” –Liz Bower, Co-Owner, Well Crafted Kitchen
|IMPORTANT: Please note that this resource is not legal guidance about workplace safety. This guide does not provide technical information about regulations that businesses must comply with for reopening. Individual business owners are responsible for complying with their local jurisdiction’s evolving guidance related to COVID-19. The National Safety Council provides a range of resources that you may find helpful, including federal guidelines and state-specific resources regarding COVID-19 and the workplace.
Seven Workforce Questions that Are Top of Mind During COVID-19
- How can I reassure my workers that we are following appropriate safety guidelines?
- How can I create an equitable and inclusive environment for my employees and customers?
- How can I help my employees communicate and implement safety measures with customers?
- How can I help my employees manage increased stress?
- How can I help my employees get to work safely? (you are here)
- How can I recognize and respond to my employees’ caregiving responsibilities?
- How can I support my employees’ financial stability?
The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.