How to manage your team and business when patio season ends

As the outdoor dining season winds down in many areas, businesses face different challenges.

When I Work has been able to track hourly jobs numbers through a world-historic event as the global pandemic introduced extreme volatility into the lives of hourly workers and the businesses that employ them across the US.

This spring, we saw up to an 80% drop in hours worked at workplaces. After the economy reopened at the beginning of the summer, it became clear the practices and rhythms of pre-pandemic life for hourly workers could not and would not return to normal. This summer, as businesses opened and closed and opened again, and as mask mandates went into effect, When I Work data showed that no two states were alike in their reopening. Hours worked ebbed and flowed by state based on statewide mandates and case numbers.

Companies are under tremendous pressure as they try to stay afloat until widespread vaccination arrives with a rescue. Many experts indicate a second rise in infection rates as we move into colder weather, so business owners need to ask themselves: how can I best prepare for the winter?

The lessons of this summer have taught businesses that rely on in-person interactions to be creative as they accommodate customers. Many restaurants conjured outdoor patio seating out of parking lot territory, city sidewalks, or even former roads. Signature drinks became cocktail-to-go kits. New partnerships with other businesses like hospitals arose. Cash became a rare sight, with a new reliance on apps that made ordering food and paying the check completely contactless. Drive thrus sprung up from the sides of buildings.

But creativity and innovation can’t happen without flexibility. Flexible staffing for retail and hospitality workers is especially key for navigating the slowing down/pivoting/speeding up required.

This winter, in areas with colder weather and lower humidity, coronavirus may be poised to spread more rapidly. It isn’t out of bounds to guess that in a two-month period, a business might have to accommodate the following: rising demand, a voluntary shutdown after an employee’s positive Covid-19 test, a reopening at lower staffing levels as social distancing increases, a rise in staffing levels as new frontiers like delivery or fireside patio seating open up, and another shutdown as regional outbreaks tied to the flu and school season erupt.

Businesses are finding a way to adapt by adding flexible scheduling to their toolboxes, as they recover hours worked by their employees. Data shows that adding When I Work scheduling for hourly workers can be a crucial tool— it keeps in-person interaction to a minimum as employees can check their schedules and make shift adjustments without a physical visit on premises, and when they’re at work, they can use their own devices to avoid clocking in and out on shared equipment. Employees who wake up feeling slightly under the weather are encouraged to be as cautious as possible, so scheduling online allows them to swap shifts with ease– as well as track who worked with them in the days before they felt ill. With available work shifts rising and falling, When I Work makes keeping track of the chaos easy for hourly workers and their employers.