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Being an essential worker in a pandemic: Trials, solutions


The coronavirus has not only been detrimental to people’s health and resulted in many unexpected deaths, but it has also been detrimental to our economy. 

With the stock market falling, many companies are suffering and needing to adjust in order to improvise for the loss of money. For one, this might mean layoffs, reduced pay, reduced labor and many other procedures for the loss of money. 

Unfortunately, this is happening to many people. What once felt normal is now changing because someone is getting fired for something out of their control. The economy has suffered tremendously, and businesses are trying to compensate as quickly as possible — in order to get back to “normal.”

Some of our essential workers are genuinely struggling, and the pandemic has brought many challenges to the work place. 

After some thoughtful interviews, some new conclusions have been made about the virus with regards to businesses and their workers. 

As a whole, the transition has been quite chaotic, different and made it more difficult to connect with customers. In customer service, many of the new precautions, face mask rules and capacity limits have caused customers to grow impatient and annoyed, so standing firm on new rules certainly challenges many of our essential workers. 

None of the people interviewed have directly been involved with angry customers, but there are many instances of rude customers lashing out with the “mask or no service” policy. 

Furthermore, there are many places that even had to close down. Safety has remained a high priority for these essential businesses, and as a result, these strict rules had to be met.

Progressively, some of the regulations have been dismissed, but with more and more cases, chances are that the old rules might need to come back. At the end of the day, safety must come first. 

As an essential worker at Kirklands, Cassie Williams has worked through the pandemic and experienced all the highs and lows. 

“The business works on polar opposites, it is either very empty or super busy. … Also, with the new rules, it has been much harder to engage with customers,” Williams said.

This is to say that many of the coronavirus updates have changed the atmosphere at Kirklands, making the relationship between workers and customers less appealing. 

Furthermore, these changes have unfortunately resulted in scattered business that isn’t predictable. This is a major issue for businesses worldwide, because businesses could end up losing money. This causes workers who depend on paychecks to not be promised their normal hours. 

Another point that Williams brought up was the plastic barriers placed in Kirklands to prevent germ- preading when cashing customers out. 

“These plastic barriers make it really hard to understand customers, and they tend to just get in the way,” Williams said.

Overall, these plastic barriers, intended to help alleviate the spread of the coronavirus, unfortunately make connecting and communicating with customers extremely difficult. This ultimately can make customers less satisfied and form unintended tension. 

Williams notes that she wishes face masks and the plastic barriers weren’t required, because of getting overheated and being unable to understand customers. Kirklands’ main points of change were with the addition of face masks, plastic barriers and even gloves.

Thankfully, gloves are no longer needed and the shortage of hours is not as much a concern for workers. Things at Kirklands are getting more normal as of right now, and hopefully a decline in cases will signify more “normal” work conditions. 

On another spectrum is the work field in a medical environment. Claudia Patricks works at a small chiropractic office, and they certainly have taking precautions very seriously for the public and its workers. 

“I personally have not had to deal with many struggles through the pandemic, however there were many changes. I had to carry my essential worker identification at all times, I had to do everything in my power to stay away from anyone who could possibly be sick (because as an essential worker [and] I was around so many people,” Patricks said.

Considering all of this, Patricks had to learn to not only do her part at work, but she was mandated to stay isolated for any potential threats. Also, her safety is just as important as the safety of any client, because her hypothetical contact with COVID-19 would ultimately be disastrous to the health of everyone around her. 

Patricks also explains that sanitation is high priority in her office.

“At first, it was very chaotic with new sanitation procedures. There was definitely a lot of fear built up, but as things got under control, the fear went down. We also attempted to set a positive workplace, which I believe was super helpful,” Patricks said.

“The most surprising measure we have to do is probably sanitize pens after each patient uses one. … I believe that [the] CDC has done everything they can do, given the situation, and if we participate and do our part, we will get back to normal.”

With regards to the measures taken here, safety is definitely the concern, as well as the well-being of patients under evaluation. They are making efforts to keep patients and workers safe, and they are not depriving workers of labor.

It might be stressful, since every little thing is considered with health precautions, but it is all to keep the public safe. Altogether more health precautions are being utilized, and with this safe environment, comfort and security are established amongst their clients. 

In all aspects, the coronavirus has significantly changed the way essential businesses run and follow protocol. Extensive health precautions are the new normal. Social distancing, disinfecting and limits to capacity are the most common ways that businesses have accommodated as so. 

These changes have challenged workers and customers, as the atmosphere feels different and connecting with customers has not been the biggest priority. Labor wages have been a concern for certain jobs and for other work environments, staying healthy and free from infection is the main priority. 

All in all, essential workers are learning to adapt to these working conditions that are strange and seemingly extreme. However, the goal is safety, so until things go back to “normal,” it is likely that nothing will change. 

Essential workers today have seen and adapted to many new procedures, and with the help of everybody doing their part, getting the COVID-19 cases to a minimum will increase the likelihood of getting things back to a new normal.