Never mind that the nation’s unemployment rate is at a decent 5.4%; hearing the phrases “good help is hard to find” and “please be patient while we are short-staffed” have become commonplace as businesses everywhere try to snap back to pre-Covid staffing levels. Even though the news is quick to use the hospitality industry as an example, staff shortages have crept into blue collar positions and other sectors. As easy as it may be to dismiss these shortages as people who are just comfortable collecting unemployment checks, those extended benefits have long dried up.

The fact is, an eligible segment of the labor force is just plain burned out and weary, due to a number of factors. Even here in Puget Sound, we have a ferry system that cannot crew its boats sufficiently and runs are being cancelled, leaving passengers stranded and waiting in huge lines.

Covid, in all its mutations, caused the workforce to make drastic work-life changes. Parents suddenly became homeschoolers.  Group childcare wasn’t an option for a long time, and many closed. Riding the bus, ferries and commuter trains suddenly felt like a life-and-death gamble, and the prospect of returning office looked more like an unwelcome petri dish with its own risks of exposure. Many people adjusted to being part of the gig economy versus working full time, and began to enjoy that work-life autonomy. This is happening locally, nationally and around the world. We’re all feeling it.

At Juniper, we work with many entrepreneurs and businesses that buy commercial property either for their own offices, or to be leased. We have a vested interest in their successes as they endeavor to reestablish their workforces. Aside from adding talent to replenish pre-pandemic workforce levels, protecting existing staff becomes critical because so many companies are running lean already. Three key words are our “prescriptive” formula: prevention gets retention.

Having a supply of hand sanitizer and face masks will only get you so far, and the same goes for wage increases. Communication becomes critical for employees to know they are:  1-appreciated and 2-safe in the workplace. If you are an employer and you haven’t developed a program that articulates your efforts to foster a safe workplace, don’t expect to hang onto your valuable employees for long.  Consider every element of health and safety measures in your workplace: Indoor masking and vaccination policies, air filtration, seat spacing (for an office), keeping a supply of rapid Covid tests (for peace of mind), in-person meeting safety protocols, hygiene best practices, and do you offer paid time off to allow your staff to get vaccinated, if needed?

Aside from health and safety, have you integrated flexible scheduling or job-sharing, or invested in work-from-home software such as Zoom, Teams, or WebEx to allow some of the team to remote in?

All of these examples illustrate ways that employees can feel valued and safe. Employers who treat their team members in a more humane (and less transactional) way are the companies who will win. Get creative, show compassion, and communicate thoroughly. Use all the tools in your toolbox to attract and retain those that help you keep your business going. And when it’s time to scale up again, we’re always ready to help you with your commercial real estate needs.

If you’re seeking quality commercial real estate investments throughout the Pacific Northwest, we’re here to help. Juniper Capital provides private real estate financing, including hard money loans for commercial, construction, multifamily residential opportunities and more. If you would like more information on this topic, call us today.