The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone in some way shape or form. Business owners struggled to keep their doors open as sales declined, millions of people had to adjust to remote working or unemployment, students have been emotionally taxed by distance learning and social isolation, and the elderly have been sheltering in place for months on in. While it is beneficial to have a clear understanding of what everyone is going through, a large group has been left out of the discussion – essential workers.
How is it for those who had to continue working despite the threat of a serious and potentially life-threatening virus? Not wanting to appear ungrateful for having the means to provide for themselves and their families during this time, many suffer in silence. Yet, they face many obstacles daily. Here are a few listed below.
One of the biggest issues for essential workers is their increased risk of contracting the coronavirus. Not only are their risks greater for contracting the virus, but the risk of spreading it to their loved ones is also higher. Every day, essential workers interact with the general public. For every person that they come in contact with, that’s another chance of them getting sick.
Unfortunately, many of them do this in an environment that is not conducive to their overall wellbeing during a pandemic. Some have reported businesses not investing in PPE, failing to introduce cleaning and sanitizing strategies, and not taking strong enough action to ensure that customers do their part to keep everyone safe.
Another issue essential workers have to deal with is childcare. Unlike adults who are unemployed or working remotely, they don’t have the option to remain at home and care for their children. They’re left to figure out how to find high-quality childcare for their children during the day while they’re at work. Not only must the childcare facility provide a quality learning environment, but they must also take all precautions to keep children safe.
Growing Costs of Living
Just because they’re employed doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling to get by in these difficult times. Essential workers are often the lowest-paid group of individuals making it difficult to stretch their dollars to support their families. Even for those who are able to find affordable childcare solutions through tools like Tootris.com, there’s still the rising costs of other expenses that leave them stressed.
Their paychecks aren’t getting any bigger yet there’s an increase in grocery bills and energy costs as everyone is home during the day. Not to mention, they have to keep up with other expenses like mortgage/rent, insurance, gas, etc. Unfortunately, because they’re not unemployed, they don’t have the same resources for financial assistance leaving them to figure things out for themselves.
As if balancing work and home life wasn’t already difficult enough, the pandemic added another layer of problems for essential workers. How can they maintain their jobs while taking care of their responsibilities in the home? How do they ensure their children are getting a proper education, that they’re entertained during the summer, or that their emotional needs are being looked after if they’re working all day? For essential workers who also care for aging loved ones, how do you tend to their needs while reducing their risk of exposure? Even more important, how do they balance their own emotions when they’re the only ones expected to continue “life as normal”?
There’s no denying that life amid a national pandemic has been difficult for everyone from business owners to teens and school-aged children. As leaders across the country begin formulating strategies to make things easier for all involved parties, it is imperative to include essential workers. Though you may not hear much about their struggles during these chaotic times, the above-mentioned obstacles prove that they too are in need of immediate change.