One of the biggest challenges many employers are facing is getting their workforce back on the job during the continuing COVID-19 environment. There are many obstacles including the fact those collecting unemployment benefits received an additional $600 per week, which in many cases amounted to more than their salaries. This benefit expired on July 31 and workers are beginning to return to their jobs. There are discussions about a lesser weekly benefit being introduced, but so far that has not been implemented.

A major issue is the fact schools in Oregon may not be open for much of the school year and parents have found themselves as teachers.

Others are sincerely frightened about the prospect of returning to work, questioning the safety precautions employers may or may not have put in place. This is especially true in cases where social distancing may be difficult in such workplaces as manufacturing or food processing plants.

Some people may have children or elderly relatives living with them with severely compromised health due to underlying conditions.

All of these are legitimate issues and concerns. So, what can employers do as they endeavor to resume operations?

• Some parents are finding individuals willing to supervise online learning while parents work, helping to ensure their children are on task and that a regular school schedule is established and maintained.

• Employers should provide detailed information about all the precautions being implemented, including exactly what the employee’s responsibilities are. The Center for Disease Control’s website,, outlines safety precautions and recommendations.

• Offering additional training and professional development opportunities is something attractive to employees and some employers are offering monetary incentives.

• On a recent webinar, an economic development specialist noted many employers are networking and finding qualified, enthusiastic employees from those companies which are having to downsize.

• Some companies are expanding the option for working remotely which is very appealing to many as they balance family and work. Clear communication and expectations must be given along with deadlines for projects to be completed. Establishing video platforms so employees do not feel isolated is proving to be beneficial for those transitioning to this model.

• Businesses may simply have to find ways to attract new employees. Join other employers in hosting a virtual job fair. There are many individuals whose former employers have closed their business. They may not have all the skills needed for a particular position, but with the right attitude and ample training, may be the perfect fit for the job.

Finding enough qualified employees wanting to work is something businesses will have to find creative and unique ways to address. Post your jobs to a variety of platforms and utilize the Employment Department’s database of job seekers. Employers may post a job themselves by clicking the employer tab “hiring an employee” at and by the old fashioned, low-tech way—by word of mouth.

In closing, utilize those entities which serve businesses including your local chamber of commerce, downtown and other business associations, economic development professionals, and small business development centers.

Greg Smith is the director of Malheur County Economic Development. He may be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914.

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