It’s no secret that many Americans are worried about their health, especially during the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also worried about the economy and fear job losses, pay cuts, and more. Families who are currently struggling financially have been met with support from local schools when it comes to knowing where their next meal will come from.

But what happens when these fears meet one another? Many people don’t have the ability to work from home and end up jeopardizing their health. For many essential workers, remote work is not a possibility. Those in the foodservice, including our school cafeteria’s staff, and retail industries are attempting to work and maintain their health simultaneously.

Directors all over the country have expressed concern regarding their staff’s safety. Some districts are continuing to pay their staff, regardless if they are working or not. 

It may seem like a no brainer in times like these to ensure job security for all workers without expecting them to compromise their health, but it’s not an easy decision to make. Our communities depend on school nutrition staff to feed our families, especially during difficult economic times. With the risk of COVID-19 infection still present, and guaranteed paychecks, many of these paid employees simply aren’t showing up. 

This is where motivation can make a big difference, and much of it these days has been coming from leadership positions in all industries. If you are wondering how you can motivate your staff to continue showing up on the frontlines when they don’t have to and face fear and uncertainty every day, here are a few tips we’ve outlined to help.

  1. Be their role model
    • In a previous post, we talked about how it’s important to exhibit behaviors you want your staff to mirror. This rings louder now than it ever has before. Try and join them at your serving sites as much as you can. Directors everywhere have been taking care of their “normal desk work” outside of serving times so that they can be with their staff and serve with them.
  2. Remind them why they are needed…
    • … by you
      • You can’t do everything by yourself. It’s physically impossible and mentally exhausting. By PERSONALLY telling your staff how valuable you find them and how much you appreciate them, they will have more reasons to show up and push through.
    • … by your students and their families
      • Don’t let the bystander effect get in the way of your staff. It’s easy for many of us to think, “nothing will change based on my individual decision.” We see this during elections, when people “movie hop”, or when you ask for a water cup but fill it up with soda. There may be truth in that one person’s actions don’t have a large impact, but what would happen if everyone made that same decision? What would happen if all of your employees thought, “I don’t need to serve, they will be fine without me!” There wouldn’t be anyone there to ensure students get fed. Teamwork truly is the key here, and if they aren’t the ones to show up and take care of our communities, then who will?
  3. Celebrate them
    • Districts everywhere have been utilizing social media more than ever. Use whatever platform you have to spotlight your staff members. Let the world know how much you appreciate them and why they should be appreciated too!
  4. Utilize their feedback
    • This is another tip we’ve previously mentioned, and it’s important to mention again because this is how you can be sure your staff feels heard! If they offer ways to improve line speeds and safety measures, listen to what they’re saying and take whatever action you can, based on those suggestions. Your staff will feel heard and validated, but most importantly feel included as a part of the team.

The COVID-19 has proved to be a scary time for everyone – but with the continued efforts of our front line workers and school lunch heroes, everyone can feel a little bit more secure. Don’t ever let your staff – or yourself – forget it!