Back to school? Or back to school, sometimes?


How to manage spend, staff and stress.

Did you hear? NYC is dead.  Or, maybe it’s not.  Either way, nothing will ever be the same seems to be the sentiment heard most often.  
What is true is that this may be the most difficult period for education in decades. These are extremely uncertain times for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Many school districts all over the US have delayed their opening, as teachers’ contracts forbid work or planning during the summer.  Now everything needs to be crammed into the next few weeks.  Some schools across the country are opening in “pods,” remote-only, or various hybrid models.  What’s clear: schools need to prepare to accept returning students and teachers in a protected environment – and accommodate learning in an entirely new model. All of this with potential budget cuts.
Learn more about how PEX can help manage staff spend, reduce management stress, and provide complete transparency.
At the start of the year, we always look closely at whether different customer groups have different needs.  What we heard repeatedly from educational institutions is the need to very closely track expenses, while at the same time provide teachers with the flexibility to customize their classroom materials to their subject, style, and/or students’ individualized educational needs. This school year here’s what we’re hearing about:
Supporting School Buildings, and Specifically Classrooms
•    PPE – specifically having surgical masks available in case a child loses or tears their mask
•    Plexiglass or plastic barriers – molded or attached to individual desks
•    A surplus of bleach, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and other sufficient janitorial supplies
•    Self-cleaning surface stickers (for doors and banisters)
•    One-way, directional signs and stickers for hallways and staircases
Supporting Teachers and Remote Learning
•    PPE including face shields
•    Fans, heaters, and other necessities for keeping classrooms comfortable (remember, fans should point out to create as much negative air pressure as possible)
•    School licenses for software, e.g., video conferencing
•    Laptops, if staff deals with children’s personally identifiable information, which is protected by COPPA and FERPA, two federal privacy laws; VPNs or Virtual Private Networks, if the data is sitting in the cloud or on a school server, and accessible by staff online
•    Webcams with overhead mounts, for writing by hand; or iPads, for notes on student whiteboards

Whew.  It’s an exhausting list.  That’s not a typo.  Combine remote learning with special sanitary requirements for schools, and suddenly the janitorial department requires a CDC SOP ASAP!  It’s probably also a fair assumption that teachers will spend part of their time working from home.  Here’s the advice we’ve given (and followed), for setting up remote work and managing this new form of workflow and staff spending:
Set Working Hours, and Regular Meetings
You know that weekly status meeting?  Make it shorter, make it daily, make it at 9:30 am, make everyone participate on video.  According to the Harvard Business Review, routines are important to humans. The last thing you want is employees working from home in their bathrobes. Especially folks who are new to telecommuting and working remotely.  Help them establish a routine, help them get into a mental work zone, by setting the example and leveraging a group dynamic.  Have your deans or faculty leaders do the same.
Normally hate meetings?  Now’s the time to overdo it.  Everyone is still getting used to the situation, and teachers miss the interaction they get in the school, and the feeling of “we’re all in this together.”  Overcommunication is key, especially when routines are still being set

Why are we talking about this?
PEX, like other employers today, is looking at the best ways to operate effectively to serve our clients while keeping our staff safe. We’ve seen how our customers do it, and we’re setting up our own processes.  One last thing we’ve found enormously helpful is employees’ ability to set up their workspace.  A $500 prepaid employee expense card to buy supplies, get headphones or cameras, even participate in Thursday lunch (but from their house) eases the stress of transitioning. With the option to set controls and limits, you can softly encourage responsible spending at the same time. With PEX, you can add funds to the cards as needed, or close them down in real-time as needs change.  Either way, your workforce will be happier and more productive.

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