How Employees Can Help During an Economic Downturn

How Employees Can Help During an Economic Downturn


The current economic downturn has led to a lot of layoffs. These layoffs have led to a lot of people being unemployed and, in turn, this has led to increased competition for jobs. The competition for jobs is leading many people to apply for positions that they are not qualified or experienced enough for. This has led to an increase in the number of bad hires, which is not good for anyone. 

We continue to hear about our struggling economy and its adverse effects on business. This can be distracting and discouraging for employees wondering if or when it will affect them? As employees, do we sit around waiting for the ceiling to cave in, or is there something we can do about it? Perhaps it’s time to revive the famous statement by John F. Kennedy “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” only change the statement to say, “what you can do for your Company.”

Employees Response

The best response to a downturn economy is to focus on doing the best job you can at work. Help your Company minimize the negative economic impact to survive the storm. The following employee actions will help your Company while escalating your career at the same time. In a bad economy, employees have to do their best to help the company stay afloat. They can do this by volunteering for tasks that are not their particular job. This will make the company more efficient and save money on hiring new staff.

Work Harder

When the economy is doing well, it is easy to look good at your job. There is less pressure from management to push for increased sales, productivity, and cost control. In a slow economy, you may need to pick up your work efforts. If you are in sales, for example, you may have to make 15 more calls per day, contact more prospects or work more hours to hit your quota. If everyone in the Company worked 10% harder, it might just be enough to get through the hard times. Increasing your effort not only helps your Company but sets you apart from others as an example and rising star.

Employees Can Work Smarter

Step back and look at how you perform your job. Are you stuck in old ways of doing things or resistant to making ongoing improvements? Step back and evaluate how you do your job duties and responsibilities. Try mapping out your work tasks and look for ways to eliminate steps or waste. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you clear about how your work performance impacts the Company, team, and customers?
  • Is your work organized and systematic?
  • Do you know what is expected of you? Are you meeting and exceeding expectations?
  • What have you done lately to make improvements in your job?
  • How do you support and help others?
  • What new ideas have you come up with?
  • What problems do you solve? How do you produce results?
  • Can you eliminate waste or steps that make you more efficient?
Keep Focused – Eliminate Distractions

We all know someone like George Fitzgerald, Customer Service Rep for Going Nowhere Corporation. George sits at his desk actively sending out personal emails, text messaging, playing games, checking out Facebook, surfing the internet and instant messaging his girlfriend while he “sort of” takes customer service calls.

There are so many distractions on our computers and cell phones that we have to work on staying on task. How would you respond to these questions?

  • How much paid company time do you spend doing personal things on the internet, playing games, instant messaging, personal emails, conducting your banking, entering social networking or stock market tracking sites, or otherwise wasting time?
  • If this were your business, how much would you budget each year for your employees to conduct personal items on your ticket?
  • Is there a difference between someone who takes company time and someone who takes Company property?
  • Are you giving an honest day’s effort?
  • What will you do now to focus your work efforts on eliminating distractions at work?
Plan, Align and Execute

Every organization has a purpose and objectives. Usually, multiple strategies are taken to achieve these objectives and purposes. As employees, we need to learn what’s important to our Company, work team and individually. Next, set objectives that align with key business strategies to keep you focused on things that have the greatest impact. Make it your personal mission to set goals every quarter, achieve your objectives, and do everything you can to help your company and team with objectives and strategy.


Are you the kind of person that waits for someone to dangle a carrot, kick you in the pants, give some direction, or in some other way get you motivated? Learn the joy and self-satisfaction that comes from doing a good job for yourself, not because someone will notice, or you were told to do it. Intrinsic motivation focuses on such things as enjoying the job itself and experiencing feelings of achievement, not on outside influence. Be self-motivated to do the best job you can, no matter who is looking.

Key Performance Indicators – KPI

Have you ever played a game or sporting event when you did not keep score? If you were like most of us, you did not play as hard or put forth your best effort. It is like that in the game of work, each of us needs to know our score at work so we can tell if we are winning or not. Clearly defined key performance indicators for your job help you put forth your best effort and get better and better. It’s like keeping stats at a ballgame noting when points are scored and fouls committed.  The following questions help define KPIs:

  • What outcomes or results do you produce for the Company, customer, or others? How can this be quantified, measured, and tracked?
  • What important achievements, steps, or accomplishments lead to results?
  • What behaviors, conduct, actions and activities bring about achievements and results?
  • How do you know when you are achieving the purpose of your job?
  • What systems can you put in place to define your KPIs and keep your own score?
Stay Organized

You’ve heard the statement, “Everything has a place, everything in its place.” Individuals who have an organized, clean work area are much more productive than those who have work lying all over their desks.

Use a calendaring and task tracking system like Microsoft Outlook to keep appointments and tasks organized. Define an easy filing and paper management system, so information flows in and out of your office smoothly. Only handle things once, putting them in their organized place. Keep up on details by keeping them organized.

Stay Positive

Charles Swindoll wrote, “The remarkable thing is, we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.” He further states, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Chose to be positive and look for the good in your Company, work team, coworkers and yourself. We tend to find what we are looking for. Self-fulfill a positive future outcome for you and your organization.

Cost Containment

During an economic downturn, companies and organizations need to make tough decisions about how to cut costs. Hiring new employees can be one of the more expensive options. However, there are other ways that employers can save money during a recession. The first way is by encouraging employees to work from home in order to save on office space and utilities. The second way is by offering flexible hours, which may mean working from home or working overtime when needed. The third way is by promoting telecommuting as a viable option for businesses looking for a cost-effective solution to their workforce needs and helping employees find the right tools and equipment they need to be successful in this type of work environment. Spending wisely and controlling costs is a common theme in most organizations today. As obvious as this seems, it is important to ask yourself if items purchased are necessary now or if they can wait for another day. 

Keep Engaged

According to the Gallup Management Journal’s semi-annual Employee Engagement Index and below employee types, only 29% of the workforce is engaged, 54% are not engaged and 17% are actively disengaged. Choose to be engaged, committed and doing your best.

Employees, we can make a difference in helping our companies through a challenging economy by working harder, working smarter, keeping focused, planning our work, being self-motivated, tracking performance, controlling costs, and staying organized, positive and engaged. What will you do for your Company?

By: Ken Spencer, SPHR, MHRM 


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