Being an essential worker during COVID-19


Ryan Barnett

Working as a high schooler is a great idea for any teenager. It’s a good way to meet new people, make some money and gain valuable experience in the workforce. I’ve been an employee at YoYo Donuts in Minnetonka since September 2017. It is a great fit for me, as I can work after school and on weekends. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 in Minnesota has completely changed my experience as a worker.

To combat the spread of COVID-19, YoYo Donuts started making changes to ensure the safety of both our customers and employees. We altered our payment methods, limited the number of customers allowed in the building and reduced our production of goods. 

Many of my co-workers, most of them being high schoolers, have significantly reduced their hours to minimize their exposure to the public. This puts a lot of strain on me and my other coworkers who have started taking more shifts to accommodate the lack of labor. 

I now consistently work 25–35 hours a week, which directly affects my school work. With school switching to online distance learning, students have been forced to create and adhere to their own schedules. Most of my work shifts overlap with most, if not all of my school day. I’ve had teachers contact me, asking why I’ve been turning in assignments late and not attending virtual lessons. It’s harder to plan my day and turn my work in on time, which has led to increased stress. It’s very difficult to switch from a ‘work’ mindset to a ‘school’ mindset, making it hard to focus and do my school work.

Along with students, adults have had to adapt to new changes in their everyday lives. Most customers are very understanding of our shift in policy, as we are doing it for their well-being. It makes me very happy to see residents working together to practice social distancing in the store. Although there are some customers who complain about our new rules, whether they believe it is too much or not enough, our community has truly rallied together as we face this unprecedented crisis.

Working at a small business like YoYo Donuts has taught me the importance of supporting small businesses. Although we are lucky enough to keep our doors open during quarantine, many other local businesses don’t have the same luxury. By supporting and shopping at small, local stores, we can ensure they stay in business and create job opportunities in the community.

Going into work every day comes with a lot of risks. It’s scary being on the ‘front lines’ of the pandemic because I’m being exposed to the public almost every day. I’m worried I could get sick or I could get my family sick. This makes me even more thankful for those in the healthcare industry, who are directly exposed to the virus constantly. 

I’m very grateful I still have the opportunity to work and make money. Working through quarantine gives me the option to get away from my house if I need a break from my school work or my family. Even though it can be nerve-wracking at times, it feels good to know I can do my part to help the community during these scary times.