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The Other Side Series: COVID-19 Transformed the Workplace. How Should Employers Respond?

By John Greenbaum, National Employee Benefits Leader


The Other Side Series: COVID-19 Transformed the Workplace. How Should Employers Respond?

The pandemic forced a rapid, largely ad hoc transition to remote work. As the crisis fades, businesses are grappling with the reality that operations will never completely return to what they once were. For decades, human capital management was cut and dry - 95% of office-based employees worked in an in-person setting with direct employer oversight. In a post-COVID landscape, 80% of those employees are reportedly choosing to work remotely long-term. Effectively managing a remote workforce comes with massive, and new, challenges.

How do you maintain the fabric that connects employees when they aren’t seeing each other in person? How do you best take care of your employees?

Business leaders must intentionally and intelligently support their teams so that those who choose to be in a remote environment are as successful as they can possibly be.

Considerations When Weighing Workforce Models

  • How did productivity change when you went remote? Many companies, especially in urban settings, where people gained back hours once spent commuting, saw an increase in productivity.
  • Think long-term and consider your specific organizational needs. If you experienced a pandemic productivity boost, can it be sustained? Will you be able to fully operationalize your business and grow successfully through a remote workforce?
  • Forcing employees back into the office runs the risk of making you a less attractive employer and hindering your ability to compete for top talent.

Supporting Your Remote Employees

  • Provide trainings on maintaining a work-life balance to avoid burnout, encourage employees to thrive in their careers while taking care of their mental and physical health.
  • Make sure employees’ at-home workspaces are ergonomically compliant. Provide stipends for chairs or desks if needed. This can also help you avoid workers’ comp claims for neck and back issues down the road.
  • Some employees enjoy the work-from-home setting but start to feel isolated after a while. Be sure to bring your employees together for fun, connecting activities virtually or in person if possible.
  • Employees not naturally adept at working from home will benefit from training, mentoring, and internal support systems. Employees who simply do not have the capacity for remote work, may have to be encouraged to return to an office setting.

Best Practices for Employers Returning to the Offices

Businesses that are going back into the office should follow their state and local guidelines in regard to mask requirements, social distancing, building capacity, and sanitation. Supporting employees’ health is always a good idea, but mandating vaccinations could expose you to lawsuits. As COVID19 moves from pandemic to an endemic disease, employers should look ahead and prepare for the possibility that vaccines become an annual necessity, akin to flu shots.

Benefits Considerations for Expanding Employee Geographies

Pursue National Coverage

Moving into a largely remote work environment creates the opportunity to hire talented people from anywhere in the country. However, businesses aligned with local or regional-only insurers will need to upgrade to a national platform to offer benefits to all employees irrespective of their geography.

Outsource Leave Management

Leave management for sick or injured employees and paid family leave is becoming increasingly difficult to manage in-house. Regulations vary from state to state, so going to a remote workforce can open your business to compliance complexity and real consequences in terms of meaningful fines, legal exposures, and reputational damage. We strongly recommend outsourcing leave management to third-party administrators or insurance companies whose primary activity is “managed absence”.

As we move from crisis management into long-term planning, employee support and paths to the greatest possible success for remote workers need to take center stage. Be proactive and thoughtful in your approach, do not assume success will come on its own.

Risk Strategies serves as a holistic, consultative business partner. We are actively working with our clients on employee support and benefits plans, tailored to their operations post-COVID. Contact us if you’re interested in discussing your options with experts in the field.

 

Follow along as The Other Side blog series continues to explore cross-industry implications and considerations of the world re-opening.


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