We are wrapping up our thoughts on key issues industry professionals are still up against as a result of the pandemic. We appreciate you taking the time to tune in, and we hope numbers 1-7 provided some useful insights or at least reassured you that you’re not alone. Here are our final thoughts (for now), numbers 8 and 9.
8. Benefits & Culture
No matter where you work, things looked markedly different this year. HR professionals have been tasked with maintaining a culture virtually. Benefits professionals are wondering if what they offer is what is needed. Employees are facing so many challenges that engaging with their organization might be the last thing on their minds – they just want to do their jobs and get by. Some employers are implementing outside-the-box ideas for fringe benefits, such as:
- Childcare assistance
- Caregiver benefits
- Paying for Netflix or other streaming services
- Money toward grocery delivery
- Fitness app subscriptions
- Virtual classes on meditation, cooking, or language learning
- Sharing recipes
- Start a virtual book club
- Anything that can boost mental, physical, social and financial health
In addition, telehealth services are obviously more pertinent than ever, and employers need to be sure they have some sort of telehealth option. If you have employees that aren’t wild about the idea of telehealth, have conversations about why, or share your own experiences.
Another new trend we noticed popping up was that some organizations have taken “flexibility pledges,” where meetings are prohibited during certain hours, employees are encouraged to decline meetings they truly don’t need to attend, etc.
Something that has stuck with me and should stick with employers is that employees will remember what kind of support they received from their company during this time. When the dust settles, that will impact their loyalty. So, whatever you do, do something. Don’t pretend that nothing has changed.
When it comes to leadership, executives and managers need to be talking the talk. If you want to encourage a work-life balance, maybe avoid sending emails at 9 PM. Schedule calls that all parties take while on a walk outside. Say thank you on a regular basis for all of the hard work being put in.
9. Beyond COVID-19
As employers and employees alike get more comfortable with what is more like the “normal” now, versus the “new normal,” it’s important for us to look to the future, one that hopefully does not involve COVID-19. Regardless of any changes made by the Biden administration, the consensus seems to be that we’ve all seen the value and importance of having paid leave options, and we expect this to be more than a passing trend. We are starting to see a movement for caregiver leave specifically, and there was discussion around possible changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to accommodate more flexible work schedules. We definitely expect state leave laws to continue to develop at an increasing rate and to encompass a gamut of areas: sick leave, caregiver leave, paid family and medical leave, parental leave, etc.
While we are still in the thick of the pandemic, there are positive signs ahead – treatments are improving, vaccines being administered and we’ve figured out to some degree what safe behavior looks like. Once COVID-19 passes, testing and treatment of other viruses, like the flu or strep throat, might change when it comes to the workplace, and you can bet employees will think twice before showing up to work when sick.
At the end of the day, employers should remember that, above all else, we need to be extra human right now. This may manifest in different ways depending on the organization, but I hope these reflections on COVID challenges have given you some food for thought, and some ideas to take back to your company.
About the Author
Director of Marketing at Spring Consulting Group, an Alera Group Company
Christine Culgin is Spring Consulting Group, Director of Marketing. She studied Spanish and Economics at Lafayette College and later went on to receive her master's degree in global marketing communications and advertising from Emerson College. Christine specializes in B2B marketing and handles content creation, email marketing, social media, blogging, SEO and event management at Spring.