Guest Blog by Stephanie D. Katz, Founder & President, CETA Benefit Consulting Group, LLC
2020 has been a challenging and stressful year! At the start of the year, there was excitement for the beginning of the new decade. In fact, people were saying it would be the year of clarity and 20/20 vision. Although it may not have been the type of vision or clarity we might have wanted or even expected, it did bring to light key trends and issues in HR and Benefits.
Many organizations had for years thought that their business could not operate with a large remote workforce. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 7% of U.S. workers had access to a flexible workplace benefit or telework before COVID-19. Then, almost overnight, remote or virtual work became a reality, and HR became an even more critical function. So, what have we learned as a result?
First, many businesses were able to continue or even thrive with a virtual workforce. Some have experienced increased compassion, innovation, or creativity, or they used it as a time to reset their organization’s culture. Employee benefits have been brought to the forefront, especially those such as employee assistance plans or telemedicine, which may have previously been available but neither widely used nor communicated. These programs have helped employees during these times of added physical, emotional, and financial stress and have also provided an opportunity to get medical help and other support while remaining at home.
The Society for Human Resource Management found that 64% of U.S. employees are working from home. Maintaining a virtual work force brings many challenges especially with managing performance and engagement. Employees, who may have prior to the pandemic worked remote, have also seen change. Isolation, schooling, and/or childcare were not areas of concern when they previously worked remote. Some employees have experienced issues in effectively setting boundaries with their work time expanding more into their personal lives. Greater communication and increased flexibility have been essential.
A recent Gallup poll found that 59% of those working from home would prefer to work remotely once all restrictions have been lifted, and 54% would even be willing to quit their jobs for one that did provide for remote work. A PwC survey found that 83% of office workers want to work at home at least one day per week, and 55% of employers expect that most of their workers will continue at home even after COVID-19 is no longer a concern. Also, in that PwC survey, 44% of executives reported that employees have become more productive while working at home.
With the promising news of several possible vaccines, planning continues underway for returning to the new, new normal. Along with safety, workforce planning is key. And, the future of work seems to be continuing to maintain remote workers. We do expect many organizations to move forward with a hybrid model which provides some employees working only onsite while others working either at home only or spending some days during a workweek at home. Hybrid work allows organizations to personalize their workplace taking factors into account such as nature of work, tasks to be completed, availability of transportation, personal considerations, and employee home situations.
In developing the plan, it is necessary to first evaluate all jobs to determine appropriateness for remote work and critical skills needed and then to establish clear guidelines. Getting input from employees is beneficial to the process. Also, it may be the case that certain functions can be automated, and different skill sets are needed going forward. Employees may require specific training, or new staff may be needed for certain “new” positions. And, we expect a greater focus to be placed on enhanced diversity and inclusion initiatives. Utilizing virtual employees provides organizations with a larger talent pool from which to draw qualified applicants as well as opportunities to modify compensation. To maximize their efficiency and productivity, employees might need greater flexibility in their work hours, better hardware and equipment, clear rules establishing required availability, help in managing workloads, and additional health and wellness benefits.
A recent XpertHR survey asked employers to rate how challenging 12 major workplace issues might be in 2021. Below are the results showing the percentage of employers who rated the issue as “Somewhat or “Very Challenging”.
Learning from 2020 and staying flexible as we head into 2021 will be key to succeeding in the upcoming year. We certainly hope that 2021 will be a healthy, happy, and profitable one for all.
For help in navigating HR and Benefit issues, Stephanie Katz can be reached by phone at 301-881-8883 or via email to email@example.com.
Stephanie D. Katz is the Founder and President of CETA Benefit Consulting Group, LLC, a human resources and benefit consulting firm. She has over 35 years of experience in the design, implementation, and administration of human resources and employee benefit programs. Since 1997, CETA consultants have provided customized solutions which align with an organization’s business priorities. And, they can even partner at every level from the strategic to the tactical.
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