The first quarter of 2020 brought a wave of insecurity as COVID-19 changed the way we all work on a day-to-day basis. For many businesses across Arlington, it’s upended our plans and changed the course of our projects.
When I thought about trends for 2020 at the beginning of this year, my answer looked a bit different. I thought more about how companies were responding to the growth of the region and how their plans would help them keep and recruit top talent and adjust to a population boom as more people and companies flock to the area.
As many businesses look forward to re-opening their doors and plan for a return to the office, this issue is not far removed from HR leaders’ minds; however, social distancing and working from home have impacted how we’ll move through the rest of the year. This experience has shed new light on three particular areas that employers are already developing plans to respond to in 2020.
Dive Deeper Into Employee Well-Being
COVID-19 has heightened employers’ awareness of how they incorporate well-being in their benefit programs, as fear and uncertainty during the current health and economic situation increase employee stress levels. This, coupled with the fact that employees are spending unprecedented amounts of time at home without typical social interaction, means employers need to proactively create experiences that support mental, physical, and financial health.
Many employers are expanding telehealth programs and allowing more flexibility around employees’ workdays. Employers should also consider communicating any policies around workday breaks so employees know to take time away from their home office. It is also helpful for leadership to engage employees in activities that encourage health and connectivity. A few ideas we have include:
- Create your own virtual walking day event to promote mental and physical breaks during the workday.
- Provide 30-day Capital Bikeshare memberships for essential workers (special offer through May 31).
- Host a virtual wellness fair with short presentations from your health and wellness providers to share how they can assist employees through these times.
- Encourage solo rides while doing something for the greater good by creating a bike challenge for National Bike Month. Total your company’s mileage at the end of May and donate that or a matching amount to an organization in need.
Even once we’ve returned to work, recognize that some employees may still be feeling a heavy financial burden. To help employees in need, consider offering programs that support low cost commuting to your benefits package, such as a benefit for public transportation or Capital Bikeshare corporate memberships.
Evaluate Telework Policies
In 2019, we saw many companies re-evaluating telework and expanding existing policies. Who knew that was just prepping us for what was to come. In a recent poll we conducted, nearly 30% of employers in Arlington are already planning to expand an existing telework program or create a brand new policy in response to COVID-19.
As many companies are now recognizing more tasks can be completed remotely than was initially believed or want to find ways to incorporate telework as employees have become accustomed to working from home, we’ll see a vast increase in formal telework policies as an employee benefit in addition to a business continuity strategy.
While many employers have seen the benefits of telework, it’s also important to keep in mind that this period of remote work is a result of an emergency situation. As such, dips in productivity may be due to several factors, including stress, caring for an ill family member, juggling new responsibilities due to disrupted routines, or not having access to the right technology. Conducting surveys to evaluate programs, training employees and managers, and developing resources to fill gaps may improve the effectiveness of a long-term telework program.
Focus on Preparedness
As we’ve seen with COVID-19, emergencies can happen at any time and come in many forms. We’ve seen that companies who had strong telework programs in place tended to feel more prepared for the switch to remote work, whereas companies with more informal practices had to make some larger adjustments.
As we move through the rest of the year, businesses may be re-evaluating their emergency preparedness plans to ensure they account for health hazards as well as other unexpected situations. Practicing preparedness plans or creating policies and supporting benefits that promote a culture of preparedness can help leadership refrain from acting out of desperation and ensures a flexible and proactive approach to situations that require an immediate response.
Move Forward with a Plan
Have your benefit and employee engagement strategies for 2020 have been upended by COVID-19? Arlington Transportation Partners (ATP) can work with you to develop a plan that fits the needs of your organization now and helps you bounce back and be prepared for whatever the rest of this year may bring.
Whether you’re planning for a return to the office, evaluating your telework program, identifying new ways to engage employees, or still aren’t quite sure what’s next, contact us for complimentary consulting to discuss your challenges. We’ll provide a customized strategy to help your business plans adjust to the current situation and achieve success in light of the changing landscape of 2020.
Photo Credit: Reema Desai/ReemaDesai.com for Arlington Transportation Partners