Today’s post comes to us from Neil Reichenberg, Former Executive Director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA?HR).

MissionSquare Research Institute, formerly the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, released updated survey results on the impact of COVID-19 on the state and local government workforce. While the morale of state and local government employees increased in this survey by 15% to 56%, there were 31% of survey respondents who stated that, due to the pandemic, they are considering changing jobs, with one-quarter indicating they want to stop working in the public sector. The results are based on a survey of 1,203 full-time state and local government employees that was conducted in May 2021. Previous surveys were undertaken in May and October 2020.

Going forward, keeping their families safe from contracting the virus is the overwhelming top concern cited by 81% of respondents, followed by staying protected from contracting the virus at work (64%). The other top concerns focused on benefits, pay, or hours reductions and being furloughed or losing their jobs. Close to 80% reported that the pandemic has impacted the nature of their jobs.

State and local employees have positive feelings about working in the public sector during the pandemic, with:

Despite the positive feelings, there are 50% who indicated that the risks they are taking during the pandemic are not on a par with their compensation and 31% who are considering changing jobs. Stressed, burned out, fatigued, and anxious are the top emotions that survey respondents reported. Over 40% noted a negative financial impact from the pandemic, with 31% reporting that they have taken on more debt. Almost 80% declared that the pandemic has impacted the nature of their jobs. The respondents recommended the following actions that employers could take to improve the workplace:

A little over half reported that they were extremely or very satisfied with their employer and trust their leadership to make good decisions regarding employee safety. The respondents are most satisfied with their job security, leave benefits, and health insurance.

Governments have been on the front lines in fighting the pandemic and need to ensure that they can recruit and retain the talent they need to continue to provide critical government services. Public sector leaders should be concerned about the large percentage of employees who are considering leaving their jobs, coupled with a previous MissionSquare report in which governments reported that 38% of their employees are accelerating their retirement plans due to the pandemic. As public employees return to work, with 58% indicating they are now working fully in person, governments need to be empathetic, communicate the safety plans they have implemented to address employee concerns, and, to the extent possible, provide employees with flexibility.

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Dr. Martin Armstrong, CPP, DBA and vice president of payroll and shared services for Charter Communications.

Slowly but surely, the economy and the workforce are returning.  As of June 14th, the CDC COVID Data Tracker reports that 64.5% of adults have received at least one vaccination, and these vaccinations represent over 310 million vaccine doses that have been administered. The country has made great strides to return to normalcy, and this is evidenced by nearly 155M people being fully vaccinated.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 extended federal unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021 to workers who became unemployed through no fault of their own. The ARPA also provides federal unemployment insurance to freelancers, self-employed individuals, and other workers who are ordinarily ineligible for unemployment benefits.   

Thanks to the ARPA, states that participate in these federal unemployment benefit programs are able to add federal unemployment benefits to the state unemployment benefits that are paid to eligible individuals who have applied for unemployment benefits. This combination of federal and state unemployment benefit payments are how many unemployed Americans have been able to make ends meet during this pandemic.

Well, this financial safety net is about to dramatically change for unemployed Americans receiving unemployment benefits in 25 states. 

As of June 14th, 25 states are opting out early (prior to the September 6th end date) from participating in these federal programs. Without the additional unemployment benefits, the states are accelerating the need for impacted individuals to return to the workplace sooner rather than later, ready or not.

In anticipation of this workforce return, organizations such as LinkedIn have been surveying the U.S. workforce to determine what workers deem most important post-COVID. According to LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index, “50% of respondents say that flexibility of hours or location is an important priority, followed by work-life balance (45%), health coverage (41%), pay (36%), and workforce culture (36%).”

It’s helpful to hear what employees are thinking about (The Workforce Institute also recently released voice of the employee data). It’s also incredibly important that organizations pay attention to being ready to ensure that the return of the workforce translates into good employee experience.

To this end, here are 3 Return to Work Expectations for Frontline Leaders to Manage:

1. New Normal Accommodations

Employees are expecting leaders to be flexible with their new normal. For one reason or another, there will be employees who may have health conditions that prevent them from getting the COVID-19 vaccination.  

Others, due to COVID-related circumstances, have become permanent care givers to elderly parents, or home educators to their school-aged children. Nationwide staffing shortages have affected childcare facilities to the extent that finding adequate childcare with capacity has been challenging. These shortages aren’t just relative to daycare facilities; they extend to other service industries. My Workforce Institute colleague Bob Clements recently authored a very insightful post called “3 Ways to Fix Your Labor Shortage”.

While these new normal accommodations may not be permanent, no one can predict how long these circumstances may need to be managed. As such, frontline leaders should be provided resources and a defined process that will help address these new normal accommodations on a case-by-case basis. 

2. Communicate a Consistent Message

Frontline leaders should not pretend to have all of the answers. When employees return to the workplace, frontline leaders will be confronted with more questions than they will have answers for.  Questions like: “Why can’t we just continue to work from home?”; “Can you tell me who is vaccinated and who isn’t?”; and “Why can’t I simply work part-time?”. There is no “Easy Button” to push when an employee is worried about their dog suffering from anxiety when they have to leave him alone for the first time in 18 months. 

Frontline leaders should consult with HR Business Partners to develop consistent messaging for company responses that can be delivered by leadership in a caring and responsible manner. I’d also recommend that leaders follow 3 simple rules of communication: 1) share as much consistent information as you can, 2) communicate as quickly as you can, and 3) always be transparent – even if the response isn’t popular.

3. Manage Organizational Change

Peter Senge, an MIT-based author, researcher, and educator is known for his findings that suggest “people don’t resist change; they resist being changed.” Change is defined as intended and unintended consequences that have the potential to disrupt the life of an organization. Perhaps this explains why, despite all of the academic research, white papers written, and experienced change leaders, many change initiatives fail. If change was easy, everyone would do it! 

Readying the organization to welcome back returning employees from a historical pandemic is bound to have its share of challenges and triumphs. Because change is achieved at the individual employee level, it is the responsibility of frontline leadership to drive change through actions that promote positive change outcomes. These actions include helping employees understand and adopt new changes in the workplace, supporting employees through unique accommodations, and being vigilant about exhibiting a positive attitude towards change. 

From a workplace perspective, picking up where we left off before COVID is unrealistic. Frontline leaders need to be responsive, learn how to pivot, and adequately prepare themselves to Return to Work.  

The good news is that lessons will be learned, and through the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders, frontline leaders will be poised to enthusiastically greet returning employees by saying: Welcome Back!   

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Mark Wales.

As we predicted earlier this year, we are starting to see the first significant increases in labor-related legal actions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The National Law Review in May 2021 cites pandemic-related class actions as the number 1 trend for 2021. This is based on what is being tracked and seen so far by a variety of legal analysts.

JDSPURA has published the below map of labor-related pandemic legal cases for the U.S. and listed the top 5 key drivers as being:

  1. Alleged failure to provide a safe working environment
  2. Discrimination (especially disability and age)
  3. Leave claims (including both FMLA and the varying state laws)
  4. Retaliation or whistleblower claims (as related to workplace safety or leave)
  5. Wage and hour (related to the pandemic)

In 2020, over 38% of the cases were classified as relating to termination, which is not unexpected, given the nature of the unprecedented need to close business operations down temporarily, and the processes companies took to decide who and what jobs they retained.

JDSUPRA concludes that thus far, few of the cases are maturing into class certification stage, but courts have reached varying conclusions, so this is an aspect to watch in 2021.

Analysis by Seyfarth suggests that this will evolve and develop, especially as more companies return to the office.

The American Bar Association (ABA) warns of cases surrounding misclassification of employees, such as the complaints against Uber and Lyft. The ABA also highlights issues arising from bringing employees back to company locations and the complexity of managing risk when it comes to who is sick and company policies around managing that risk as it relates to other employees and the public.

The latest Jackson Lewis Covid-19 Employment Litwatch analysis shows the growing cumulative volume of complaints:

The National Law Review advises employers to carefully monitor and prepare for issues arising from:

  1. Wage and hour complaints (especially off the clock working)
  2. Expenses related to home working
  3. Wage and hour related to nonexempt workers waiting (such as delays will be being scanned for temperatures)
  4. Mandated vaccinations
  5. Discrimination over who returns to work

Many organizations have yet to finalize rules or begin bringing all workers back to the office and this return to work is likely to increase the complexity and volume of cases. There will be a whole new level of complexity around accommodations and equity on an ongoing basis.

How will company policies evolve and will companies codify policies that adjust for individual state, county or municipality guidelines and laws around “opening up” after the pandemic?

As with so much having to do with the pandemic, there is much uncertainty as to what the new normal looks like for businesses. Company policies around labor law, health and safety, and equity will be huge minefields for quite some time.

What Can Organizations Do?

Organization leadership in Workforce Management, HR, Operations, and Legal should set up regular joint sessions to review external trends, internal developments, and develop concrete and actionable plans to prepare and deal with emerging pandemic-related labor issues. This will minimize the unexpected and ease required responses or actions.

Companies must consider the issues of health, safety and equity as seriously as other issues of labor law compliance.

Today’s post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

We’ve got some interesting new research that finds that although many manufacturers are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic on solid footing — with more than half achieving year-over-year growth (54%) — a mounting skilled-labor shortage threatens to delay the sector’s full recovery. 

Featuring year-over-year comparisons to a similar study completed by The Workforce Institute before the pandemic took hold, the 2021 research explores linkages between understaffing, overtime, employee burnout, absence, and turnover, as well as strategies bolstered by people-centric technology and used by manufacturers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to overcome these barriers to business success.

A few key findings:

The Manufacturing Talent Gap Grows Wider

Understaffing is a Significant Problem 

Investing in the Workforce to Close the Talent Gap

Workforce Institute board member John Frehse weighed in on the findings, noting, “As shockwaves continue to reverberate through the supply chain, employees are being asked to be more agile than ever. As exhausted as we all are right now, there is no better time to assess what has happened, develop the right labor strategies to protect the emotional well-being of employees, and make our companies more resilient for the next big disruption. It is not a question of if it will happen again, but when.”

Check out John’s recent post on Panic in the Supply Chain.

You can also read the full report here: The Resilience of Manufacturing: Strengthening People Operations and Bridging the Talent Gap Amid Crisis.

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member, Natalie Bickford. 

As the world is preparing for life post pandemic, organizations are preparing for the return to the workplace. While some are advocating for a wholesale return to five days in the office, and others are moving to fully remote flexibility, the majority are aiming for some form of hybrid working model. On average, companies are outlining policies requiring employees to be in their normal place of work two to three days per week, with the remainder of the time at a location of the employee’s choice.

Eighteen months ago, we would have been heralding this as a major breakthrough in moving to an agile working environment, with a particular advantage being seen through the diversity lens of benefiting (in particular) women with caring responsibilities. And indeed, there is a lot to be said for allowing knowledge workers to have more control over where they spend their time. 

What we also knew, however, and what has arguably become even more visible during the Covid-19 crisis, is that women take on the significant majority of family and household responsibilities. While there has been much progress in the equality of women in the workplace, this is not necessarily the case at home. I personally saw this in 2020, where a disproportionate number of women in my previous workplace opted to be furloughed because of the pressures of home schooling, whereas their male colleagues continued to work full time, albeit remotely. 

As employees prepare to return, there is arguably a significant risk that men and women’s attendance at the physical workplace will be unbalanced, with many more women choosing to work remotely than their male counterparts.  Why should we care about that? Hasn’t lack of flexible work arrangements for women at certain points of their careers been seen as the greatest barrier to female progression? 

My supposition is that by working more remotely than men, women will fall behind on promotion opportunities, and if anything, the pay gap will start to widen further. While it is certain that some attitudes towards physical presence will have started to evolve as a result of the last 18 months, even Covid-19 will not have been able to over-turn some 70 years of embedded work culture. 

Being physically present, observing long hours, working the water cooler politics, and being available for a quick coffee or a drink after work, have long been the underpinnings of career progression. Being there gets you noticed, and however diligent your output is from home, dependability and conscientiousness allow you to keep your job, rather than necessarily creating opportunities for promotion. 

So what can we do to reduce the potential risk around growing gender inequality in the workplace? The first place to look is at home. Dual career families should take this opportunity to reset the division of labor. Arguably for the first time, men and women will have the same opportunity to work flexibly, and now would be a good moment to divvy up caring and home responsibilities in a more balanced way. 

Business leaders and managers also have a key role to play. Company policy is one thing, but company culture is quite another. If male and female leaders role-model modern agile working practices, then managers and team leaders will follow suit. If they work away from the office for a couple of days per week, and speak of the positive benefits, then it will become an accepted norm, thus encouraging more male employees to take the same opportunity. 

If we can get this new work agility right, and at the same time rebalance the caring responsibilities for the family, then we might just be able to super-charge our progress in workplace gender equality. If we get it wrong, we might just set ourselves back another 20 years. 

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member and HR Bartender, Sharlyn Lauby. 

In a recent article on Bloomberg, several banks are indicating that it’s time for their employees to think about returning to work. While your organization might not be a Wall Street financial institution, the conversations about when it is okay to start inviting employees back to the office are probably happening in your boardrooms as well.

The decision to allow employees to continue to work remotely, come back to the office, or work in some sort of hybrid environment is very unique to each organization. It could be driven by a variety of factors including the operation, industry, number of employees, etc. But at some point, organizations will want to start chatting with employees about spending time in the office. When that time comes, the organization needs to have a plan.

Not just a logistics plan for how to safely bring people into the office, but a plan to set employees up for success. Both are important.

My guess is that organizations are working on the logistics plan right now. It will include decisions on how many employees can be in the building at the same time and how furniture should be spaced around the office. The plan will also include information on proper cleaning, wearing masks, and distancing requirements.

What organizations might not be talking about is the plan for helping employees feel comfortable in their return to the workplace. Some employees haven’t seen their workplace in a year. This will almost be like starting a new job. In fact, maybe the answer to this situation is to treat an employee’s return to the office almost like they are a new employee. The organization could welcome employees back with a mini onboarding program.

Traditional onboarding programs do two things: 1) they help individuals socialize into their new surroundings and 2) they give them the tools to be productive. Some of the activities and topics that might be included in a return to the office mini onboarding program are:

SOCIALIZATION: While employees have probably seen each other via video calls, it’s not the same as being in the same room. Managers should try to have an in-person one-on-one with each employee to welcome them back and answer any questions. Create opportunities for employees to reconnect with their coworkers. And don’t require that all the conversations be about work. As employees get more comfortable, the discussions will become work related.

PRODUCTIVITY: Returning to the office doesn’t necessarily mean a return to pre-pandemic policies, procedures, rules, and guidelines. The organization might have discovered a new and better way of doing something. This is a perfect time to convey and confirm how work will get done. Don’t make the assumption that employees know this information. Over the past year, employees have gotten used to working remotely.

This type of return-to-work onboarding session doesn’t have to be lengthy. Its purpose isn’t to cover everything because these employees already know the organization and the job. This program is focused on giving employees the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the new work environment, the changes in their responsibilities, and the people they will be working with.

Organizations are very focused on economic recovery right now. And they should be. It’s one of the reasons they’re talking about when to invite employees back to the workplace. The sooner everyone is able to safely and comfortably work together, the sooner things will resume to some level of normalcy. Which hopefully translates into high performance and economic recovery.

But, if organizations don’t take the time to set employees up for success, those efforts might not take off as quickly as organizations would like. A return-to-work onboarding session could be an effective and efficient step toward the high performance that organizations are looking for.

Today’s post comes to us from our brand new board member Kate Bischoff, founder of tHRive Law & Consulting.

There is a life motto I have always believed in: Just because you can do things does not mean you should do things. For example: Just because you can eat an entire jumbo bag of Gummi Bears in one sitting doesn’t necessarily mean you should do that.

The same thing is true for employers – they can do things, but should they? For example, requiring folks to be back in the office post-pandemic is one of those things you can do, but is it something you should do?

In 2020, managers were forced to quickly learn how to manage differently, moving from a traditional command-and-control model where you knew someone was working if they were at their desk, to a more trust-based, production-based model (e.g. “I’m going to trust you to get the work done even though I can’t see you”). For some, this transition was harder than others, and with vaccinations helping control the pandemic, these managers may be itching to get everyone back in their seats.

So, can an employer require employees come back to the office? The simple answer is: Yes. The law allows employers to demand that folks return to the office with limited exceptions. 

One exception is if an employee has a medical condition that places them at greater risk of COVID-19. In this case, an employer must reasonably accommodate them, possibly even if the employee is vaccinated. Likewise, if an employee cannot get vaccinated due to the employee’s religion, the employee may request to continue to work from home until it is safe for them to return post-pandemic. An employer will go through the traditional interactive process to make these accommodations. (Note, if employees have been working from home for the past year, continuing to work from home is going to be a reasonable accommodation – it’s going to be nearly impossible to prove an undue burden.)

So, employers can require folks to come back to the office, but should they?

The urgency to get back to work seems to be driven by the idea that “butts in seats” will be a sign we are back to “normal.” But “normal” is not what we’re going to be going back to. Every study out there shows a lot of employees – even healthy ones – are hesitant to return to work full-time, instead opting to stay at home more often with increased flexibility. Some fear returning to work while the pandemic is still raging. Others have enjoyed their yoga pants, pet cuddle breaks, and being available to handle personal matters (including kid pick-ups) during the day while still being productive team members. These employees may even start looking for a new job if they are forced back to work full time.

This poses a new conundrum for employers – if we require people to come back, will they leave us?

We know that a booming economy is both great and risky for employers. Sales are up, but employees may be looking for greener pastures. If employers are going to keep employees, they’ll need to create a workplace where teams can determine for themselves what in-office schedule works best for them and their team.

We have lived through a year of great uncertainty. As the pandemic starts to come to an end (fingers crossed), employers should consider the needs and wants of employees as we all struggle to put on regular pants. Or, put another way, just because employers can require folks to be back in the office, doesn’t mean they should.

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member and HR Bartender Sharlyn Lauby. 

As we’re hearing more about vaccines, it’s only natural to talk about people gathering together. Of course, that leads to a conversation about employees coming back to the office or similar workplace.

It reminded me of an article published on Business Insider a couple of months ago about how “Zillow is adopting a hybrid model of work, but its CEO says it’s trying to prevent one major downside: a two-class system where those who come into the office are viewed as better employees. It's true that hybrid workplaces could perpetuate inequities. However, organizations have the ability to create hybrid workplaces that don’t. It will take a lot of hard work and resources to do it successfully.

Many organizations entered the pandemic with a small number of remote workers. The reasons those workers were remote varied greatly. For some, it could be related to parental or caregiving responsibilities. Or maybe it was a high-performing employee who relocated, and the company didn’t want to lose them. Possibly both. It would be interesting to know how many employees (prior to the pandemic) were told that working remotely would severely limit their career opportunities. My guess is there weren’t that many – if any at all.

In many cases, remote employees were told that they could work away from the office as long as their productivity didn’t suffer, and they would be available to come into the office as needed. While there was a bit of a learning curve, managers were able to manage one or two remote employees without too much difficulty.

The challenge with the hybrid model is that it means large-scale change. It’s a new way of thinking about the workplace. There are three areas that organizations need to address:

Creating a hybrid workplace is a big job. Think of it as creating an employee experience strategy. Or changing company culture. But it can be done. And it can be done well. The organizations that make the commitment to creating equitable hybrid workplaces will be the ones that are able to attract, engage, and retain the best talent. Because those organizations will have figured out how to maintain company culture with a hybrid workplace.

Today’s post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

There has been widespread media speculation that the 2020’s post-pandemic may resemble another famous 20’s – The Roaring Twenties, that time of economic, social and cultural boom, expansion and celebration that followed the 1918 Flu Pandemic. After being surrounded by tragedy, death, social isolation, anxiety and fear, people all over the world are ready to re-enter life with gusto.

There is also a feeling that people may not want to just “re-enter” their old life as it was, but after having over a year to reflect about how life can change dramatically on a dime, many people are thinking about what really matters to them and what they want to do with their lives in a more immediate way than they had in the past.

The New York Times has an interesting new feature on this phenomenon, and the title of the piece really says it all: Welcome to the YOLO Economy: Burned out and flush with savings, some workers are quitting stable jobs in search of post-pandemic adventure.

If you’re not familiar with the term YOLO, it’ stands for “You Only Live Once,” and has become a sort of rallying cry for anyone looking to make a bold change in their lives.

The Times piece notes that:

“Something strange is happening to the exhausted, type-A millennial workers of America. After a year spent hunched over their MacBooks, enduring back-to-back Zooms in between sourdough loaves and Peloton rides, they are flipping the carefully arranged chessboards of their lives and deciding to risk it all.

Some are abandoning cushy and stable jobs to start a new business, turn a side hustle into a full-time gig or finally work on that screenplay. Others are scoffing at their bosses’ return-to-office mandates and threatening to quit unless they’re allowed to work wherever and whenever they want.”

In short: “To some extent, we’re seeing a year’s worth of big life changes starting to accelerate now.”

Anecdotally, I must say that I am hearing the same from many friends and colleagues. People are itching for life to get back to “normal”, but they’ve also given a lot of thought over the past year as to what they want normal to look like – and it often isn’t exactly what it was beforehand. Indeed, a recent Microsoft survey found that more than 40 percent of workers globally were considering leaving their jobs this year.

Also, people are just tired. After over a year of change and upheaval, people are looking for consistency and renewal. They want to take that vacation they had to cancel two years in a row, extend that beach house rental from one week to three, start separating work life from home life again after a year when, as someone recently said to me, “It doesn't feel like I've been working from home, it feels like I’ve been living at work.”

So, what does this mean for employers?

The Times piece notes that many high-profile employers are taking notice and offering their employees some new perks:

“LinkedIn recently gave the majority of its employees a paid week off, while Twitter employees have been given an extra day off per month to recharge under a program called #DayofRest. Credit Suisse gave its junior bankers $20,000 “lifestyle allowances,” while Houlihan Lokey, another Wall Street firm, gave many of its employees all-expenses-paid vacations.”

These are all great benefits, but I think the issue actually goes much deeper than just perks. I think organizations really need to poll their employees to better understand exactly how they have changed as individuals and how their expectations of work have changed. What work changes due to the pandemic do they want to keep and which to they want to discard? Maybe there needs to be a revolution in online learning and development. Maybe organizations need to funnel more money into paying for continuing education for employees – even if it’s outside the realm of what they do in their current job. Maybe, probably, the concept of the office needs to be rethought or even eliminated.

Also, let’s not forget about those workers who must be present to do their jobs. How can we bring the benefit of YOLO to them? Maybe through better scheduling that is respectful of their lives outside of work. Maybe by really thinking about how to create equity between workers who can do their jobs anywhere and those who must be onsite.

We’re coming out of a once-in-a-lifetime (we hope!) global experience, so it seems likely that the period that follows will be just as unprecedented. Organizations that recognize this seismic change and look to their employees for guidance on how to meet this moment will undoubtedly fare better than those who stick their heads in the sand or try to force employees back into “the way things were”. Change is the only constant, and those who adapt to change always win.

What about you? How have you change dover the last year? How has your concept of work changed? Tell us about it in the comments section!

Today’s post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

The Boston Globe has a fascinating new feature on The Future of Work, looking at how the past year redefined expectations of what work looks like and exploring “what these changes will mean for jobs, the economy, and the quality of our lives”.

One of the articles within this section notes that in 2019, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, only 7 percent of Americans even had the choice of working from home. Just a year later, Gallup found that 58 percent of U.S. employees were always or sometimes working remotely.

Talk about a radical change!

Another article in the series touches on a number of questions with expert answers, and this one really caught my attention: When asked if at least some of your job can be done from home, what should your work hours and workweeks look like? Robert C. Pozen, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, answered:

“We must get rid of the notion of a 9 to 5 workday. Those hours make sense when you’re commuting, but the rigidity of that schedule doesn’t allow you to get the benefits of working from home. Once you remove that straitjacket, you can figure out the best hours for you. Maybe you start your workday around 10 after you get the kids ready for school and do some exercise. Or maybe you do your best work late at night…Most employees, if given a choice, will opt for a “Goldilocks plan” that involves not too much time at the office, and not too little. On office days, you may find you’re working longer hours because you’re cramming a lot in. You’re seeing clients, using specialized machines, or having informal lunches and team meetings. You’ll need to figure out how to optimize your time based on how your organization is structured and your own preferences.”

With my work and research on Worklife Negotiation, I have given a lot of thought to how an employee’s hours should change if they are working a hybrid or remote schedule and how it impacts their work and life satisfaction. Pozen’s thoughts make a lot of sense to me.

We reached out to our distinguished board of advisors here at The Workforce Institute to get their thoughts on The Future of Work, specifically, what changes that have come about from the pandemic are things we should keep and what changes are things we should look to change back, eliminate or re-think post-pandemic.

Here’s what they had to say:

Bob Clements, President, Axsium Group

During the pandemic, we called our frontline workers – from grocery workers to healthcare workers – “heroes”. We paid premiums. We applauded them and thanked them for everything they have done. Let’s not go back to the way it was before. Let’s continue to remember that all workers provide value and contribute to society.

I think we need to re-think healthcare for our frontline workforce. Of all the things that have changed, we still do not provide adequate healthcare coverage for the hourly workforce.

David Creelman, CEO, Creelman Research

The one thing I'd like to see stay is the recognition by managers that their employees are individuals with unique lives; and those lives affect how productive they are. Perhaps even more than that insight, is the recognition that managers are capable of managing unique individuals in personalized, empathetic ways and that that delivers greater productivity in many cases. It is a more effective approach to management, and many managers have realized that they are pretty darn good at it.

In terms of what I’d like to see change or go back, I want people to go back to socializing with their colleagues. Even in a business meeting there is an opportunity to build an extra level of connection. You might say that connection underlies collaboration, and you want to start rebuilding those connections.

Nanne Finis, Chief Nurse Executive at UKG

Telemedicine has changed the landscape for healthcare. The direct connection of the patient with the healthcare provider, one-to-one, has had an impact on health and wellness. Although telemedicine has been an acceptable “visit type” for healthcare for many years, the pandemic period has allowed this mode of care to flourish. More and more patients or consumers of care have utilized and come to prefer this method of care as it is more efficient for all and effective for quality and safe care delivery.

Healthcare is a human business. The challenges that care providers face and the mental health impact that this year has had, must push industries to closely care for their workforce’s wellbeing. The healthcare industry is not alone in this challenge, and the wellbeing of the workforce has become essential to safe/ effective business operations. Industry leaders have all begun to implement wellbeing at work initiatives, but the root cause of why employees are not well in their work/home environments must be a part of the equation.

John Frehse, senior managing director at Ankura Consulting Group, LLC.

I hope organizations hang onto the agility they had to develop during the pandemic. All levels of organizations learned to adapt quickly to changes to get things done and this decentralization of control represents a new-found trust in the greater workforce. Trust is a key ingredient in any successful company. My hope is we do not return to strict command-and-control leadership and diminish these gains in culture and performance.

For many of our clients, working during the pandemic was like going to war. Everyone stepped up to get the job done, but many of these efforts are not sustainable over time. Our clients learned they could accomplish tasks originally thought impossible and their work has been inspiring. But, just because you can work 80-hour weeks, does not mean you should.

Ivonne Vargas Hernández, author, journalist, speaker

I believe companies need to review or design policies that respond to changes in the labor market. In Mexico, for example, there is a new Telebrajo Law that requires employers to guarantee disconnection and to grant financial support for the use of electricity services (among other requirements).

An important challenge for HR is to take advantage of the information available from the IT area. Then it is necessary to continue the search for solutions to automate data collection and with that information make better decisions and achieve more efficient management.

Sharlyn Lauby, author, speaker, HR Bartender

I’d love to see more organizations embrace remote work. Over the past year, we’ve learned employees can work outside of a traditional office environment and get things done. I believe creating a hybrid work environment could increase employee engagement and save costs.

We have to develop some common etiquette around video calls. They’re a mainstream communication medium now so it only makes sense to have some practical guidelines. Example: Tell participants ahead of time that you’d like for them to be on camera. 

Dennis Miller, AVP of Human Resources and Benefits Administration at The Claremont Colleges.

I think remote work options should continue to be leveraged for the mutual benefits of employees and employers. In addition, I think virtual meetings should continue to be leveraged, even after returning to work. They are typically more efficient and effective, overall, when compared to in-person meetings.

Current legislation allows an employee to use a special bank for sick time related to pandemic based activities (such as getting a COVID vaccine or taking paid time off due to adverse vaccination reactions).  Once the legislation expires, some version of these paid time off models should remain in place, especially since we can easily forecast the need for periodic booster vaccinations for the foreseeable future.

Mark Wales, global workforce management advisor

The one change I would prefer to stay is the increased ability for many workers to work from home. It has no doubt brought challenges, but also amazing new connections between spouses and families of what it means to work. Discussions with family have replaced some of those “watercooler” conversations at work leading to new insights and connectivity. And not just with immediate family, but across continents and time zones in way that hadn’t happened before. There is a richness and cross fertilization of ideas across industries and generations that will bring changes for this generation of workers, and no doubt, future generations of workers. Additionally, it has meant that company policy has expanded further out from considering not just the employee but also the family.

One change I would love to go back, but I honestly do not believe it can right now, is the idea of maximizing hours for employees by having them work across locations. I believed it was a way to work effectively for companies to use trained and committed resources and give employees more consistent schedules. Sadly, despite the increasing vaccination rate, we still need to maintain caution, safety and social distancing. As we’ve seen from caregivers, that mobility across locations significantly increases risk of transmission of diseases and so that suggests we may have to limit mobility which will have a negative effect on hourly workers.

Thanks to our amazing Board for their insights. What about you? What changes are you hoping your employer keeps and what will you be glad to see go? Tell us about it in the comments section!

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Dennis Miller, AVP of Human Resources and Benefits Administration at The Claremont Colleges.

Sometime in 2021, it seems likely that we will be returning to a “new normal” in the workplace. We’re hearing from big companies like Salesforce - who recently announced that it will reopen its San Francisco headquarters on May 1, followed by its Palo Alto and Irvine, Calif., offices. Salesforce says it will begin with groups of vaccinated volunteer employees, who will return in groups of 100 or fewer, and will be tested for coronavirus infections at least twice a week. Other big technology companies have announced various plans with some indicating they will allow more remote work options (Facebook) and others making it clear they will expect workers back in-person for at least some of the time (Google).

In short, the return to normal is going to look very different depending on where you work and what parameters your employer sets.

In my world of higher education, we’re working hard to identify the things about the way we work that have changed for the better during the pandemic, and the things that have changed for the worse.

For example, in higher education prior to the pandemic, offering employees remote work and flexible working schedules historically occurred on a limited basis for a very small number of roles. However, these workplace flexibility options have become common during the past 12 months for those employees who are able to work off-site. 

And, according to a recent poll conducted by Mercer, 46% of higher educational institutions expect the flexibility with remote work options to continue post-pandemic. This same poll indicates that “working remotely appears to be largely successful” as shown by the following data:

Broadly speaking, organizations that maintain this new level of flexibility (the same flexibility that has been in place for the last 10 - 12 months) will likely fare much better when it comes to recruitment and retention efforts, and overall employee engagement, especially when compared to similar organizations that decide to go back to the old way of operating. 

At the same time, it is important to be mindful that whatever actions organizations take to help employees migrate back to the “new normal”, these new arrangements will need to be tested and may need further adjustments down the road.

For example, let’s say an organization allows two employees to share in-person office time with employee A working on-site M-W-F during one week, and employee B working T-TH that same week. The following week they swap schedules to make days in the office even. Maybe, over time, this schedule works great for the employees. But what if it comes to their manager’s attention that it’s not working for customers? At that point, an adjustment would need to be made. I think we’ll see a lot of this as we return to work.

In the final analysis, the past 12 months has shown that working remotely, while not perfect for every employee in every occupation, definitely has its advantages to employees, their customers, and the organization. We have confirmation that such a model can be effective for all concerned. As such, organizations will need to find that ideal balance between delivering their services and products as expected, while offering this new and proven level of remote work flexibility to its employees. 

Today’ post comes to us from Nanne Finis, Chief Nurse Executive at UKG.

A special thank you to Anne-Marie Schenk, DNP, MBA, RN, NE-BC, UKG Chief Nurse Executive Advisory Board member, Nurse Executive and Founder of Lead.2Gether, who contributed her real-world nurse leader perspective to this article.

In my role as the Chief Nurse Executive at UKG, I have the opportunity to talk with and learn from nurse leaders across the U.S. Based on these interactions, here are some insights into the COVID-19 experience from the nursing perspective that healthcare leaders must pay attention to now.

This Pandemic is a Clinical Crisis.

COVID-19 has poured gasoline on the already difficult role of nurse leaders. Nurses and physicians have been the leaders in this fight, and it’s evident that business leaders have had to rely on them to manage the business of healthcare like never before. This expanded responsibility for operational control has led to increased emotional burden and stress on nursing leaders, as they have borne increased responsibility for the success or failure of their organizations and have had to lead those they used to follow. The view of the organization through the eyes of the nurse leader portrays a uniquely different place than a year ago. Essentially, the goal for every nurse leader in 2020 was simply survival. The three most prevalent focus areas of nurse leaders and their organizations are:

  1. Focus on Finance

The surgical volume is the bread-and-butter of hospital finances and without this surgical revenue hospitals cannot survive. Labor costs associated with salaries as well as recruitment, retention and training are a major burden to hospitals. This fact, coupled with the loss of hospital revenues and increased non-labor expenses, challenged organizations to manage day-to-day finances without forecast or prediction models---knowing that the future was uncertain.

Nurse leader impact

Nurse leaders have been under constant pressure to keep the volume rolling, despite staffing, process, and often limited supply resources to support the volume. Nursing leaders have had to navigate the fine balance between finance and safety as many nurses have left  to take lucrative assignments elsewhere, leaving already understaffed units even more vulnerable.

2. Focus on Workforce

With the on-again-off-again elective surgical volume, hospitals have had to figure out how to keep staff working when elective surgeries were canceled. Once elective surgeries resumed, nurse leaders had to scramble to find staff to work on a dime. As the aforementioned travel contracts and "life-changing" salaries were offered (out of clear desperation), hospitals across the country began “recirculating” the same resources, leading to enormous salaries while driving down quality. States paid huge sums of money for crisis staff. In retrospect, many continue to wonder if this money might have been better-allocated by providing staff incentives to stay in their home organizations, still costing money, still allowing them to benefit, but not negatively impacting quality.

A February 2021 AONL COVID-19 longitudinal study report highlights many critical changes that have occurred since July 2020. The most critical data point from this study concerns nurse managers: 24% of the manager respondents indicated that they are not or not at all emotionally healthy. Nurse managers also are more likely than Chief Nurse Executives to leave the profession of nursing.

Nurse leader impact

For a nursing leader, staffing is simply their daily work; they begin learning staffing the first day on the job as a staff nurse. During COVID-19, approvals for incentives to increase staffing often came to organizations too slowly. These leaders likely knew what was needed but had little control over solving the problem. They were left powerless, watching the impact on both their staff and their patients. Absences due to exposures and illness crippled many nursing units. Many organizations were reluctant to monitor absences, because they were concerned this would drive staff to come to work ill. Some staff took advantage of absences without consequence, further burdening their peers, while others were simply caught between the desire to fulfill work commitments and their own personal time stresses, including childcare and schooling. Pre-COVID hospitals had attendance policies and procedures to keep absences in check, but those controls were no longer reasonable in this new environment. As the year progressed, maintaining the morale of staff became more and more challenging and further drained the leaders, who themselves needed a cheerleader.

Attention to the issues that impact nurse retention and wellbeing is a challenging but critical priority for leaders today. According to the AONL study mentioned above, managers and employees at all levels are experiencing stress and burnout symptoms in different ways, with those closest to point-of-care, including nurse managers, experiencing the highest levels stress.

3. Focus on Safety

The politics of COVID-19 bled into the workplace. Politicization of masking mandates and quarantine guidelines in hospitals often created hostility between non-clinicians and the clinical staff mandated to follow CDC guidelines. Process changes associated with COVID-19 (both for prevention of transmission and supply chain shortages) had to be designed and executed and the impact of staffing on patient care had to be measured in new ways.  Quality nursing care takes time and requires the application of consistent evidence-based practices. COVID-19 created significantly worse staffing and the increase of contract staff often negatively impacted compliance with care “bundles” and practice guidelines.

Nurse leader impact

Nurse leaders found themselves emotionally drained as they often had to defend the science and the regulatory requirements to their non-clinician peers. For the non-clinical leaders, it was just “opinion”. For the nurse leaders, their license, profession and job called them to drive safe care. This led to exhausting daily review and redesign of processes. Nurse leaders were responsible for creating new processes and executing on successful change. Errors most often are born from process errors, rather than people errors. Burnout related to negotiating the new processes with stakeholders and maintaining responsibility for any errors associated with the new process created additional burden to the leaders’ emotional stability. Nurse leaders everywhere found themselves with a deep desire and professional commitment to deliver high-quality care to every patient in the face of limited resources created a constant state of distress.

A New Playbook is Needed

The work, the workplace, and the workforce have all dramatically changed in the last year and the nursing playbook must be completely rewritten and re-tested. Public health officials are still warning caution but also beginning to see reasons for hope as millions of people around the world are being vaccinated. We have depended on our nurse leaders for guidance during this time and we will continue to depend on their leadership for the future. We find ourselves at a daunting place, but one that may also be a time of innovation and change that will be professionally rewarding. 

There is emerging science and technology that can help to predict both workload and workplace stress that can hopefully be used to better plan for future pandemics where we can better support our nurse leaders.

Key resources used:

Connect with us

Subscribe to our blog

cross linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram