COVID-19 Roundtable Discussions
Thank you to the members who participated in our recent COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable Discussions, including representatives from Amgen, Analog, Anglo American, BMO Financial Group, BP, Comcast, Dell, Dow, Legal & General, Synchrony, Mars, and Wolters Kluwer.
These notes are drawn from the January 28 European & North American COVID-19 Roundtable, with some additional inputs from the APAC roundtable held earlier that day.
With COVID-19 vaccine distribution increasing across multiple markets, HR leaders are deciding which requirements, incentives, and guidelines they will put in place for their people. Already, policies vary widely, with some member companies considering compulsory vaccinations for subgroups of employees and at least one company taking a completely hands-off approach.
- “Encouraged, but not required” is the most common policy: No one on the calls reported that their companies are moving toward broad-based compulsory vaccine requirements, but nearly all said they are encouraging their employees to get the vaccine. The level of encouragement varies by company, with some promising to pay for vaccines, some considering acquiring doses to administer on-site and others conducting educational town halls with outside vaccine experts.
- Incentives—more the exception than the rule: One member organization is providing “extra” PTO for employees who choose to be vaccinated, but the more common approach is to encourage the vaccine without offering extra pay, benefits or perks.
- Unanswered questions: HR leaders haven’t solved some of the trickier problems anticipated with widespread vaccinations, including how to track employee vaccinations for clients who demand it of outside vendors (i.e. hospitals, nursing homes), and how to handle employees who refuse the vaccination, but work alongside vulnerable employees who cannot get vaccinated because of pre-existing medical conditions.
- An outlier, with a reason: One member company has communicated to all global employees that it will not be encouraging nor discouraging employees to take the vaccine, will not track their decision and will not require any employees to disclose their vaccine status to customers. The company’s CHRO said this stance aligns with the company’s values of personal responsibility, dignity and individual privacy.
Returning to the Office
The peaks and valleys of COVID-19’s spread across different regions have kept some member companies out of the office for nearly a year, while others have had periods of hybrid office working mixed with work-from-home stints. In some regions offices are fully open now, but ways of working remain disrupted.
- Anchored, hybrid, and remote worker: The combination of full-time office, hybrid, and remote workers appears to be here for the foreseeable future, with the proportions of this mix varying by industry and geography.
- Must have a good reason to work in the office: One member indicated that if a leader would like her team to work from the office, she must prove why that is the best option for productivity. Like many others on the call, the company is reducing its office footprint globally. “We’re re-branding offices as ‘Collaboration Huts’ to encourage leaders to think of the office as a meeting space, rather than a workspace,” the member explained.
- Hybrid and remote work demand increased focus on DE&I: Members recognize that hybrid and remote working surface new challenges with diversity, equity and inclusion. How will this effect certain groups more than others? What are the implications of a hybrid workforce on women? What are ways to drive company unity, culture and vision in this new environment?
Home Office Stipends and Re-Imbursements
- Work-from-anywhere: Several member companies reported that their internal surveys show a significant proportion of currently at-home or hybrid employees would prefer the freedom to “work from anywhere.” Reductions in office costs and access to previously untapped talent pools have HR leaders actively pursuing such policies, but tax-implications and compensation challenges are giving others pause.
- Office Supplies and stipends: Most organizations committed to helping employees establish home offices through either a one-time stipend, the home delivery of essential supplies and/or allowed employees to take equipment home from their offices. Ongoing stipends and reimbursements for WiFi and telephone services remain common, but are less widespread than and often hinge on local labor laws.
Thank you to all who participated for your energy and enthusiasm! We will have more of these Virtual Roundtable Discussions to continue the conversation and send out surveys and resources on specific topics concerning COVID-19.
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