COVID-19 Roundtable Discussions
Thank you to the members who participated in our recent COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable Discussion, including representatives from BMO Financial Group, BP, Cargill, Dow, Pitney Bowes, Prudential, United Airlines, Wolters Kluwer, and Zumtobel.
These notes are drawn from the February 18 European & North American COVID-19 Roundtable, with some additional inputs from the APAC roundtable held earlier that day.
Hybrid Work Models
As offices begin to re-open after nearly a year of a remote working environment, organizations face pressure from employees at both ends of the spectrum: Some wanting to return to office as soon as possible, while others never want to step foot in them again. However, organizations are finding that the majority of employees prefer a solution in between these two extremes, making it difficult for leaders to find a balance between employee satisfaction and productivity.
- Sustaining Culture Virtually: Although some organizations feel they have been able to maintain their culture virtually, it is unclear how well it can be sustained over time. As new people join the organization how will they learn the culture and stay engaged?
- No Decisions Yet: Few member companies have made definitive decisions about their hybrid work policy, worrying that it is still too early to do so amidst the continuously changing environment. One member recommends keeping the conversation vague after making a statement using an example of 60/40 (60% of the time in office, 40% remote) to suggest a possible flexible option caused them to lose control of the conversation.
Remote Work Policies
Upon realizing that offices would remain closed for the foreseeable future, many employees took advantage of work-from-home orders by moving to different states or even countries. As organizations consider their return to office and remote work policies, they must take into consideration the tax implications of such relocations.
- ‘Work from Anywhere’, But Not Really: Multiple member companies have already made statements that employees must live in the country in which their office sits.
- Nomad Visas: A few countries have begun allowing people to enroll in a nomad visa program that allows them to live in the country while working in another. Seeing how complex it is, very few countries have followed. However, this creates additional challenges for employers trying to manage legal issues, compensation, rewards, etc.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a major toll on employee well-being, and while some of the impacts have been identified and measured, many remain unknown. Member organizations are trying to determine the best ways to support their employees in all aspects of their well-being including physical, mental, social, and financial health.
- Identifying Mental Wellness Issues: While many organizations are using a variety of tools to support employee mental health, one member said what they have found to be most effective is training a large group of employees to be able to identify early signs of mental illness and encouraging accountability for themselves and their colleagues.
- Financial Wellness: Some organizations are considering adding financial wellness to their overall wellness efforts. Most members agreed it will likely be in the form of a digital tool rather than something more personalized like paid financial advisors.
- Senior Level Burnout: Leading teams throughout a crisis has put increased pressure on senior leaders throughout the past year. One organization offers special psychological counseling in addition to their EAP specifically for senior leaders.
As the vaccine supply and distribution improves around the globe, HR leaders need to start making clear decisions on vaccination policies. While it seems most organizations are leaning towards an education and encouragement-based approach, some companies have not completely taken mandates off the table.
- Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: As of now, most member companies will not be mandating the vaccine. One company is taking that one step further and following a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, emphasizing that they do not want to know whether or not employees received it. But when travel begins to open up and vaccinated employees want to make a case to travel, the policy will likely need to be rewritten.
- Industry Dependent: For some industries such as airlines, not mandating the vaccine becomes a challenge when certain countries require it to enter. Other industries such as those that are client facing may run into trouble when clients want proof of vaccination before meeting with the employee.
- Self-Managed Vaccine Programs: The majority of participating companies agreed they will leave the vaccine distribution to governments and local entities. However, one member company is working with vendors on the possibility of mobile distribution, as they have done in the past for the flu vaccine. But at this point the supply is not readily available.
Thank you to all who participated for your energy and enthusiasm! We look forward to continuing the conversation!
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