The Challenges of Pursuing Career Development During COVID-19

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There’s no doubt that 2020 hasn’t looked the way we expected when we rang in the new year. However, that doesn’t mean all of your goals have to be set aside. It’s certainly a different world, but it’s still one where you can grow and progress in your career.

The challenge is finding the right opportunities. Discovering high-quality educational and developmental opportunities in this new environment isn’t easy. Fortunately, many organizations have adapted to COVID-19, and there are a variety of options available.

Here are some ideas you can use to pursue career training and development, even as you’re mostly stuck at home during COVID-19.

Determine What Options are Best for You

As we close out 2020, most learning opportunities are still remote. You’ll have access to video classes and online reading. For some professionals, that works well. However, not every learning style is well-suited for remote education.

Think about your style and preferences. Are you someone who can enjoy remote learning, or would you do better waiting until in-person classes and events are available? You know yourself better than anyone, and there’s no wrong answer.

Also, think about what your specific goals are. Are you looking to earn a particular accreditation? Do you want to finish your degree? Are you hoping to achieve an advanced degree, like an MBA or a Ph.D.? 

Depending on your position and career aspirations, you’ll have different aims. The answers to these questions will help you decide where to study, what institution to work with, and more.

Think About Learning Specific Skills

If a wholesale return to school doesn’t make sense for you, consider which individual skills you might enjoy learning. These can be for your personal benefit or to advance your career. Maybe the subjects you choose will do both!

Learning web design and other graphics skills can help you advance in your company or find new professional opportunities. They can also help you build a personal website or blog or showcase your artistic abilities. 

You might think about getting more skilled in specific software, such as Microsoft Suite or Google applications. Which programs your company uses can help you decide where to focus. If you’re planning a career shift, you can learn the skills you need to move forward into a new field.

Review Your Career Plans

It’s common to hit a point in your career where you feel stagnant. Maybe your company doesn’t offer the opportunities you hoped for, or you realize that this field isn’t one you really enjoy.

Don’t be shy about trying new things. You might even get into an entirely new industry. If you’re considering a hands-on field, like physical therapy or massage, be sure you review your educational options and make sure they’re safe in this time of COVID-19. 

There’s nothing wrong with changing course, even dramatically. Perhaps the downtime provided by this pandemic has given you time to rethink your larger goals. Or, maybe you were laid off or lost your job and now have the freedom to choose a new direction. 

If so, don’t be afraid to make a significant change. Having a career-oriented degree can help you land on your feet. You might choose data analysis, business, or a healthcare major. The key is to find a high-quality, reputable, and safe training program.

Take on Extra Projects

One excellent way to develop in your career is to stretch beyond your regular day-to-day duties. Is there a project that needs to be done but no one is stepping up? Why not you?

Taking on an additional project can help you stay busy while also boosting your resume and professional reputation. Perhaps it will move you toward a promotion, or you’ll gain experience that will help you land another opportunity. 

Projects can go hand-in-hand with learning new skills, as you may have a chance to practice doing something outside of your normal scope of work. New design skills? Leadership? Give it a try! 

Watch for In-Person Events to Return

As we move into 2021, there has been increasing talk of a vaccine and being able to return to life as normal. You can expect in-person events slowly to return, although attendance may be low at first.

If you’re someone who enjoys in-person networking and conferences, your opportunities may return in mid-2021. Take advantage of the chance to shake hands, meet people in person, and use your connections to advance your professional goals.

Working remotely can be stressful, especially for extroverts who thrive on human connection. Just keep your eyes looking forward — in-person events will eventually come back.

You Can Still Grow During COVID-19

Don’t let this pandemic cause you to give up on 2020. Instead, reevaluate the landscape and think about what you can do that will help you move forward.

When you’re clear on your goals and learning style, you’ll know if remote learning will work for you or if you should wait for a chance to attend in-person classes. Perhaps you can work on learning a specific skill and take on a project to practice using it in a business environment. 

If you’ve been laid off or lost your job, you have the chance to reevaluate your career and choose a new path. There are a variety of degrees and certificate programs that can help. 

2020 isn’t a bust. In fact, it may be the new opportunity you were looking for. Review your options and move forward! 

Opening the Office vs Working Remotely: Finding a Compromise

There are no two ways about it: the COVID-19 pandemic has brought havoc to hundreds of workplaces around the globe. Many have been forced to send employees home out of health concerns and those that have stayed open have put themselves and their employees at risk. Beyond that, most are dealing with boom-and-bust style business as customers either avoid their stores or buy in bulk to limit their exposure. 

 

To say a company hasn’t been impacted in some way would be naive.

 

Now businesses are under more pressure than ever to reopen. As already limited and confusing federal and state aid expires, most companies are finding themselves forced to decide between paying the bills and putting employees and customers at risk. Finding creative ways to strike a balance between staying remote and opening the doors has become a goal of most successful businesses.   

Staying Remote

Pros

There are certainly pros to staying as remote as possible. The primary one being that you are prioritizing employee safety and encouraging them to look after their and their family’s health. Focusing on taking care of employees and promoting a safe workplace for everyone is a valuable bonus both for employees and customers — some employees even love working from home so much they are hoping to do so permanently

 

Additionally, modern technology allows for employees in many sectors to do their jobs completely online. Likewise, employers can encourage their employees to capitalize on technology to keep track of their mental and physical health. The mental health aspect can be especially valuable when they are stuck working from home.  

Cons

Of course, there are some cons to stay remote as well. The biggest most employers are worried about is a decrease in overall productivity. This can come from several things such as an employee’s inability to easily communicate and collaborate with co-workers and partners. It could also be a problem associated with the many distractions that come from working from home. 

 

Many employers also feel as though their company culture is suffering while employees are working remotely. It can be challenging for employees to feel connected and part of a supportive workplace community. Fortunately, there are some ways to help maintain company culture while working remotely

Opening Offices

Pros

However, for some employees, the ability to get everything done while having employees work remotely is elusive at best. Some jobs simply require in-person service. For businesses that require some level of human interaction, opening up can be the only thing that will keep you afloat. And it might not be a bad thing — many people are eager to interact with their favorite stores in some way, even if it isn’t traditional.  

 

Many of the reasons that business owners are hesitant with continuing to work remotely are also major pros to reopening. You can more easily monitor the productivity of employees and work towards rebuilding company culture. The idea of moving back towards normal is also tantalizing and there are plenty of ways to be successful in reopening

Cons

The big elephant in the room for reopening is the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak in the office space. Forcing employees to come back and having an outbreak could bring all sorts of legal challenges to your business. This is especially true if your employees are completing high-risk jobs without proper protections.

 

Additionally, it can be a real issue for your company’s image down the road. Customers are not itching to go back to businesses that have experienced a COVID outbreak even after the risk has been mitigated. Choosing to open the doors too soon — especially with the massive rise in cases across the U.S. — could spell disaster for the company.  

Making a Decision

Deciding to keep employees working remotely or sending them back to work and reopening your public-facing business is really difficult. There are plenty of pros and cons to each choice, many of which could make or break your company. As you weigh your options, think about the risks, benefits, and needs of your company.

 

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your options either. To keep their businesses running, some companies have altered their products and services to make things that are in demand like hand sanitizer while others have greatly boosted their online services. Striking the right compromise may also involve switching things up for employees such as half coming into the office while half remain working from home. 

 

Weigh the pros and cons, choose what is right for your business and your employees. Sooner or later we will adapt and get through this difficult time and many companies will be better off for it. What have you been considering as a business leader and what has led you to make the decisions you are making?

How To Ensure Your Employees Are Treated Equally and Fairly

 

 

We often hear a lot about the importance of equality in the workplace. Equal treatment, equal pay, equal opportunities for advancement are all vital to the continued success of not just an employee, but for a business as a whole. However, many employees are also looking to be treated fairly, opening up the discussion of equality in the workplace even further. While fairness and equality might appear to be the same thing, they’re distinctively different and it’s important that companies strive for both at every level of their organization.

 

As managers, leaders, and HR staff, this means employees are expecting you to make the workplace environment one where the office policies are clearly stated and applied equally and fairly across the board. They also expect changes to be made if an individual or group is being treated unfairly. This is especially important as the world has finally started being more aware of what Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)  are forced to deal with at their place of work on a day to day basis.

 

So, how can companies and leaders ensure that their policies are not only providing opportunities for equality, but also fairness?

Equality Isn’t Always Fair

Equality is not always the same as fairness. Equality, while important, can leave out factors that contribute to an employee’s role within the company. Being fair involves considering all of the circumstances and making appropriate decisions based on those circumstances. Employees’ needs differ depending on their circumstances and equality can often leave out specific needs. Equality is like supplying every employee a work laptop, fairness is giving a visually-impaired employee a laptop with braille.

Always Be Prepared for Change

Every employee, wherever they work, wants to be shown by their employer that they’re valuable, their opinions and ideas matter and that they have equal opportunities for professional development and growth. This means that issues such as favoritism in the workplace can wreak havoc on employee morale and can breed resentment toward the company which is another reason why it’s important to treat all employees fairly in the workplace

 

It’s not only important to have policies that promote fairness and equality regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and age, but it’s imperative to enforce those policies equally too. Taking a look at current policies and identifying where improvement is needed is one way to make favoritism less likely to occur. Are there any rules that favor a particular group of employees over the other? Are all employees aware of the company’s rules and policies, including disciplinary actions? Is there any room for questions or different interpretations within the company’s handbook? It’s also necessary to look at who is being hired and who is most affected by injury, job loss, and discrimination within the company. 

 

Being a fair manager means that “When you treat your employees fairly they focus on navigating the challenges in front of them. They feel respected, cared for, and they develop trust in you as a manager. Instead of focusing on gamesmanship or one-upmanship, employees focus on working towards individual and group goals.” When employees are respected and treated fairly, the whole company is often able to operate as a cohesive team with equal responsibilities and better communication. Moreover, fairness and equality not only contributes to better meeting these needs but can also protect vulnerable groups from getting injured on the job. 

 

While certain fields of work are more labor-intensive and thus have more opportunities for severe injuries to occur, it isn’t just the kind of work that is harmful. Oftentimes, there is an unequal amount of pressure to work in unsafe conditions, especially for Hispanic workers and other minorities. When the work environment and policies are centered around equality and fairness, employees are not only likely to be more productive and have higher morale but it can help protect workers from injury. 

Fairness Benefits Everyone

Working towards maintaining a fair and equal work environment is also vital to a business’s clients. Cultural diversity in the workplace not only benefits the company and its employees, but it could potentially save lives. For example, while discussing the dangers of a lack of representation, particularly in healthcare, some professionals explain that “A lack of cultural diversity in healthcare can lead to many problems, including stereotyping and unequal patient treatment — particularly in cases where cultural differences in healthcare expectations lead to poor patient outcomes. Indeed, negative results are arguably inevitable when there is an underrepresentation of cultural and ethnic diversity in leadership and throughout training.” 

 

Cultural diversity can be hard to achieve when a manager is constantly undermining, discriminating against, or holding BIPOC to a different standard than the other employees. A business is likely to have a higher turnover rate if its employees believe they are being treated unfairly. This can also lead to new talent avoiding the company for fear of discrimination. Businesses with such a lack of diversity are likely to suffer losses financially and, in certain fields such as healthcare, could be putting their clients at risk.  

 

One way to ensure that employees are treated fairly is ingraining that importance into the company culture. Make it something so valuable that the company, managers, leaders, and employees are always striving for fairness and equality. This will make the work environment a more welcoming place to report and discuss areas of discrimination or unequal treatment. It will also encourage employees to voice their opinions more to help further improve policies and practices. 

 

It’s never too late to start enacting change that will help ensure employees are being treated both equally and fairly. Having an open, ongoing dialogue on how to improve company policies and how leadership can deliver said policies appropriately can help businesses stay committed to being a welcoming, equal, and fair place for everyone.  

Three strategic technology investments for a successful 2020

HR and benefits technologies are taking center stage in 2020, but what differentiates those that will be successful from those that will fail? How can businesses tell which to invest in versus those that are, at best, pie-in-the-sky concepts that aren’t ready for mass adoption?

 

The trial-and-error approach is no longer enough. If enterprises want to succeed, they’ll need technologies that not only propel organizations forward but can evolve with their growth and ever-changing needs. There will be many to evaluate in the years to come, but there are three that will prove to be especially important in 2020.

 

  1. Control expenses with benefits software

 

Employee benefits account for an enormous part of company expenditures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total compensation reached an hourly average of $34.77 for private industry workers. As expected, wages and salaries accounted for the majority of that spend (70.1%), amounting to $24.38 per hour. Benefits were also a significant cost, however, averaging $10.38 per hour (29.9%).

 

With so much money allocated toward benefits, employers can’t simply rely on disparate data streams and legacy systems. In doing so, enterprises will struggle to analyze the data that’s needed to unearth valuable, actionable insights. This is not an isolated problem – our own research shows that 48% of businesses find it difficult to report globally on their workforces. With nearly half of the companies struggling, it’s time to invest in benefits software that offers powerful data analytics capabilities. Only then will they be able to get a closer look at benefits expenditures and rein in these expenses.

 

This is more than a simple cost-cutting measure, however. Enterprises should not be looking to reduce their benefits, which are extremely important in fostering and maintaining employee loyalty. Rather, they should be focused on making smarter decisions, such as reducing waste. One company found that it was paying for 7,000 more health insurance policies than it actually needed. By discovering other unnecessary expenses, employers can save a tremendous amount of money without changing the benefits they offer.

 

  1. Reduce the administrative burden

 

Rewards programs are a great way for any business to show employees that they are valued and appreciated members of the team. But when multiple providers are involved, the administrative burden can multiply. Businesses might find themselves paying for more solutions than are actually necessary.

 

Enterprises should instead rely on one benefits management offering that can deliver an integrated solution. By providing everything that’s needed (corporate broking, benefits advising, employee helpdesk and technology) in a single place, businesses can offer outstanding rewards at a lower cost. This also makes it easier for employees to directly engage with their benefits, creating a more immersive experience between companies and their teams. In a world where engagement is having an increasingly strong impact on employee productivity and retention, this is absolutely essential. And by enlisting in a single solution that serves as the benefits broker, businesses can also negotiate the very best rates from benefits providers.

 

Enterprises can take this one step further by automating the employee benefits administration process. As a result, employees will be able to easily enroll for benefits online, eliminating waste (such as unnecessary paper forms) for the company. It also makes it easier for staff to quickly determine which benefits are available, allowing them to better select those that meet their coverage needs.

 

  1. Make the switch to predictive analytics

 

Prescriptive analytics have been the norm for several years, allowing employers to make smarter and more efficient decisions. Predictive analytics is the next frontier, giving firms the power to model and forecast future macro trends. As workforces age, for example, organizations will see an impact on both benefits expenses and requirements. An influx of newer, younger employees would also require some changes. The same is true as workforces become more global and diverse. In order to remain competitive, employers will need to adjust accordingly with every evolution.

 

These evolutions are not limited to a change in workforce alone, however. Preventative health screenings can also play a role, as well as a change in working practices. A company that implements new safety protocols, for example, could lower the number of accidents and thus reduce absenteeism. Predictive analytics can then be used to better match benefits to all of these changes.

 

Employers must also recognize that while data is invaluable, it should only be obtained after receiving employee consent. The California Consumer Privacy Act is one of the first legislative reminders that employee data is not only useful but very sensitive information. Organizations that wish to use it must earn and maintain the trust of its employees, both in how the data is utilized and how it is stored.

 

The time is now

 

The new year represents an opportunity for enterprises to take charge of their benefits offerings by investing in the right technologies. Whether looking to reduce costs or striving to lower the administrative burden, now is the time to take action. A single benefits management solution can prove to be invaluable in overcoming these and other issues. At the same time, predictive analytics can provide an unprecedented ability to model and forecast future macro trends.

Benefits of Transitioning to a Remote Workforce

Remote working has increased greatly in popularity over the last few years. There was a 159% increase in remote workers between 2005-2017, and today 4.3 million people in the U.S. work remotely at least half the time.

 

It may have already been a rising trend, but the coronavirus pandemic has made remote working a reality for millions of employees across the country. Some of those workers may remain in their remote positions while others will eventually go back to a traditional working environment. Either way, it can be more challenging for some to work from home than others. 


As a business owner, it’s important to understand some of the pros and cons of remote work from the standpoint of your employees, as well as how it will impact your success. So, how can you help your employees transition to a remote workforce, and how can you keep both motivation and morale high even in uncertain times, when you’re not able to directly connect? 

The Pros and Cons of Remote Working

Remote working has many benefits for both businesses and workers. Though you might think your employees would be less productive at home, research has shown that 77% of employees are actually more productive when they’re working remotely. As an employer, some of the biggest benefits your business can gain from letting your employees work from home include: 

 

  • Increased retention
  • Less interpersonal conflict
  • More transparency
  • A lesser need for a large physical space
  • Attract better talent

 

For employees, the benefits include flexibility, freedom, and a customizable space to get work done. 

 

Many people benefit from working remotely because it helps to reduce their stress levels. Employees that are unhappy or stressed are less likely to be productive. Yet, 25% of workers cite their job as their number one source of stress. By allowing employees to work remotely, you’re showing that you’re invested in their long-term health and care about their mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Encouraging a Work-Life Balance

Speaking of mental health, one of the biggest challenges for remote workers is finding a work-life balance at home. It’s far too easy for someone to wake up whenever they want, shuffle to the couch, grab their computer, and try to “work” while watching television. While that might sound relaxing, it isn’t exactly productive or effective. 

 

A stable work-life balance is just as important for remote workers as it is for anyone who works in an office. 

 

One of the best ways to encourage a better balance is to have a separate office space or workspace from the rest of the home. The beauty of being able to do that is that employees who work from home can set up their office spaces in such a way that boosts their own creativity and productivity. Family members within the home should know that designated space is off-limits and distractions need to be limited throughout the day to keep work from bleeding into their personal lives. 

 

If you’re trying to make the transition to working at home, yourself, another great solution is to keep a normal routine. Wake up with an alarm and go over the same routine you would if you had to go into an office. Set normal working hours through the day, give yourself breaks, and “quit” working at a certain time each day. It’s easy to get distracted at home, so limit those distractions as much as possible by unplugging from unnecessary devices and keeping yourself as focused as possible. 

How Can Businesses Benefit?

There are a few challenges your business may face in utilizing more remote workers, including: 

 

  • Communication
  • Performance tracking
  • Security

 

Thankfully, technology has stepped in to combat most of these issues. For example, Zoom has added over 2 million users so far this year, largely due to more people working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. But programs like Zoom and Slack are making it easier for employees and employers to connect on a regular basis without having to get together in person. 

 

In many businesses, the pros tend to outweigh the cons when it comes to encouraging remote work. Not only will your company cut down on costs, but companies who allow employees to work remotely have a 25% lower turnover rate than those that don’t. You’ll attract new employees, retain your best ones, and boost productivity all at once. 

 

If your business hasn’t yet jumped on board with the idea of remote working, this might be the perfect time to see just how impactful it can be and how both your business and your employees might benefit from making such a transition. It can take some time for everyone to get used to, but knowing how to make the change fluidly and efficiently can improve your employees’ mental health and boost your business all at once. 

 

Supporting Diversity & Inclusion Through Benefits

By Chris Bruce, MD and co-founder, Thomsons Online Benefits

 

Last year, 800+ executives in the U.S. pledged to make elevating diversity and inclusion a workplace priority. This work is crucial, especially in Silicon Valley where half of startups still do not have any women in their leadership teams. Attracting and retaining diverse talent can be challenging, but it’s imperative that HR teams use all resources available to them in this effort, and that processes are in place to ensure female talent is nurtured, developed and has equal opportunity to progress in the organization.

 

Employee benefits can play a critical role in ensuring everyone feels included and cared for. Here’s how, from data analytics to benefits personalization, companies can use technology and benefits programs to create an employee benefits proposition that appeals to all.

 

Personalizing through wellness pots

 

Instead of using a one-size-fits-all solution that may only serve the needs of a limited number of employees, wellness pots can serve differing interests and needs. Companies offering wellness pots to support employees’ mental and physical wellbeing are automatically ahead of the curve. These employees are able to spend their wellness pot contribution on the benefits offerings that best support their diverse interests and needs. For example, one employee might take personal training, another could join a mindfulness program and a third take up drumming lessons. Not only do people feel better supported, but they have even more reason to regularly engage with their benefits which can lead to them using and valuing them more.

 

Employing data and analytics

 

To help companies make better decisions to support D&I, those that use pulse surveys to gather feedback from employees should begin segmenting the data by gender, generation, ethnicity, geography, and any other relevant subsection within the company. Not only does this give HR the opportunity to be proactive, but by only looking at total numbers there is a risk of missing  opportunities to identify and fix issues for specific groups.

 

Additionally, there’s a wide range of data available to employers from benefits software that many are not taking advantage of. For example, our research showed that only 48% of organizations measure benefit take up levels and 46% measure employee wellbeing. Companies are however beginning to understand just how important data and analytics are. Over a quarter of respondents are intending to begin collecting this information on benefits take-up and program engagement this yea. Combining the qualitative data from surveys with the quantitative data that can be derived from benefits technology, can create a powerful tool for HR and benefits teams.

 

Increasing flexibility

 

Another way to support all employees is by offering ‘floating’ PTO days to accommodate all employees’ civic or cultural preferences. For example, employees could choose to switch out their Presidents Day holiday for Election Day. What’s more, employers can also give the option to work remotely when needed to accommodate employee needs if something of importance to an individual worker, like an Ash Wednesday service, won’t take the entire day.

 

What’s more, those who work from home have been shown to be more productive, working an additional 1.4 more days per month, although it will be seen in the coming months how productivity is impacted under the new circumstances of working from home due to COVID-19. This is a win-win for both employees and employers and should alleviate any fears around productivity and flexible working. Beyond that, there can be additional long-term payoffs for companies that are sure to be inclusive: our research found that 80% of HR decision makers believe that flexible working arrangements are important when considering talent retention.

 

The bottom line

 

Research has found that 85% of candidates ask about benefits at some point in the interview process so as a key talent attraction tool they must be strategically planned if they are to effectively support D&I right from the start of the employee journey. With this in mind, employers must make their benefits more relevant, easier to access and more engaging in order to meet the needs of an increasingly demanding and diverse workforce. Only then will every employee – of any age, from any location, of any background or culture – be able to get the most out of their benefits and really feel their value.

 

 

 

Tips for Creating a Productive Home Office

Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, many people have found themselves working from home in order to keep their business above water and even to continue growth and success. When you’re in a leadership position, it’s important to stay motivated and productive while you’re working remotely so you can inspire others to do the same. 

 

The good news? Studies have shown that working from home can actually increase productivity

 

Having a designated office space for yourself while you work from home can help you to stay on task, inspire your team to do the same, and set your business up for continued success throughout these uncertain times and beyond. 

 

How can you create a productive work environment in your own home? Can an office space really make that much of a difference? 

Setting the Scene for Success

How you set up your office space can make a big difference in your productivity level. A good rule of thumb is to prepare a separate room or area of your home that will strictly be used as your office. As tempting as it can be to sit on the couch and work, there are a few drawbacks to that. First, more people than ever are using video conferencing platforms: 

 

  • Zoom
  • GoTo Meeting
  • Google Hangouts

 

As a leader within your business, you’ll want to make sure your space looks professional if/when your team is able to see it through an app or program. Not only does it set a positive example for them and can earn you a certain level of respect, but it can actually help your team members adjust to the “new normal.” Some people aren’t used to working remotely. Showing your team that you still have certain expectations for yourself and them while you all work from home will help you to maintain an office culture of success, even when you’re not in the office. 

 

You don’t have to go overboard with your home office, but there are a few basics you should invest in to set yourself up for success: 

 

  • A functional desk
  • A comfortable chair
  • Proper lighting (utilizing natural light can help to boost productivity)
  • Necessary technical equipment
  • Office supplies

 

Once you have what you need, you can go one step further with your home office setup by creating an environment that encourages productivity. Painting the walls a non-distracting, neutral color can help, as can adding a few plants to the room or mirrors to make the space look bigger and brighter. 

Maintaining Your Motivation

As a leader or HR professional, one of the responsibilities that may fall on you is keeping your team motivated and ready for success while you’re all working from home. That is difficult to do when you’re struggling to stay motivated yourself. 

 

One way you can improve your motivation is to keep to a routine. While it can be tempting to stay in your pajamas and sleep in, you should follow the same daily routine you used to get ready for work when you had to go into the office. Wake up at the same time, do your morning rituals, and get dressed as you normally would have done. 

 

Then, make sure you have specific working hours for the day. You don’t have to “clock in” at a specific time, but if you’re used to working 8-5, continue with that schedule. Be sure to take breaks throughout the day to avoid burning out or feeling overwhelmed by some of the challenges that can come from remote working. 

 

The most important thing you can do to maintain motivation is to strike a healthy work-life balance. When you limit yourself to working certain hours of the day, you can dedicate your time after work to your family, your children, or even to self-care. 

Be a Resource for Remote Working

Not everyone is used to working remotely, and some employees will handle it better than others. It’s important for you to be a resource to all of your employees of all different ages. Communicating effectively to the different generations who work with you will help everyone to feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about what’s expected of them during their time working at home. 

 

It’s still your job to banish stereotypes, rethink company culture, and use as many different forms of communication as possible to defuse generational conflict. Walk your employees through apps like Zoom for meetings, or how to connect with you one-on-one. If you’re worried that some of your older employees might be struggling with working remotely, check in on them. Or let technology come to the rescue by using apps like CircleCare, which can help you to directly connect with employees. Encourage them, motivate them, and check in on their mental health and well-being. If you have workers who are struggling to transition to the remote lifestyle, be a resource for them to make the adjustment easier. 

 

You might also consider hiring more remote workers during this time, especially if your business has picked up or you need knowledgeable, independent contractors to fill in the gaps. 

 

This current pandemic has shown businesses across the world how valuable remote working can be. For some people, it might become the “new normal.” For others, getting back to a traditional office environment will be the most beneficial thing. Focusing on keeping your team motivated and successful at this time starts with what you can do at home, so be sure you have an office space that keeps you on task. 

 

Image Source: Pexels

How to Spot Workplaces With Safe Working Conditions

Workplace safety has been a growing concern for workers in the modern era. After all, in spite of all of the safety concerns inherently woven into the modern business model, there were still over 5,000 deaths on the job in 2018 in the U.S. alone.

 

Even if you work in an industry where the likelihood of death is microscopic, there are still a variety of concerns even within the safest of workspaces. For instance, nearly a third of the workplace-related injuries in 2013 were directly attributed to poor workplace ergonomics —  a seemingly minor yet important consideration for those sitting in a chair all day long.

 

The point is, everything from slip and fall accidents and mental health to legitimate life or death situations should be taken into consideration. If you’re looking for a job in a safe work environment, here are a few specific conditions to keep in mind while you’re in search of employment.

Feel Out a Company’s View on Premises Liability

While you don’t necessarily want to enter an interview with a list of aggressive questions about a company’s safety considerations, it’s still important to do some sleuthing to that effect throughout the hiring process. 

 

For instance, if possible, try to discover what the company has done to address basic safety concerns like premises liability. If they’re a storefront, do they de-ice their walk regularly in the winter? Even if they’re a B2B operation, do they guard against slip and fall accidents within their offices? If they have a pet-friendly policy, do they have safeguards against dog bites and animal attacks?

 

If you can discover a company’s attitude towards these small yet significant matters, it can go a long way towards figuring out if an office environment will be safe to work in.

Look for Structure

Another way to get a feel for the security measures (or lack thereof) that a company might have in place is by looking for the little signs. For example, if a company has a thought-out, well-developed, and easily understandable employee handbook, chances are they’re genuinely invested in the well-being of their employees. 

 

Another easy giveaway is if an employer ensures that a professional counselor or other mental health resources are available for its employees. Caring for the mental health of employees is a critical responsibility of the modern employer and one that should be front and center in their safety policies.

Inquire After the Silent Killers

In the episode “The Surplus” of NBC’s incredibly successful workplace parody The Office, HR rep Toby Flenderson promotes the idea that the office should use a financial surplus to have the office’s air quality tested. He sites concerns such as asbestos and radon that could be harming the office workers without their even being aware of it, with the thoughtful rep referring to them as “silent killers.”

 

Likewise, when on the job hunt, it’s important to gauge if a potential employer is going to embrace the battle against things like radon, asbestos, and mold. Will they go the extra mile for their workforce’s health or do they mimic Michael Scott, who ultimately rejects Toby Flenderson’s suggestion out of hand by calling him the “silent killer.”

 

It may be humorous when depicted on a sitcom, but long term exposure to hazardous chemicals can be extremely dangerous, and things like mold and even dust can exacerbate allergies. As such, it’s important to keep them in mind when considering the safety of a potential workplace.

Consider Job Security

While tripping at work or suffering from asbestos are legitimate daily concerns, it’s also important to keep general job security in mind, too. This is easy to overlook, but if you move to a city or industry that is atrophying, you may find yourself under perpetual stress before long as you try to survive a toxic, panicked work environment that is simply trying to survive. This kind of scenario is hardly conducive to individual health and safety, as a company in this situation will likely be redirecting resources towards its very survival.

 

Instead, look for jobs in areas that are up and coming. It’s easy to find constantly updated lists of states and cities that are flourishing. By focusing your job search in these areas, you can ensure that you’re positioned in a geographic location that will continue to grow along with your career.

 

In addition, there are many smaller, hidden personal benefits to this kind of move. For instance, if you purchase a home in a growing urban or suburban area as you relocate for work, there is a good chance that your property’s value will naturally increase without your lifting a finger.

Finding a Safe Place to Work

The world is a much safer place than it’s been in the past. However, just because employers are collectively more aware of the inherent dangers in a workplace doesn’t mean they all respond to those dangers in the same fashion.


As you search for a new HR position — or any employee position, really — don’t let logistics, finances, and job descriptions shoulder out the consideration of how safe each place is to work. Both your short and your long term health can be impacted by how safe your workplace is. After all, you’ll likely end up spending upwards of 90,000 hours in that space. So make sure it’s safe.

Three trends shaping the future of benefits and HR in 2020

A new year is like the dawn of a new era – the start of something fresh as the world transforms once more. This is especially true in 2020 as a shift in HR and benefits enters the spotlight. Now more than ever, enterprises recognize the challenges of the having many-to-many relationships, the importance of employee health and wellbeing, and the need for a new approach to benefits. These are the topics that will shape not only the next 12 months but also the next few years.

 

  1. The many-to-many vendor structure will be replaced

 

Employers have come to recognize the impact benefits can have on improving engagement and performance. In fact, benefits are considered to be more important than job role, colleagues or organizational culture in eliciting loyalty. But that doesn’t change the fact that employees are frequently disappointed by the poor experience of interacting with their benefits.

 

Instead of a smooth and seamless experience with access to everything in one place, employees are often frustrated by the lack of clarity and ubiquity. When filing a claim, for example, they might discover that the necessary information cannot be found within their employer’s benefits administration platform. It could be on a vendor site, creating another hurdle – or worse, it might be lost somewhere in a filing cabinet. This is not good for employees or employers, and it inevitably reduces the positive results that benefits were designed to deliver in the first place.

 

These problems are caused by the typical, many-to-many relationships between companies and vendors. Those relationships often lead to higher operating costs, a higher risk of errors and a disjointed experience for employees. This will change in 2020 as employers begin to not only request but demand a standardized operating model. They will come to recognize the need for a marketplace approach that eliminates the hassle of the many-to-many vendor structure. At the same time, this approach can improve the user journey and provide an unprecedented level of customization and personalization.

 

  1. Employees will take center stage

 

Organizations can’t survive without a strong, dedicated staff. That’s because employees are more than an integral cog in the company machine – they are the lifeblood of the entire enterprise. But if their needs are not being met, the enterprise is likely to suffer.

 

Things are starting to change, however. After years of putting customers first, businesses have begun to realize that it’s time to focus on their employees. Our research found that employee health and wellbeing were among the top benefits strategy objectives for North American organizations. Businesses are striving to meet this objective in a variety of ways. Some are relying on wellness pots that allow employees to decide how they use a wellness allowance. Others are considering a shortened workweek that can be beneficial to both employees and employers, reducing stress while maintaining or improving productivity.

 

By focusing on employees – the very people who create the products and services designed to meet customer needs – enterprises will be better equipped to thrive in 2020.

 

  1. Employers will embrace a next-generation approach to benefits

 

In a world where the largest companies are trying to do more at the local level, businesses still struggle to implement effective benefits programs across their global branches. To get it right, they must understand the benefits practices of each location as well as the competitive environment. Consider Japan and Canada – there are not any common characteristics between these two countries. This is the norm, not the outlier, so businesses must understand that no two regions are exactly alike.

 

Legislation also plays a role, so they must be mindful of that as well. And in this increasingly digital world, enterprises are expected to offer an intuitive digital experience for employees to access their benefits.

 

There are so many different things to consider beyond basic healthcare: short- and long-term disability, life insurance, emergency out-of-country care, and so on. Many companies try to figure this out on their own, but inconsistencies can be found across the processes and procedures. This adds to the complexities enterprises face in deploying benefits programs that meet the needs of each country in which they operate.

 

This will finally change in 2020 as enterprises embrace a next-generation approach to benefits management. By relying on a brilliant, consistent employee and administration experience, multinational corporations won’t have to compromise any longer. With access to steady and reliable data and insights, organizations will be prepared to make better decisions and achieve greater global oversight of compliance requirements. These are just some of the changes that will lead to a truly localized approach for multinational corporations.

 

Big changes are coming

 

Organizations are evolving. They’re recognizing the importance of employee health and wellbeing. They’re frustrated by the costly many-to-many structure of building relationships with multiple vendors. And they’re searching for a next-generation approach to providing benefits. All of these things will begin to culminate in 2020, paving the way for big changes in the months and years ahead.

New Recruitment & Training Techniques for HR Management

Staffing is one of the biggest employer challenges, especially in the growing healthcare industry, for example. The unemployment rate in the field has dropped to a mere 2.0%, making employee recruitment and retention critical to your organization’s success. Technology can aid your HR department in the process.

Recruitment

It’s important to understand who best fits your company’s culture (and what they’re looking for in return) to recruit the top talent in a competitive market. Ensure your efforts to attract and hire new personnel is well focused and that your organization understands a prospect’s needs.

Consider streamlining the hiring process by requiring prospects to test for the position. Doing so will save you time on meetings and interviews with individuals who may look good on paper but may not be a match. Culture indexing uses technology to assess and qualify top talent for better hiring. These short online tests determine whether or not an organization is the right fit for you and the recruit.

It’s also important to collaborate with other HR staff to understand what ideal hires look for in a new employer. To know what your target talent wants, it’s sometimes best to know what they don’t want. A report by the Work Institute listed the top reasons employees quit their jobs. Retirement and the work environment were among the top 10. While the former is unpreventable, the latter can be altered; use the information provided to find solutions to the main employee complaints and position your organization as one of the top companies in the field.

Career Development

The report found that the No. 1 reason workers leave is to further advance their careers (22%). Does your company offer benefits that allow for staff to train and move up in the organization? If not, start developing a system now. Otherwise, when recruiting, emphasize your company’s commitment to employee advancement and training programs.

Consider including the discussion of career goals as part of the regularly-scheduled employee performance review. Find ways to implement an online training program or on-the-job learning where staff can expand their current skills. The medical field is a busy and fast-paced industry. Asynchronous learning may be the best solution for employees interested in ongoing education because they can study around their busy schedules.

Help employees meet their career goals by assigning a manager or lead who can guide them and document the staff member’s career goals. Your organization may already have a system for HR files. Include a career goal profile in the employee’s personnel file so that HR and other support personnel can stay updated and track their progress. 

Work-Life Balance

Even the best personnel can experience burnout. The Work Institute’s report found that 12 out of 100 people left their job to attain a better work-life balance. Offering staff more flexible work hours using flextime, job sharing, or telecommuting where staff work from home (when possible) are some solutions to address the work-life balance challenge.

Telecommuting or remote work may be the best solution for personnel who may be in danger of burnout. Can your company implement processes and technology so that employees may work remotely from home? Airtasker.com surveyed 1,000 full-time employees and found that remote work made employees more productive and allowed them to have more time for their personal lives. 

Working from home saved employees an average of 8.5 hours per week previously wasted on commuting. And most importantly, remote workers were more focused and productive, with an average non-productive time of 37 minutes while at the office and 27 minutes while at home.

Work Environment

Several of the reasons employees quit their job have to do with the work environment itself. The reasons employees left included:

  • Manager behavior: 11 out of 100
  • Well-being: 8 out of 100
  • Job characteristics: 8 out of 100
  • Literal work environment: 5 out of 100

Reducing conflict and high-pressure in the work environment may be difficult in certain healthcare facilities like an urgent care facility or an ambulatory surgical center. Still, it’s worth the effort if your organization wants to attract and retain employees. The benefits go well beyond team morale — improving the work environment can enhance the quality of care and reduce costly errors. Consider how the following improvements can benefit your company:

Redesign the Office Layout

Improve flow by separating patient traffic from areas where medical staff frequently access. Separate entrances make it easier for staff to enter and exit patient rooms and work with less interruption. Besides separating patients from staff, give management their own area away from staff, so that team members can work freely without feeling overly observed.

Create an Environment With Well-Being in Mind

A calm and inviting environment is ideal for patients, but consider your staff’s needs as well. Repaint walls in a soothing neutral color; there are many options, from soft whites to bolder grays. Simple improvements like natural or improved lighting, live plants, and ergonomic office furniture add comfort and function in the workspace.

Improvements Start at the HR Level

Attracting new hires and retaining existing personnel is essential to your company’s growth. It’s one of the most important tasks of the HR department. Implementing new ideas and technology to create an ideal work environment can better position your company as one of the most sought-after in the job market.