In a matter of months, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people work, live, socialize, and more. The surreal new normal has altered personal and professional lives on short notice.
Many employers are now starting to adjust their benefits and incentive packages to lure their employees back to the traditional workplace environment.
WHY ARE SO MANY EMPLOYEES RELUCTANT TO RETURN TO WORK?
There are several reasons employees are choosing to stay at home during the pandemic. Employee safety is the main reason. CDC, Federal, and State recommendations contribute to employee concerns. Relaxed unemployment compensation requirements are another. The safety and well-being of everyone needs to be considered. Do you have safety protocols in place so your employees know they can come to work worry-free?
In some cases where remote work is available, sometimes employees become accustomed to this change and prefer this due to having more flexibility, especially if they have a family and childcare is an expense. When remote work is not available, or no longer available due to restrictions being lifted, employers sometimes need to entice their employees back to work.
WHAT ARE SOME INCENTIVES TO PROVIDE EMPLOYEES TO RETURN TO WORK?
Ensure you have a Covid-19 Safety Policy and Procedure in place accessible to employees
Offer free or reduced parking and/or fuel reimbursement
Offer free bus passes or a pick-up/drop-off shuttle
Provide flexible working arrangements
Hybrid work from home days
Compressed work week – longer hours, shorter days
Provide support to working parents or childcare stipends
Implement mental health and wellness programs
Hero/Hazzard Pay – pay increase for employees deemed as essential
Recruit retired/former staff
Simple thank you emails or cards
Create a relaxation room in addition to your normal break room
Free lunches, take-home meals, or access to meal programs
Arrange for food truck days
DO YOUR EMPLOYEES KNOW THEIR WORK ENVIRONMENT IS SAFE?
A covid-19 policy and procedure is key to your employees knowing you care about their safety and you have provided them with information on ways to reduce risk on the job. In addition to this, a separate training should be implemented and required of all employees reporting back at work.
Since safety is a number one concern, if employees do not feel safe, or feel like you are putting other things above their safety, this will discourage employees from coming back to work.
TRANSPORTATION BENEFITS ARE A BIG DEAL
With the shift to remote work, telecommuters are often fitting the bill for the burden of day-to-day utility costs. This has created a windfall, at times, for companies. However, some organizations are reinvesting these savings on their employees.
At the same time, employees are also saving plenty of time and money without the daily commute and more. Historically, employees have nearly two hours each week commuting to and from the office, per the US Census Bureau. As part of the transition back to the traditional office, some employers are offering a few incentives to offset the cost of the daily commute.
Some companies are promising to reimburse fuel and transportation costs, including parking for all returning workers. Others are providing employees with free bus passes during the pandemic.
WHEN THE NORMAL WORK WEEK TRANSFORMS WITH THE TIMES
Have you thought about what it means to work a normal work week? Probably not in a while. With the adjustment of having to come back to work, some companies are opting to provide a hybrid schedule with some office days and some remote days. This allows the adjustment of mainly working from home but giving the employee a little more time before a full adjustment (perhaps with childcare plans) back to work.
A compressed work week is also an option. Instead of working five 8-hour days, why not offer your employees a four 10-hour workday or even a three 13.5-hour workday (adjusting those times longer for your normal lunches). This allows employees to have those off days as free time instead of having to work remote some days.
SOMETIMES ALL WE NEED IS SUPPORT
Two types of support are very important during this time. Childcare support and mental health and wellness support. Parents have been pushed and pulled so many ways during the pandemic, especially with school situations being remote and sometimes going back and forth in person/remote. Employees need to know you understand their situation and if providing monetary childcare incentives is not an option, at least being as flexible as you can with their schedules.
If you don’t have your own health and wellness program, do some research, and find some resources you can share with your employees. Everyone is stressed out right now so providing some resources also shows you understand.
THE SIMPLEST THINGS CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
While it might not seem like a big deal, just a thank you or welcome back can really turn someone’s negative day into a positive one. Weekly, personal thank you e-mails are great. If your budget allows, why not have snacks for your group or a day or two where you have breakfast and/or lunch served? Plan a food truck day where you have 2 or 3 different food trucks stop in your parking lot and allow your employees extra time to enjoy the food and outdoors.
Everyone loves a bonus too! Even with the economy where it is right now, some companies are doing very well. Why not pass that on to your employees? Even small $50 gift cards here and there will show you are glad to have your team back.