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DeltaSigma Insight Series - What is the new normal?

DeltaSigma, LLC Consulting | COVID-19 - How health plans can confront a pandemic

Vaccinations are widely available and nearly 50% of all Americans have now had both shots. Schools are opening, many restaurants are back, and it feels like we’re getting back to normal. Hardly. What will undoubtedly go down as the worst pandemic to hit the country in lives lost, hospitalizations and economic impact is morphing into a paradigm shift in virtually every aspect of our society. In this series on the new normal, we will review what the new normal looks like in the healthcare industry and the challenges and opportunities in front of healthcare executives.

In this first issue, we’ll predict the new normal in managing your organization’s workforce.

COVID-19 has upended and disrupted almost every aspect of our society, not the least of which is how employers engage and interact with their workforce. After more than a year where millions of people worked from home, the country is beginning to emerge to a new and very changed normal. What will that new normal look like and what are some of the major challenges that employers will face?

Employee safety is the number one concern

While many employers are hesitant to require that all employees get vaccinated, their employees are demanding a safe office space where COVID-19 won’t be spread. It's only a matter of time but it's likely that most employers will do everything possible to vaccinate their workforce and limit exposure to non-vaccinated individuals. This includes incentives for staff and their family members to become vaccinated. In addition, assuring that air circulation filters meet or exceed CDC requirements and new deep cleaning procedures will become standard fare for offices.

Adding to this will be increased emphasis on preventing violence in the workplace as people emerge from a year where political animosities have spurred controversy over COVID-19 protective measures and spawned attacks on people within minority groups.

Hybrid offices will be the norm

While many employees can’t wait to get back to an office setting, others have settled into a virtual office environment that doesn’t include long commutes or the hassles of a workplace noise and other interruptions. Some have had to add daycare and eldercare to their daily activities as multi-generational homes have increased due to COVID-19 fears. It's likely that employers will settle on a hybrid office structure that accommodates those who want to go to the office and those who would like to limit it. This is going to force employers to target new policies and procedures to this hybrid structure to assure that productivity and other work requirements are met, as well as increasing the pressure on managers to recruit and retain employees in a challenging environment.

Access to behavioral health services will be critical

The stress of the last year has pushed many people to the breaking point as isolation, fear of COVID-19, income pressures and political tension have become almost unbearable. Companies should partner with their Employee Assistance Program to reach out to employees and help them find the resources they need to reduce their stress and manage any behavioral health symptoms they may have.

Employee recruitment and retention will be challenging

No two ways about it, job hopping is much easier in a virtual environment and with the economy heating up, your employees will have increased opportunities to leave your organization. Keeping your workforce will require meeting their needs for expanded work/life balance and may include the addition of innovative benefits like back-up daycare, financial wellness and, especially for younger staff, tuition assistance and help with student debt. Team building will need to be a core competency of the successful post-COVID-19 company with greater emphasis on real connections between team members and management. One of the new opportunities with hybrid offices is the ability to increase the diversity of your workforce by recruiting outside of your normal work geography. This is particularly true for being able to recruit people with disabilities that have limited their ability to be commute to an office environment.

Management just got harder

Candid, frequent, factual communication will be essential for executives. The core tenets of why your firm exists, the importance of taking care of your members/customers and how you will do it through drastically changing times is critical. Reach out to your employees, individually or in group sessions to find out how they’re doing and what their top issues are. Stories will be written of how some companies stepped up in these crazy times to take care of their customers and employees in innovating ways. Write that story for your company.

Don Hall, MPH and Sherry Rohlfing are principals of DeltaSigma, a consulting firm that specializes in strategic problem solving and visioning for healthcare organizations. Our team has a long history of working with our clients to determine strategies to plan for and re-act to our constantly changing environment. We can help you plan for THE NEW NORMAL.

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