It's that time of year again: time for companies to examine their current employee benefits and consider their options for increasing value - preferably without increasing cost. This year, such decisions are further complicated (and made more challenging) by a global pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, many companies are focusing on tools to help employees stay mentally and emotionally healthy while they engage in social distancing to protect their physical health. More and more employers are expanding employee benefits for virtual healthcare (telehealth) and increasing access to programs that will help improve and maintain employees' mental health and well-being.
Managing remote employees is hardly a new concept. In fact, the shift to working from home was well underway - and trending upward - long before anyone had even heard of COVID-19. Between 2005 and 2018, the number of "regular work-from-home" employees increased by a whopping 173 percent,1 with 15 percent of "wage and salary workers" working exclusively from home during 2017 - 2018.2 When the pandemic struck, many businesses that were able to have their employees work from home did so, and by June 2020 "42 percent of the U.S. labor force . . . [was] working from home full time."
When it comes to employee onboarding, the buddy system is one of the most reliable tools HR has at its disposal. Done well, it facilitates an immediate personal connection between new hires and the wider organization, and in the long term it can help drive employee engagement and improve time-to-productivity metrics. Such measures are especially critical in a work environment shaped by COVID-19, with many new hires spending their first days and weeks isolated at home.
Unfortunately, most buddy systems are not set up to support the current work-from-home reality. So what can HR professionals do to adapt their existing programs for remote hires?