Employee Communications Guidance: Week of 5/11

As millions of employees return to work in Italy and parts of the United States reopen this week, governments and corporations continue monitoring the situation closely to ensure new safety protocols and guidelines are effective. Beyond immediate priorities for a safe return to work, conversations around the implications COVID-19 has had on the workforce and how they influence the future of work are hitting the mainstream.

Here’s what we’re seeing on the employee communications and engagement front this week:

Grim data around workforce impact. Several organizations released updated numbers around the pandemic’s impact on employees. The Conference Board reported that those most vulnerable to layoffs are young, less educated, women and from minority groups. But company leaders are also feeling impacts, as 61% of companies had their senior managers’ salaries reduced beyond the top five highest-paid executives. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shared a slightly better outlook: 68% of U.S. employers believe they are done with layoffs, and more than half expect furloughed salaried workers to return to work in three months. A thoughtful employee engagement approach is much needed to help remaining employees navigate through these difficult times and rebuild the economy.

Employers and employees consider an extended work-from-home model. Major corporations openly discussed a more permanent transition to a remote setup for the majority of their workforce after seeing success in recent months. And the majority of employees agree – 60% of Americans reported a preference to work from home “as much as possible” even after restrictions are lifted. As corporations head toward a deep recession, a reduction in real estate costs and an employee desire to remain remote make this option increasingly appealing.

A new benefit for at-home technology. Following the trend above, more companies are also discussing the introduction of a new stipend to help employees set up their home office space. If companies are looking to save overhead costs with a remote workforce, this new benefit would be a meaningful addition to drive greater productivity and morale.

The potential to shape better work/life balance. COVID-19 catapulted the issue of work/life balance to the forefront as parents juggle childcare, home schooling and work, and many others work through lunch breaks, evenings and weekends. When adjusting mid- to long-term policies, it’s worth considering additional actions that can truly help employees accomplish better balance, particularly as the road ahead looks to be a bumpy one for all. These efforts could take the form of improved Paid Time Off (PTO) and sick leave policies, as well as shortened work hours.

Acceleration of robots in the workplace. Even though the number of workers available for hire skyrocketed, companies are exploring more investments in automation to adapt to risks around employee safety and social distancing rules. While we don’t expect an overnight influx of robots in facilities, companies need to think ahead on reskilling their workforce in this new reality.

*If you have questions or are seeking counsel, please reach out to Carla Keppler at ckeppler@golin.com.