How to Prepare for an Uncertain Future

 In Employers

COVID-19 drove an unprecedented number of workers into home offices, leading some prognosticators to pronounce the end of the office as we know it. The level of uncertainty around returning to work would seem to belie that claim, as over a third of companies say they’ll be back at work by the first quarter, while a roughly equal share don’t know when they’ll reopen their offices again, according to The Conference Board.


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Whenever employees head back to offices, it won’t be the same. HR teams will have to work around staggered shifts and continued Zoom calls. Consequently, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 21% of employers are changing their open enrollment processes, mostly to take them online. How can you do that in the face of rising Zoom fatigue? Here are some ideas.

  • Understand what has everyone so tired. National Geographic identified why video calls are so exhausting. Head-and-shoulders framing and poor image quality disguises social cues, making people work harder to see things they understand implicitly in person. Multiple floating heads on a screen make it hard to focus or even keep up with who’s speaking. Design meetings with these challenges in mind to help keep focus on the content.
  • Make sure communication is frequent and two-way. Different workers need to hear messages in different ways, and more than once, according to Harvard Business Review. Repeating messages frequently, across different mediums, increases the chance that your communications are actually being received. Similarly, give employees different ways to ask questions. Some workers may not feel comfortable asking their managers about mental health benefits, for example. Just like having various ways of getting information out, establish various ways of bringing it in. 
  • Emphasize the company portal. It’s never been more important to give employees access to the right information at the time they need it. With many schools closed, some workers are balancing home school and remote work. They may not be able to attend a benefits meeting with their team, but they can watch a video later. A well-designed company portal lets employers share benefits information in multiple formats, including infographics, videos, podcasts or transcripts. Give workers a place where they can easily find accurate information, even at 3 a.m.

Be open and transparent. Employees are 12 times as likely to be engaged when they perceive communications from their companies as open and transparent, Alight found, but only 46% of workers believe that’s what they’re getting from employers. A separate study by Orangefiery found that transparency was the most important thing workers wanted to see in communications from their employers.

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