Covid-19 has already changed the way the world works forever, but its transformations are far from set in stone. Businesses are constantly finding new ways to adapt to the pandemic, but one key theme is flexibility. A survey conducted by ADP Canada and Maru/Blue found that 55% of businesses are maintaining the flexible work policies they introduced at the start of the Covid-19 crisis, signalling a trend that’s likely here to stay.
For some industries, though, adopting flexibility may not be so simple. Large workforces, highly-specialized teams, and close contact environments can all severely complicate any attempts to give workers a break. Even so, the importance of maintaining low levels of absenteeism in some industries has made worker accommodation an absolute must.
Flexibility and absenteeism reduction will look different for every business, but there are a few key tenets of the practice that all businesses could learn a thing or two from, such as:
1. Streamlined hourly scheduling
Hourly workers are often those whose jobs put them at the greatest risk of exposure to Covid-19 and therefore are the ones who need the most accommodation. Nowhere else is this more important than in scheduling: according to a survey conducted by flexible scheduling platform MyWorkChoice, 87% of hourly workers say that control over their schedule is extremely important to them. With numbers like that at play, companies can no longer afford not offering flexible scheduling options.
The pandemic has put nearly every worker’s obligations into flux, whether that means taking on a second job or increased responsibilities at home. The result of this is a workforce in great need of options when it comes to when they’re actually on the clock. Businesses that stick with rigid schedules risk driving away the workers that need flexibility in order to survive. As more and more companies adopt flexible scheduling policies and platforms, the ones that don’t will be left more exposed than ever before.
2. Investing in PPE
While flexible scheduling may be of top priority for many workers, there’s an even larger factor at play that all companies are grappling with: not just getting employees into the workplace, but keeping them safe while they’re there. Very few workers will willingly show up for a position that doesn’t adequately account for Covid-19 risk, and a sizable investment in personal protective equipment is one of the only ways to keep that risk low.
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Masks, face shields, air purifiers, ultraviolet lights, physical distancing barriers, and so on — there is no measure too severe when the health and wellbeing of your workers is on the line. A proper set of PPE will show your team that you’re making the workplace as safe as possible, discouraging high rates of absenteeism plaguing your business right when you need them the least.
3. Comped home offices
For workers with essential roles that can still manage to work from home, the challenge isn’t find time — it’s finding the right setup. No home office is going to have the level of network security and IT infrastructure that the typical office has, and this discrepancy can lead to reduced work quality and greater risk of attrition. Thankfully, companies have an easy solution to this at their disposal: pay for workers’ home offices.
Project management platform Basecamp has now made it policy to pay each of its employees $1000 every three years in order to keep their home office cutting edge, following in the footsteps of companies that have adopted similar policies such as Shopify, Twitter, and dozens more. Simply put, a worker with a comfortable and effective home office setup is more likely to “show up” to work and more likely to work harder when she does — making any investment in home office equipment well worth the cost.
4. Free childcare
One of the biggest need increases during the pandemic has been child care, and the embrace of virtual schooling by a number of districts across the country guarantees that this need is not going anywhere anytime soon. Despite the fact that millions of employees are now juggling work and child care at the same time, only 32% of companies have outlined child care plans according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management — a truly staggering figure given that $13 billion are lost annually from inadequate child care resources.
Children will always be an employee’s first priority, so employers looking to lower absenteeism and increase engagement should take the idea of company-subsidized child care very seriously. Even paying a portion of the overall child care bill can make a huge difference; as long as employees know that you’re doing your part to increase their flexibility, their gratitude will be evident.
5. Advanced contact tracing
No matter how flexible your policies are, how much distance you place between your workers, or how much PPE you provide them, the odds that someone in your company tests positive for Covid-19 at some point are very high. While businesses should do everything they can to reduce the odds of this happening, they also need to confront the reality that outbreak preparedness is just as important as outbreak prevention. For many businesses, the right kind of preparedness should start and end with a robust contact tracing scheme.
Whatever scheduling platform you use, be sure that you can search back through old shifts to see who was on the job with whom. If your company doesn’t use hourly workers, implement a check-in system at the office so that there’s never any doubt as to who was in close proximity at any given time. You may not be able to guarantee that your employees won’t become infected, but you can do everything in your power to keep the number of infections as low as possible.
Now more than ever, businesses need to be ready to care for their employees — not just through empty words and promises but through genuine commitments to flexibility. Covid-19 has hit all workers hard, and employers who take the right steps now will be rewarded with a happier, healthier workforce later on.