In March 2020, EverythingBenefits established its Client Advisory Board with HR and Benefits leaders representing the EverythingBenefits client and partner ecosystem. We kicked off the year during what at the time was thought to be a 2-week quarantine, anticipating our next face-to-face meeting to be at the SHRM conference in June. Fast forward 12 weeks and we found ourselves meeting virtually again. This time, we thought it best to focus on the elephant in the room - COVID-19 - and its impact. We discussed the following themes:
Best Practices for Preparing a Safe Workplace for Employees. Businesses quickly realized that their current standard of cleanliness would not suffice during COVID-19. Erin Talbot, VP of HR at Diamonds Direct noted that while employees were working from home, the company placed even larger emphasis on making sure the office was being sanitized continuously in addition to following procedures outlined in the CDC guidelines. The company also made sure to add another PTO code to their HRIS system for COVID exposure. Diamonds Direct also initiated a partnership with a lab for self testing kits - so it does not take weeks to quarantine or wait on testing results slowing down return to work or risking additional exposure. Finally, Extensis Group shared a new procedure that mandates for Teledoc calls before coming into the office to ensure no exposure or symptoms. Maintaining continuous open communication between leaders and employees was a common theme shared by the HR leaders throughout our meeting, as it is a critical component to making employees feel safe when they are ready to come back into the office.
Expectations for Open Enrollment. Everyone knew that open enrollment would not be the same this year. CAB members’ primary concern was ensuring that their constituents whether clients or employees have a the best experience possible, no matter the circumstances. Much of proactive planning has started literally months into the quarantine. Vinnie Romero, Sr. VP of Service & Operation at Extensis Group, mentioned that their clients’ open enrollment this year will be entirely virtual. Webinar and video-based employee assistance will help ensure employees are comfortable making those important life choices and navigating the online or mobile interfaces. Alice Hilton, HR Product Manager, Innovative Business Solutions, is encouraging her clients to get their open enrollment information together early to better accommodate any last minute updates and potentially increase the open enrollment for a better experience. Fortunately, as businesses approach open enrollment, Erin Talbot, VP of HR at Diamonds Direct, noted that benefit rates have remained relatively flat and they are getting creative to minimize impacts to employees costs.
Supporting Working Parents. The closure of schools added a lot of additional pressure for working parents. Their homes were suddenly not only an office but a classroom too. Then, school was out, and kids were home for the summer, literally. The group noted the importance of supporting their clients and colleagues who also go by Mom or Dad. Rachel Lyubovitzky, CEO of EverythingBenefits, quickly jumped on a new benefit idea in Outschool.com, which offers educational time for kids at home. For many working parents, getting back to the office raised a series of challenges. One issue being, children would still be home from school when their parents are back at work. To overcome these issues, Extensis Group anticipates their return to the office, aligning with the return to school.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a series of unprecedented challenges, but these resilient business leaders haven’t let up in finding the next best steps to lead their organizations forward with new regulations, sanitation guidelines, and employee benefits.
We are grateful to be able to expand our sources of insightful ideas and leadership for continued innovation. We look forward to more sharing of ideas from our Client Advisory Board. Interested in participating or want to learn more about our Client Advisory Board? Download our Charter here.
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