More remote work
A recent Gallup poll revealed that 62 percent of employed adults in the U.S. have been working from home during the pandemic. While this is a dramatic shift in the way many employers do businesses, an increase in remote work is in line with existing workplace trends. From 2005 to 2017, the number of remote workers in the U.S. rose 157 percent and the trend could continue even after businesses reopen, now that employers are realizing how many jobs can be performed from home. The same Gallup poll found three in five U.S. workers who have been working at home during the pandemic would like to continue to work from home after public health restrictions are lifted. Businesses may find that they can save on office space costs by letting employees work remotely.
Having the flexibility to work from home is a great option for all workers but could be especially helpful in making workplaces more inclusive for workers with disabilities. In our Workplace 2020 study, Guardian found that while 70 percent of workers with disabilities want to telecommute, only 18 percent had the option before the pandemic.1 Making remote work a permanent provision for employees could dramatically increase the number of jobs open to disabled workers.
For employers who are still figuring out how to best manage a remote team, our tips for transitioning your team to remote work could help.
Better work-life balance
With so many parents juggling their own workload with full-time parenting of children who would normally be in school or childcare, work-life balance is more important than ever. Employers who can let parents work from home, work on flexible schedules, or otherwise find the right balance between caregiving and work may now see the value in offering more flexibility to employees going forward. This could be especially helpful for parents who struggle to pay for childcare or who have limited childcare options, and for caregivers who look after ill or disabled family members with little outside support.
In the same Workforce study, we found that caregiving responsibilities have a profound impact on the employment opportunities and financial wellbeing of single parents, parents of children with special needs, and caregivers of elderly parents. Single working parents have a lower household income overall, and only 50 percent of single working mothers are employed full time. Single parents are less likely to have health insurance, life insurance, or a retirement plan, and score lower on overall wellbeing. Caregivers deal with similar stresses. Families of children with special needs are more likely to live paycheck-to-paycheck, change jobs frequently, and experience job-related stress
If employers made current accommodations permanent for the employees who need them most, these gaps could begin to close. Caregivers are more likely to rate flexibility and improved work life balance “highly important” than employees without caregiving responsibilities, and three in five single parents want flexible schedules or telecommuting options.
Expanded access to paid sick leave
Employers are now more aware than ever of the dangers of employees coming to work sick, and the economic toll for employees who get sick without paid sick days. That’s why the Families First Coronavirus Response Act included expanded access to paid leave for employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees, including paid family leave for employees who need to care for a sick relative.
Paid leave was already a pressing topic before the pandemic, and some states have recently expanded their paid leave provisions. Offering paid leave has the potential to improve workplace safety and is especially helpful for caregivers who may need to take leave to care for a family member even when current public health conditions subside.
Mental health as a workplace priority
Prior to the pandemic, mental health was a growing problem in the workplace. One in every four adults is dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues, and the same number wish their employer made mental health counseling and substance abuse a benefit to employees. At the same time, two in five employers also considered these benefits important, but most had been unable to provide access to their employees. Now that the majority of the workforce is facing additional stress at once, employers may be more concerned than ever with supporting their employees’ mental health.
Since depression was the leading cause of disability claims in the U.S. before the pandemic, supporting employee mental health will likely continue to be a priority even after the additional stress of the pandemic wanes. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be essential resources for workers who are struggling, but these benefits are often underused because employees aren’t aware of what help is available to them. If employers offering these benefits promote these resources to their employees during these difficult times, they may see demand for benefits increase.
Try these expert tips to help support your employees’ mental health.
Employers and employees alike are undergoing a difficult period of stress, grief, and rapid change. Employers can use what we learn from this experience to create more inclusive, empathetic, and supportive workplaces for all employees, and to be better prepared to weather any future disruptions to the way we work.