Once the practical concerns of restarting your business are covered and the issue of vaccines are addressed, it's time to look ahead. Here we cover virtual health and wellness, how COVID-19 will continue to shape our world, and rethinking the physical workplace.
6 takeaways for moving forward
Making predictions during a pandemic will always be tricky. We’ve gathered six takeaways on topics we think will play key roles as employers, employees, and customers shape the near and long-term future of the workplace.
Keep an eye on important milestones
We see three big milestones in the fight against COVID-19 and the push for a safe return to the workplace. The first is June 15th, when our home state of California is set to reopen – and we’re currently on track to meet that goal. The second is when vaccine supply meets or exceeds demand, meaning that anyone who wants to be vaccinated can be. The third is 70%, a ballpark figure, for what percentage of the population the CDC says needs to be vaccinated to reach crucial herd immunity against COVID-19.
Prioritizing employee mental health
A year of isolation, social unrest, and concerns over COVID-19 have left us all feeling drained. With the return to a physical workplace, your employees may need extra mental health support to manage the transition.
Be on the lookout for common ways mental health problems can manifest themselves, including:
Taking longer to do tasks
Difficulty thinking, reasoning, and deciding
Putting off or avoiding challenging work
Difficulty juggling tasks and responsibilities
How employers can help
By talking to your staff about the difficulties they’re facing, both at work and at home, business leaders and managers can prioritize mental health. Demonstrate you’re not only willing to listen, but also invested in finding fair and compassionate solutions.
Regular check-ins and transparency are crucial in times of uncertainty, and it’s important to take steps early in the return process to reinforce trust and caring within your teams. By bringing mental health issues to light, you build trust and encourage deeper conversations, all of which can lead to better long-term solutions.
Mental health and wellness initiatives aren't just the right thing to do: it’s smart business. By encouraging awareness, education, and open dialogue, you’re creating a healthier workplace that benefits everyone.
Blue Shield Spotlight
Increased mental health support during COVID-19
Blue Shield is committed to your employees’ physical and mental wellbeing. That’s
why we’ve expanded Teladoc® medical and behavioral health coverage to provide members with mental health services via phone, app, or video conferencing – ensuring virtual care to those who need it. Teladoc is available to members enrolled in all fully-insured Blue Shield commercial plans and employer-sponsored plans that have elected to offer Teladoc as a buy-up option.
“COVID-19 has upended lives, from the way people work and study, to their pastimes and social interactions,” said David Bond, LCSW, director of Behavioral Health for Blue Shield of California. “Mental health resources have never been more vital -- and catching the warning signs never more critical -- especially considering this prolonged period of isolation and uncertainty.”
In the broader community, Blue Shield’s BlueSky program has also increased its mental health offerings for middle and high school students during the pandemic.
How we’re helping
Blue Shield of California has given employees a Health Day Off (eight hours of paid time off) pre-COVID and we’ve doubled the Health Day Off allotment in 2021. In addition, we recently announced ‘Summer Fridays,’ ending the workday at 2pm on Fridays throughout the summer to give our employees a chance to start the weekend early, rest, and refuel.
These benefits add to our existing suite of tools for our employees and members. Our Wellvolution platform offers members personalized support and tools to help them take control of their health and wellbeing, including mental health and tobacco cessation programs. Additionally, we support youth-specific mental health resources through BlueSky.
Thinking about business transformation
After planning a safe and informed return to the workplace, business leaders are looking towards what comes next while integrating lessons learned from operating during the pandemic. Here are some strategies for taking a transformative approach to work and health that businesses, no matter your size or type, might consider going forward.
Rethinking work processes
Organizations that adapted by applying existing processes to remote work run the risk of falling back on what worked pre-pandemic. In returning to the workplace, there’s a chance to rethink some processes completely – with input from employees. For example, companies may have found some benefit to holding meetings virtually. Now, as work returns to the physical office, leaders have a chance to introduce a hybrid model incorporating employee feedback and new technologies.
Blue Shield Spotlight
Sandra Clarke on innovating and managing finances during a pandemic
“When you do a Google search, you get over two billion results for the word ‘innovation,’ so I think it means a lot of different things to different people – but you have to define it in a way that’s meaningful for your organization. It could mean rethinking how we do our jobs, or how we go to market…”
Sandra Clarke, senior vice president and CFO, Blue Shield of California
Seeking inspiration from other industries
Incorporating telehealth into the health care system is one example of an emerging trend which took hold quickly, and permanently, during the pandemic. It can also provide a model or inspiration for how your business could conduct meetings with clients, or appointments with customers, in a virtual setting. We’ve recognized the benefits of looking to other industries in this Phase of return planning, and the same approach applies to innovations.
Acknowledge that in-person social skills may take relearning
For businesses and individuals, returning to the workplace will come with certain physical and psychological challenges, whether it’s next month or next year. The immediate benefits of remote work may have been apparent for some employees, but the longer an individual works remotely the more daunting it may be to return to an in-person workplace. Just as it took some time and practice to get used to web-based meetings, it will take time to get reaccustomed to physically sharing working and meeting spaces. Also, remind all employees that pants are not optional.
Considering a new benefits strategy
Like any well-developed communication plan or vaccine policy, a company’s benefits strategy should be tailored (and updated) to their workforce as it is now, not as it was. At Blue Shield of California, we adapted our offerings with features like virtual appointments and prescription home delivery options. With 49% of adults polled saying they had a telemedicine visit during the pandemic, the convenience and flexibility of telemedicine is especially important for your employees when their access to care is limited. Our members can schedule on-demand, general medical visits 24/7/365 with a U.S. board-certified physician. Beyond general needs, telemedicine is available for Specialty care including physical therapy, virtual kidney disease monitoring & support, and support for drug misuse and eating disorders.
Blue Shield is supporting employer mental health efforts with access to certified mental health professionals, with appointments by phone or video through telemedicine. Even after the pandemic, the ease of virtual appointments and prescription home delivery will help employees balance a busy work schedule with making time for their health and wellbeing. Our member-facing Teledoc page is a great resource to share with employees. Reach out to your Blue Shield of California Account Manager for more information on these and other new benefits, as we continue to evolve our suite of services.
Working with your Blue Shield Account Manager
For more information about services available to your organization now and in the future, reach out to your Blue Shield Account Manager. For continually updated healthcare news and articles visit the Blue Shield of California News Center or subscribe here to receive our latest content directly. We’re working to transform healthcare, and we’re ready to help your company’s transformation too.