March 13, 2020 is a day I won’t easily forget.
As the threat of a global pandemic quickly approached, on this day, we decided to move our workforce fully remote. We initially thought we would be working from home for maybe two to four weeks, but none of us could have predicted what the following months would bring.
Here we are, 15 months later, and the Springbuk workforce is still “working from anywhere.” While we have all had to adjust and adapt to a continuously changing environment, as a leader, it has been incredible to see the development of our workforce. And, I look forward to embracing a new future of workplace benefits.
The Rise of Alternative Benefits
Even though I miss the physical connection with my team, I’ve quickly noticed the positive benefits of a remote workforce. Given that I live an hour or so long commute away from our former office location, I get to sleep longer, I’m healthier and I’m far more efficient in my work.
The benefits of a remote or hybrid workforce exceed just traditional health and wellness benefits, financial assistance and paid time off. As an employee, you receive alternative benefits working from home than an office setting can provide. You don’t have to commute, you don’t have to allocate a monthly budget to park, you save money on gas – the list goes on.
Since I’m at home more, I have also been available to drive my kids to soccer practice, coach the middle school basketball team, and spend more time with my family. One of our employees even said she started walking her dog three times a day at the start of the pandemic and dropped 15 pounds. Another has decided to return to school to get a graduate degree with the time saved commuting. These are simple things that your employer doesn’t even have to offer you, as it’s part of the work from home luxury.
From an employer side, there are also many additional benefits that come from a remote workforce. For example, now that we no longer have an office, our team is not limited to the Indianapolis area. We can now hire the most qualified candidates in America that we believe will best help us accomplish our mission of preventing disease with data. What started out as a local workforce has now grown to include employees from 23 states, spanning from New York to California.
We’ve always encouraged our employees to utilize our flexible scheduling options and unlimited PTO policy. The typical 9-5 desk job isn’t as standard as it was years ago. Some of our employees have adapted slightly earlier (or later) schedules to take their kids to school, attend appointments or run an important errand. Understanding that every employee’s needs are different has been crucial to an effective remote workforce. These benefits are what people are actively seeking out when applying to jobs. People want to know that they are trusted, valued and compensated for their hard work – it’s up you as the employer to make this possible.
The Future of the American Office
As the company behind the Healthiest Employers awards program, we surveyed our 2021 applicants and the results indicated that 19% of companies have returned to work full-time and 43% are currently operating on a hybrid schedule. Only 13% of the surveyed organizations indicated they are still working remotely full-time.
Even though so many Americans are returning to the office, we believe that the advantages our employees receive while working remotely have added to our organization’s mission and core values. For this reason, we plan to continue to offer our “Work from Anywhere” policy. Since we’ve been remote for over a year now, our people have truly adapted to this new model. They like it, and it works. We no longer have our large office space and have instead rented a condensed office in our building for in-person meetings and for anyone who may want to get out of their home for the day.
We refer to our workforce as “Work from Anywhere” because we want our people to take advantage of the fact that they’re no longer tied to their desk in the office and can truly work from anywhere. We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to this and several people have told us that they love having the ability to work from different locations. I’ve had people share with me that they’ve worked at coffee shops, on a beach in Florida, next to the pool and even from Shenandoah National Park! While we strongly encourage our employees to take time off, the ability to travel while still remaining “in office” adds so much more freedom to their schedules.
Many people say they look forward to “getting back to normal”, but the truth is: our world has changed. There are so many lingering questions about how the effects of a global pandemic will impact our lives in the future. Several industries require an office space to carry out their daily business functions. However, there are also many employers out there that believe their employees need to meet in person to be engaged in their work and run a successful business. That’s not my approach as a leader. I’ve always believed that if you hire great people who are on board with your mission, they will work hard to help fulfill the organization’s purpose, no matter where they’re located.
Engaging the Virtual Workforce
Certain demographics are struggling more than others when it comes to working remotely. Individuals who are single and live alone are finding it difficult to maintain social relationships, both at work and outside of work. As a company that has always had an amazing culture, this has been the most difficult for many of our employees. In our quarterly survey last month, 100% (yes, every single employee) indicated that they are proud of their teammates! It’s so incredible to have a group of people with such great chemistry and that our culture is a strong representation of our core values. We owe it to them to make sure they are feeling fulfilled and heard during this new era of the American workplace.
To combat some of these feelings of isolation, our departments have held weekly virtual check-ins and happy hours. This provides everyone with the ability to meet with their team in a non-formal setting and talk about things that are going on in life.
Telehealth visits skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, only 11% of healthcare consumers had utilized telehealth benefits. By April of 2020, about 45% of companies had at least one claim that was related to telemedicine. While virtual health visits made sense during a global pandemic, people also realized how simple it was to get basic care. In a world where the internet is everywhere, people love the idea of simplicity and ease. These organizations will likely continue and expand this benefit as we continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic.
As more and more Americans receive their COVID-19 vaccines, we’re also moving toward quarterly in-person events. As mentioned, our workforce is now all over the country and there are several employees that have never met each other in person. In July, we will celebrate our first in-person meeting since February of 2020, and I look forward to seeing everyone again. For those not comfortable attending, we will still offer a virtual live stream so that they can still be connected during these three days of meetings. It has been important to us as a leadership team to try our best to accommodate everyone’s comfort levels. The option to attend virtually also ensures that those members of our organization are still involved and socializing with the rest of the team. We have also encouraged participating in virtual wellness challenges, volunteering within the community, and hold town hall meetings every Friday to inform everyone about the different things happening in the market and within the organization.
The past 15 months have truly been a whirlwind with many ups and downs. I’m so proud of the company we have built and look forward to all the wonderful things that are to come from our team. Jessica Lopez, Chief of Staff at U-Haul and a Healthiest Employers award winner told us, “If you take care of your team, they will take care of your business. It all just works in a perfectly magical way.” And I believe this. Although a global pandemic can be a frightening thing, by taking care of our people, we have created so much positivity out of a negative situation. The world of healthcare is changing and at Springbuk, we look forward to helping lead the change.
Rod Reasen, II, is the CEO of Springbuk, a health intelligence platform with a vision to prevent disease with data. Prior to launching Springbuk, Rod founded and scaled a fee-based benefits consulting firm into one of the largest in the Midwest when it was acquired by a publicly traded firm in 2010. In 2009, he launched the nationally recognized Healthiest Employers award program that has recognized over 8,000 employers at the top healthiest workplaces in their region and who represent nearly half of the working population in America. From those learnings, Rod dreamed of a day where employers could make the best unencumbered decisions using data. That passion drove him to co-found Springbuk, which now represents more than 4,000 employers including hundreds of household brands. His energy is contagious and the world is benefiting from his vision to disrupt healthcare.
First Person Advisors, now a subsidiary of NFP, is proud to be a long supporter and sponsor of the Healthiest Employers of Indiana program. The 2021 application window is open through July 31. Nominate your organization for this prestigious award here. If you’re just getting started with your health and well-being strategy, we’re happy to help you map a plan to achieve your goals. Reach out to us here, directly to our advisory team or tweet at us!