Tara Demoura

17 mar, 2021

3 Keys for the New Workplace

Tara DeMoura, BCBSRI vice president - Employer segment

Every day more Rhode Islanders are rolling up their sleeves to receive the COVID-19 vaccine—which is great news and essential for our return to some semblance of normalcy. We all have plans for our post-COVID personal lives, but what will our professional lives look like?

This is new territory for all of us. During the pandemic Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) focused on three key elements in designing strategies that would allow us to serve our clients and their employees and support our own BCBSRI associates: flexibility, open communication, and employee well-being. Here’s the approach we took, with tips that might also help your business to move forward.

What worked for us

Be flexible – When BCBSRI shifted to fully remote work last March, we knew a typical workday schedule would be challenging for associates with young children or caregiver responsibilities. We instituted flexible work hours so associates could meet their family obligations without sacrificing customer or client needs. We discouraged early morning meetings. Everyone understood there might be the occasional technology glitch as we all learned to navigate our new digital workspace. And when a curious toddler or family pet made an appearance during a video call, it added a smile to a stressful situation.

Plus, to ensure our associates had the tools they needed to stay productive, we offered a stipend for home office equipment.

By recognizing our associates’ challenges and offering flexible solutions, we provided some much-needed peace of mind for our teams which, in turn, enabled them to remain focused on our customers.

Communicate – Throughout 2020, BCBSRI used weekly emails from our CEO, regular team meetings, and updates on the company intranet to keep our associates informed about the ever-changing situation of the COVID pandemic. We worked to ease concerns wherever possible and, when we weren’t quite sure what would happen next, we said so. Crisis communications experts generally agree that being honest, compassionate, and confident can go a long way in earning trust and building consensus.

Focus on well-being – Throughout the pandemic we emphasized the need for self-care: finding time to exercise, eat well, rest, and recharge. Like all BCBSRI members, our associates have access to discounts on healthy living products through Blue365.

For some people, though, these forms of self-care simply aren’t enough. When the CDC surveyed Americans last summer, more than 40% of respondents reported depression, anxiety, and increased substance use as a result of pandemic living. As a nation, we are facing a mental healthcare crisis, and yet too many people fail to seek treatment—often because they feel there is a stigma associated with needing help or they fear repercussions at work. Employers can help to reduce these concerns by speaking openly about the importance of behavioral healthcare—perhaps even sharing personal challenges if they’re so inclined—and ensuring employees understand how to use available resources.

BCBSRI offers a wide array of behavioral health and substance use services, including Doctors Online—which enables employees to speak with licensed therapists and psychiatrists from the comfort and privacy of their homes—and a 24-hour referral number (1-800-274-2958) through our partner, Beacon Health Options, for members in crisis. In addition, we will be launching “Rhode to Resilience" in late April. Beginning with a series of videos, this program will teach members about resilience and how it can help them cope with stressful situations or life events.

I recognize that every business has its own challenges and circumstances to consider. Nonetheless, it’s clear that a flexible mindset, open communication, and focus on employee well-being are essential to thriving in 2021. Things are looking up, and there’s reason to believe we may enjoy a more typical Rhode Island summer after all. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible and reach out to BCBSRI with any questions.

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