Our Experts Answer Your Questions (Part 2)

From remote workers to real estate, we’ve got the answers to your questions about how, during this pandemic, HR issues can affect your business and your value.

Below is a summary of Part 2 of our “Ask the Experts” webinar series.

To read Part 1, click here. To watch the webinar in full, click here.

Our Experts:

  • Moderator:  Francesca San Diego, Consulting CFO & Member
  • Bryan J. Geisbauer, Senior Vice President | Shareholder
  • Jack Landers
  • Laura Nieman
  • John O. Todd III, Financial Advisor
  • Mickey Welcher, Managing Director, Biotech and Technology

Q: Many employers have employees working remotely but will eventually have to make a choice about returning to work. What are companies doing to make this transition?

Laura: We are seeing a gamut. Some companies are transitioning to a full work-from-home environment while others are continuing to struggle with a remote workforce. We are seeing businesses create hybrid environments and solutions.

Q: Do you see many businesses having to reduce staff in physical locations to increase safety measures?

Laura: A challenge for many is the physical distancing and/or mask requirements to avoid being the source of an outbreak, so mitigating risk is key. For the companies that are returning to a physical location, they are reducing staff at the location. Again, a commonality we’re seeing are hybrid solutions, such as having staff working on different days or different times of days and other types of fluctuations in staffing.

Fran: Be sure to include personal protective equipment in your budgets. These must be provided to employees returning to work, as state and city guidelines require.

Q: What are employees’ biggest fears about returning to the workplace and how should companies address these?

Laura: There are a lot of fears related to safety and childcare. Companies should acknowledge these fears and make accommodations. Everyone is different so have individual, one-on-one conversations with employees.

Q: Are employees covered by their employer’s insurance when working at home?

 Jack: Yes, but you should get your broker involved as there are constant changes in insurance. For example, there is a new class code for employees working at home that will save on worker’s compensation insurance costs. Make sure your employment liability policy is in place, especially now, due to reductions in staff.  And get your employee handbook updated.

Q: If an employee catches COVID, is it a worker’s compensation claim?

Jack: Report the incident to your carrier immediately. There was a short-term law in place that automatically made COVID a worker’s compensation claim. But, as of September 18, 2020 through 2023, there are more requirements, making it less likely to be a worker’s comp claim.

Q: With so many remote workers, what is happening with rental space?

Bryan: We are expecting demand to be depressed. We haven’t seen a big change in rates yet and may not. Rates are tied to building finances and valuations and those aren’t changing. If your lease is up, there are opportunities, so understand your options. It is easy to make short-term deals right now, but if you can make a long-term one, now is a good time to do so.  Sublease space listings are increasing, reflecting the trend of companies putting space back on the market.

Q: What is the future of office space both short-term and long-term?

Bryan: Companies are planning for near-term, partial occupancy but most are anticipating a complete return to work in one to two years. The work-from-home model will become more mainstream. More companies will have satellite offices that allow for flexibility – flexibility is going to be paramount. Pre-COVID, 10% of professionals worked from home and we see this going up to the 25% mark.

Q: What companies are benefitting from the remote workforce?

Bryan: That is being heavily debated right now and there is a lot to consider. Younger workers have less privacy to work from home. Onboarding is tough. Collaboration is gone. We are in the midst of assessing how people will work in remote environments.

Q: How does a permanent work-from-home strategy impact business?

Bryan: The workplace is the fabric of a business and it breeds loyalty and culture. Newer and younger employees are not developing as quickly due to limited access to leadership. One study shows 70% of people would like to be in a workplace. Only 12% want to work at home full-time. Gen Z and Millennials are especially struggling.

Q: How does working remotely affect culture?

Laura: According to the Society for Human Resource Management, two out of three companies are struggling to maintain culture. We suggest that you solicit feedback and really listen to what your employees have to say to help implement change.

Q: How can companies support and monitor productivity with a remote workforce?

Laura: Be involved and talk to employees. Look for new and different ways to see what they need. Have a lot of one-on-one conversations. Look for creative solutions.

Fran: Communication is key. Find the communication method that works best with each team member. Set aside even just 5-10 minutes to connect. Be flexible and accommodating.

Q: What are employees saying are their biggest challenges when working from home?

Laura: Many employees find they are working too much, which is the opposite of what employers were concerned about. Employees have no time to decompress from work and they are dealing with distractions and interruptions at home.  There is a loneliness and lack of human interaction from working remotely. People can feel isolated.

Q: For growing companies, how do you recruit for new positions and how do you incorporate culture?

Laura:  Some companies are more open to candidates coming from a broader geographic reach, which is expanding the candidate pool. There are more ZOOM interviews. Remote onboarding is being streamlined. To incorporate your culture with recruits and new employees, you have to get creative. Find ways for personalities to shine through. Recognize new hires on virtual staff meetings. Mentorships can also be helpful.

Q: What are good virtual events to have with your staff?

Laura: We are seeing a lot of creative ideas. Virtual happy hours, virtual painting parties. What will work for you goes back to your culture. Companies are finding ways to do things remotely that we used to do together.

Q: What are some of the creative compensation plans designed to retain employees?

John:  Variable compensation for some employees is off this year. It is important to reward to retain. Nonqualified executive benefit plans provide opportunities for companies to hand pick employees they want to enroll. Various techniques can be used – bonuses, long-term healthcare benefits, etc. These are long-term strategies that can increase continuity and help employees retire from the company. And they can be tied to milestones and employee objectives.

Q: Does a remote workforce provide value to a business?

Mickey: That depends upon the industry. But we will continue to see working from home grow. As long as the bottom line is good – the valuation will be good.

Q: How can I best position my company for post-COVID opportunities?

Mickey: Be prepared. Purchasers are just looking at the numbers. They understand that some companies have been affected by COVID but valuations continue to stay strong, though the deal might take a little longer.

Fran: You should always be prepared for an exit. Always be working on getting/keeping your value up, be in compliance, have key people taken care of and when you are ready for an exit, those things are already done.

Q: What is one tip you have to increase value by fostering positive culture?

Jack: Let your insurance company handle all claims so you can treat someone like an employee not a claimant.

Mickey: Have a good HR team and the right people in place.

John: Be sensitive to the people driving profit, productivity and value, and find good strategies to reward, motivate and retain them.

Laura: Solicit feedback, listen, take action and implement changes.

Bryan: Real estate must complement your culture and goals. Take the time you need to find the right opportunity for your business.

Do you have more questions? Please contact us and we’ll be happy to provide you with additional information.