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“When will this pandemic be over?” “When can we get back to normal?” These questions are on everyone’s mind these days.

Assurance partner Oliver Wyman recently predicted Q4 of 2021 as the earliest we could return to ‘life as normal’ in the United States. Their report, “Navigating the Long Haul to Normalcy” leans on extensive data to outline several pandemic scenarios and advises business leaders to stop planning in two- to three-month windows and instead prepare for the next 12 months.

With this announcement, new questions are on the minds of employers and HR leaders. “Is our remote work model built to last for another year?” “What will happen to our company culture?” While this will certainly continue to be an evolving situation, we’ve put together some initial guidance below on how to start thinking through these areas.

Current work-from-home models

Given the extended timeline we are predicting for “back to normal,” some employers will need to reconsider their current work-from-home operating models. While some organizations will be able to continue their current remote model through next year, others will need to create a more deliberate hybrid model to allow for on-site collaboration as needed while ensuring employees feel safe and secure. In addition, employers should consider additional investments in technology to support remote collaboration, address mental health and COVID fatigue, and improve productivity.

Ongoing elevated absenteeism and mental health strain

Another full year of caregiving responsibilities, sickness, stress, and remote working will further increase the mental health strain on employees. It’s important for employers to evaluate whether their current efforts are adequately addressing the overall mental health of employees and protecting against burnout. This is not just beneficial for employee satisfaction and well-being, but studies show that workers under mental strain are more likely to make mistakes and misjudge risks.

Maintaining company culture

How can you make sure your culture doesn’t weaken over the next year? Even strong cultures are vulnerable if they’re not adaptive. Have you created any purposeful, new ways for employees to connect to guard against this erosion? Finding creative virtual solutions, or safe hybrid in-person options, will be crucial if we’re in this for another year or more.

The bottom line? Use this crisis as an opportunity to rethink how you work, what makes your culture great, and how to make your company better, despite the obvious challenges.

If you’re interested in reading the full report, you can download it here. If you have questions or want to discuss how you can best prepare for the challenges ahead, reach out to our team.


WRITTEN BY: Tony Alberico

Tony Alberico is a Senior Vice President and Practice Leader at Assurance. Tapping into 20-plus years of experience, Tony leads one of Assurance’s Employee Benefits practices, setting the vision and strategy of the team. He serves a key role in advising the company’s benefits consultants and helping them develop multi-year strategies for clients. As a team leader, Tony is also responsible for creating and maintaining strategic relationships with insurance carriers and vendor partners to continually bring value back to clients. Tony earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communications from Augustana College.

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