Pandemic Lessons for the Workplace

by Phil Kalin

How did you mark the one-year anniversary of the COVID shutdown? At Pinnacol Assurance, we sent t-shirts to all our employees listing our company’s COVID-year statistics: 13 million emails; 1.8 million Gchat messages; 72,787 video calls. Our 655 team members (including 54 new hires over the year) adopted 38 pets, and we donated $2.8 million in COVID-specific grants and our ongoing community grant-making and scholarship programs.

Like band t-shirts listing all the concert dates of a given tour, these numbers are a fun way to acknowledge a memorable year and our employees’ place within it. But there are plenty of statistics that illustrate the potentially lasting significance of this “year of living differently” for our economy in a more sobering way.

Some of them (taken from a recent Forbes article referring to a variety of sources) point to win-win lessons and outcomes for both companies and their employees:

  • $11,000: amount an employer can save per employee annually by having them work remotely half the time
  • $4,367: amount the average worker saved by eliminating their commute over the past year

My own company saw significant increases in productivity measures and best-ever net promoter scores from our policyholders and injured workers – indicating that our team members doubled down on their commitment to service over a year of working from home.

Other statistics from that same Forbes article, though, indicate a more nuanced picture of the impacts of forced remote work:

  • The average workday increased by 49 minutes
  • Employees left 33% of their PTO on the table
  • Emails sent after business hours increased by 8.3%

For a company like Pinnacol that believes in work-life balance, those statistics give me pause. Our employee engagement score was an unheard-of 83% at the end of 2020, and our employees told us that the thing they value most about working here is work-life balance. These reactions from our team members are precious assets, and we don’t want to jeopardize them. It’s one thing for employees to register best-ever engagement scores in a year when everyone is working from home and their leaders are making every effort to connect, motivate and inspire – expecting all the while that these circumstances are time-limited. But it is another to maintain that hard-won sense of mission as we emerge from the pandemic. We must acknowledge this last year was unique. And as we shift to a hybrid model, we must balance the need to retain high expectations and creative methods of motivation with the grace of saying: Take a break; take a breath; take a rest. You’ve earned it.

Phil Kalin

Phil Kalin joined Pinnacol Assurance as CEO in 2013. He has served as the chief executive of both public and privately-backed companies, including large hospital systems, as well as organizations focused on health care data, technology and education.

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