Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: 2021

The new normal: hybrid workplaces

Over a year after non-essential workers quickly adapted to operating from home, a survey by PwC found that nearly 70% of executives believe that employees should return to the office three days a week while just 20% of employees agreed with that sentiment. In fact, that survey also found that 30% of employees would stay remote a full five days a week if allowed. Additionally, the New York Times found that just 25% of workers would prefer to go back to an office full-time. As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted, the compromise for many offices has been hybrid work models. These models not only accommodate workers both remote and in the office as a means of safety, but have also become staples of employee satisfaction.

“Compromise,” however, is the key word. As hybrid work is new to much of today’s workforce, a learning curve is to be anticipated. Here’s what you need to know about the future of hybrid workplaces.

Why go hybrid?

In a post-pandemic world, only one thing is for certain: there is no “back to normal.” Many everyday practices have evolved to accommodate new health and safety protocols, including day-to-day office life. In a hybrid model, social distancing is made easier by having less people in the office, thereby minimizing the chance of a virus running rampant.

Going hybrid may also help companies save budget otherwise spent on office space. As of January 2021, demand for office leasing was down 61% from December 2019, according to Business Wire. As some businesses opt to let go of their leases, they might also choose to stagger in-office and work from home days for some teams to accommodate staff while maintaining less space.

While some companies may fear that this newfound flexibility could hurt productivity, research shows that it is simply not the case. A 2020 report by Microsoft found that 82% of the leaders they’d surveyed found their teams to be at least as productive working in their new remote environments as they had been in an office.

In addition to flexibility, other advantages include:

Disadvantages of remote work

As many workers have now experienced, not every aspect of remote working is a positive. While the hybrid model might help remedy some of the disadvantages, there are still some concerns:

  • Burnout. Perhaps you’ve heard of, or even experienced, “Zoom fatigue” — the physical and mental exhaustion brought on by too many video conferences. Screen burnout is very real. In a hybrid work culture, time spent with your team truly face-to-face may help relieve that draining feeling associated with spending hours meeting virtually.
  • Company culture. One disadvantage of working from home cited repeatedly through the pandemic was the feeling that company culture and values are harder to upkeep virtually. Bringing workers back to the office a few times a week may help create physical reminders of the company mission.
  • Reliance on technology. Technology is not infallible. There are internet outages, security risks and keyboards accidentally taken out with a spilled water bottle. When a single laptop is your only means to get the job done, there’s a lot riding on a little piece of technology.

Considerations for employers

With so much uncertainty about what the next year holds, flexibility and adaptability in the workplace is an important consideration for all employers. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, these are a few of the questions that company leaders should ask themselves when considering a hybrid workplace:

  • Why does a specific employee need to perform his or her work in the office?
  • To what extent does an employee need to collaborate with others?
  • How is someone feeling about working from home versus in the office?
  • Is that person feeling disconnected or overwhelmed?
  • Is the employee clear about the organization’s strategy and his or her role and responsibilities?
  • What types of meetings are best to hold in person?

Perhaps the largest lesson for employers from all of this is that employee safety should always be at the forefront. Whether employees spend their days at home or in the office, keeping them viable, healthy and happy is a victory in and of itself.

Kids’ unmet oral health needs highlighted by the pandemic

When your employees become parents, they receive an onslaught of information about their child’s growth markers and health checkups from immunizations to well-child visits. When it comes to dental care, however, less than half of parents receive professional advice on when to start taking their child to the dentist.

And lack of guidance is only the beginning of the problem. Access to dental care has been an ongoing challenge for U.S. children, but during the pandemic, dental care emerged as children’s greatest unmet health need, according to a recent study published in JADA.

What does this mean for your employees and their children, and what can you do to support them?

The pandemic’s effect on pediatric oral health

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, dental disease among children was rampant:

The pandemic made these problems worse by stressing the financial systems that delivers dental care with income and job losses. Households were three times more likely to identify dental care as an unmet health need as a result of the pandemic compared to medical care, according to a JADA study. The authors found a significant association between the probability of unmet child dental care and pandemic-related household income or job loss.

About 40% of families reported the loss of a job or decrease in income due to the pandemic. Before the pandemic, children from families with lower income or who were on Medicaid were twice as likely to have cavities than children from higher-income households. Whether due to lost or decreased income, fear of contracting COVID-19 and mixed communication from health organizations, dental care visits dropped in 2020.

Many people were able to stay covered for medical procedures due to robust signups for Medicare and Medicaid pandemic. But cost remains the major barrier to receiving dental care, since Medicare and Medicaid packages rarely cover many dental procedures. Although access to pediatric dental care has grown for families with public insurance since the early 2000s, kids in low-income families are still less likely to visit the dentist regularly. Additional barriers include difficulty finding a willing dentist, transportation and geographic proximity to dental providers.

Potential solutions for children’s unmet oral health needs

As a benefit administrator, you can invest time into communication efforts that may bridge knowledge gaps among your employees. Here are a couple of ways you can get started:

  • Talk about timelines. Inform your employees about recommended timelines for pediatric care to guarantee they get the information they need, whether or not their dentists communicate that information.
  • Design your package. When you’re designing your benefits package, cover important preventive services for kids, like sealants and fluoride treatments.
  • Highlight plan features. Encourage employees to take advantage of aspects of their insurance, like teledentistry coverage, that can make pediatric care easier. Did you know that 75% of pediatric dentists offer virtual services, compared to only a third of general dentists?
  • Share materials. Explore Delta Dental’s wellness resources and share a selection of helpful articles and flyers in an email or on an internal site. You can even highlight assets that are made for kids, like MySmileKids and Grin! for Kids.
  • Be consistent. When communicating helpful information to your employees, using multiple channels can be confusing and difficult to keep track of. Find a simple routine for sharing, like posting information on an internal webpage with monthly or quarterly email notifications, so that your employees always know where to look.

How Delta Dental invests in communities

To help dentists make investments in their communities, the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation awards several million dollars in grants each year to increase access to care. These awards enable underserved individuals, including children, to get preventive and restorative treatments in accessible locations. More than 250 organizations received funding from the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation during the COVID-19 pandemic, totaling $11 million to provide relief. Many of these clinics support and serve children.

These Access to Care grants fund activities designed to remove barriers to seeking care such as distance, cost, and even fear. The grants can be used to set up mobile or pop-up clinics in a local community, provide dental care in underserved clinical settings, fund outreach programs or offset costs for clinics that routinely provide care to underserved populations.

What comes next

There will probably be some relief for underserved communities, including children, soon. The U.S. economy seems to be recovering. The national unemployment rate is projected to fall to 5.3% by the end of the year.

But the problems highlighted by the pandemic shouldn’t be ignored. As a benefits administrator, you can’t be expected to fix all of the problems in the American economy or health care industry. Still, by highlighting resources and keeping your employees informed, you can positively affect the employees you work with and their children.

Remote work and employers: what are the pros and cons?

In 2020, we all learned just how fast the world could adapt to new measures. In the workforce, this has meant relying on coworkers and employees to bring their work home without missing a beat. With a year passed since COVID-19 changed the world, it’s time to reflect on the first year as full-time remote employers, what has been learned from it, and how to continue to adapt moving forward.

Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons of remote working:

Pros

Flexibility

Working from home is far from a new concept. In fact, it’s often touted as a job perk by hiring managers. For employees, it often comes down to flexibility. Working remotely can be an opportunity schedule quick errands, focus in a less distracting environment or even to enjoy more time with the pets while still accomplishing the tasks at hand. The freedoms of remote work can be a major morale-booster. A study by PwC recently found that 55% of would like still to keep working from home at least three days a week once it’s safe to return to the office.

Lack of commute

Who wouldn’t choose walking to their living room over an hour commute on an over-stuffed train? Eliminating this often stressful part of the day saves time, money and headaches. It also takes more cars off the road, meaning less air pollution. In November, NASA announced that global nitrogen dioxide concentrations had been reduced by nearly 20% since February of 2020.

Larger pool of candidates

Eliminating a tough commute can also mean a more competitive job market. When people can work from anywhere, it widens the pool of potential candidates. For permanently remote jobs where location isn’t a requirement, employers can reap the benefits with a larger number of viable applicants.

Saved money

Less people in an office means a smaller office space, fewer everyday office expenses like supplies and cleanup, and less utilities at work. These kinds of savings aren’t just beneficial during uncertain times — they can be lucrative to new businesses trying to grow.

Cons

Blurred work/life balance

One of the more complicated issues to arise from remote working has been the stress of balancing a regular workday with our rapidly changing world. When the physical barrier of an office is removed, the lines between professional and personal lives can get a bit fuzzy. While flexible work hours may be a pro, they can become a slippery slope of overtime and burnout if left unchecked. In fact a recent Gallup poll showed that 29% of people who always work from home feel burnt out “very often” or “always.”

Encourage your staff to set up a corner of their home just for work if they can and to stay online for office hours only. Check in regularly to make sure that they feel heard and supported in their work endeavors.

Internet complications

We’ve all heard the horror stories: Someone forgot to mute themselves in a meeting or couldn’t figure out how to turn a Zoom filter off. In 2020, the learning curve got a bit steeper as our toolboxes grew along with our reliance on technology.

A little bit of training and empathy can go a long way in these cases. As expectations change, offer learning guides, webinars and other resources to help employees with the learning process. Additionally, understand that complications can occasionally arise when employees are at the mercy of Wi-Fi, laptops, and other far-from-perfect technologies.

Less organic opportunities for connection

With no watercooler to gather around, those little day-to-day opportunities for staff to connect can be tougher to find. Don’t let it wedge a gap between the team.

Schedule a little time for virtual team-building opportunities, be it a lunch meet-up or a Friday game hour. Take this time to focus on company values and consider how you can foster trust and communication.

As the world continues to change, take some time to reflect on how much you and your team have already adapted and give yourself credit where it’s due. Creating a culture of openness and empathy will help address issues as they arise and keep you connected to your team.

Planning a wellness calendar for 2021

As employees finalize their open enrollment choices and begin looking towards 2021, you may be asking yourself what you can do to help them stay informed and healthy in the year to come. Fortunately, Delta Dental offers an assortment of themed wellness materials to help you offer employees relevant wellness content all year round.

For a quick look at the topics covered in 2021, check out this PDF.

Promoting wellness means approaching health from a holistic perspective. From holidays to awareness months, there are plenty of opportunities to remind employees to take care of both their oral health and their total well-being. Campaigns include everything from Glaucoma Awareness Month in January to holiday health in December, and each campaign is supported by a wealth of multimedia assets.

Whether you want to communicate with employees who are in the office or are working from home, whether your employees want to watch a video about wellness or read a flyer, there are materials available to suit your needs. Visit the wellness calendar page and you’ll find:

  • Emails
  • Flyers
  • Posters
  • Booklets
  • Infographics
  • Videos

Our new 2021 calendar is available now, and full of great resources and materials to share with employees. From January through December, let’s make 2021 a great year for oral health and total body wellness!

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