Five Elements Challenging the Workforce During COVID-19

May 29, 2020

During a recent Return to Work Alera Group webinar, nearly 500 participants were polled on the most significant challenges facing their workforce at this point in the COVID-19 crisis. Employers throughout the U.S. have had to transition their employees to remote work, or make other adjustments in their organizational structure to keep employees safe and allow the company to continue business operations.

In light of these changes, here are the top five items challenging employers across the country—and ideas on how you and your organization can proactively respond.

1. Employee Emotional Wellbeing

Rated as the top issue by 35% of employers polled, employee emotional wellbeing is hugely important. Many employees are facing challenges with remote work, including caring for children and elderly family members while trying to manage their full-time job. It is enormously difficult – and employers can respond to this stressor in a few different ways.

Employers can remind employees of an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), if it’s available, by circulating key information on how to access EAP resources. Additionally, encourage your organization’s management team to work with their employees and be cognizant of limitations brought on by remote work. Offering flexible hours or other accommodations can be extremely helpful in relieving some emotional stress for employees.

2. Employee Physical Wellbeing

Employers and employees alike are feeling the effects of physical quarantine or “shelter at home” orders. Being cooped up inside, without access to gyms or fitness studios, is impeding exercise even for highly active employees. 

With this in mind, provide opportunities for employees to take care of their physical wellbeing, even during the workday. A few ideas include:

  • Sharing a video to a YouTube workout that’s accessible for people with varying degrees of fitness, like this one: Lunchtime Yoga by Yoga with Adriene

  • Directly encouraging employees to take a break and get up from their desk to move around

  • Hire a fitness instructor to do a 30-minute Zoom session with your team to get the blood flowing

3. Employee Productivity

With a myriad of distractions coming from remote work, some employees may be struggling to remain productive during the pandemic. Employers need to recognize that this is normal and even expected, as COVID-19 impacts childcare, financial stability and other life factors for many employees.

Managers can help to mitigate productivity challenges by setting key weekly goals with their teams and checking in regularly. This, coupled with flexible hours, can help employees still reach productivity levels to maintain business functions.

During the pandemic, remote work is more prevalent than ever before—and that trend is likely to continue even post-COVID-19. While many employees find remote work to be a productive setting, there are new challenges for employers to solve for, including technology needs, restructured collaboration norms and more.

4. Employee Engagement

Along with employee productivity, employee engagement has taken a massive hit from the pandemic. 15% of those polled noted this as the most difficult factor currently facing their workforce. You can employees stay engaged through a variety of avenues:

  • Working with inspirational speakers to coordinate workshop sessions on resiliency and engagement for your employees

  • Clear and direct communication from your organization’s key leadership, including information on how your company is weathering the storm and how this will impact employees

  • Conducting an internal survey to gauge employee engagement and current areas of organizational weakness, and then working to strengthen those areas

5. Employee Retention

Some employers are facing challenges with employee retention, particularly when partially furloughing or laying off employees. Again, clear and direct communication can be an essential part of employee retention during this time. While 401(k) matches or other benefits may be impacted by the pandemic, you can still communicate with your employees and find other opportunities to show them that they are a valued part of the organization.

Be Proactive -- Create Your Engagement Plan Today!

Through all of this, it is important to be rethinking the ways your company views and engages your employee population. If you would like help rethinking and restarting your workforce during COVID-19, Alera Group’s HR Services team would love to assist. You can reach out by clicking here. 

Want to learn more about this topic? Check out our webinar recording from May 13, “Rethinking and Restarting Your Workforce Amidst COVID-19".

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About Alera Group 

Alera Group is an independent, national insurance and wealth services firm with more than $1.1 billion in annual revenue, offering comprehensive employee benefits, property and casualty insurance, retirement plan services and wealth services solutions to clients nationwide. By working collaboratively across specialties and geographies, Alera Group’s team of more than 4,000 professionals in more than 180 locations provides creative, competitive services that help ensure a client’s business and personal success. For more information, visit or follow us on LinkedIn.