Many companies are finding that the technological upgrades implemented to accommodate remote working arrangements can have a positive long-term impact on employee satisfaction and productivity. In addition, the increased awareness of health and safety in the workplace can help companies better prepare for future events affecting employee well-being and business continuity.
Adopting Business Technology
Lower staffing levels combined with increased health and safety regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic led many companies to invest in technology. Systems were implemented to assist with virtual communication, provide human resource (HR) services to remote workers, and ensure that employees were paid on time. Whether the COVID-19 pandemic sped up an anticipated investment or caused a sharper strategic pivot, many companies hope to integrate their new technology into future operations.
To gauge the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oasis, a Paychex® Company, surveyed members of the food services and travel arrangement services industries, both of which were hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey revealed that many businesses in these sectors anticipated using newly implemented technologies to improve operations in the future. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 41% of travel arrangement and reservation services companies surveyed said they adopted new technology to improve operations, along with 35% of accommodations and food service companies. A full 70% percent of those who upgraded their technology believe the changes will be permanent.
According to the survey, technologies facilitating online ordering or reservations were the top enhancements in businesses in these sectors. Digitized menus were created by 32% of food services companies surveyed, and 75% intend to keep this option available for customers in the future.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, work became more flexible out of necessity. Many employers closed their physical offices and directed employees to work remotely. Going forward, businesses may choose to offer remote working arrangements or allow for expanded hybrid/flexible scheduling. With so many employees gaining first-hand experience working from home, many have found the lack of a commute and nontraditional schedule beneficial.
In many industries, flexible schedules have become a highly competitive benefit that can be used to attract and retain talent. Additionally, the Oasis® survey found that family leave benefits such as time off to care for a parent, mental health days, and parenting have reportedly increased by 50% at travel arrangements and services companies, along with 59% of respondents noting that their company has increased flexible work hours.
Continued Business Continuity Planning
The recent focus on business continuity planning has illustrated certain areas where business disruption policies may have been lacking. Companies with no business continuity plan, or only a limited set of procedures, were forced to develop new policies and implement them while working under a high degree of uncertainty and within a tight time frame. Going forward, companies can use what they learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to develop a more robust business continuity plan and incorporate stronger response strategies.
Attracting and Retaining Talent
As companies ramp up operations , they may need new ways to recruit and hire employees. During the COVID-19 pandemic, companies may have struggled to maintain staffing levels. In many industries, these issues remain. According to the Oasis survey, hiring and retention issues are expected to persist in the food service and travel industries over the next 12 months.
To meet these challenges, it may be time to review and upgrade recruiting and hiring practices. Applicant tracking systems can help companies to more efficiently move prospective job candidates through the talent acquisition process. Expanding job searches beyond the regional talent pool and hiring remote workers who may not live near the office can also become a long-term strategy for employers with specific job needs.
Attracting top candidates in today's market also means offering competitive wages, along with competitive benefits such as health insurance, wellness programs, and other benefits. With trends in remote work rising, job candidates may look for a company culture that stresses productivity and results over the number of hours logged in the office. In response, management may need to shift priorities or find a way to supervise employees who spend a large amount of time working offsite.
Prioritizing Workplace Safety
The heightened awareness of workplace health and safety is another necessity that companies may carry forward into the future. In addition to the trends noted above, 31% of food services and travel services survey respondents believe that "ensuring a safe workplace in light of COVID-19" will pose a challenge going forward. Although no employer can ensure safety, they can be compliant with safety regulations and be proactive to help keep workers safe. As the scale of operations returns to normal, it may be essential to conduct safety walkthroughs of job sites and find new ways to monitor potential hazards. Office protocols should be adapted as needed and reviewed periodically to improve health and safety procedures and avoid preventable incidents.
During this transition period, companies must assess which changes implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic are worth maintaining on a long-term basis. In the area of HR, Oasis offers a range of human resource administrative services to help you maintain compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements while helping you to provide your employees with competitive benefits and a safe working environment.
 * This national survey was conducted with 300 business leaders and managers from the hospitality sector who employed between 11 and 250 employees. The online interviews were conducted by Bredin, an independent market research company located in Boston, MA, from April 21 to May 16, 2021. Of the 300 survey participants, 81 percent were from Accommodation and Food Services (AFS), and 19 percent were from Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services (TA).