COVID-19 brought new challenges to our team members. In the wake of a global pandemic, ITA Group, like many companies, had to adjust current business strategies and practices to protect the well-being of our team and the company as a whole. I wanted to share a bit more about what we learned about our people during this time, the changes we’re making and why we’d encourage other organizations to explore similar ideas to improve your own employee experience.
Over the course of the pandemic, we regularly pulse surveyed our team members to better understand the impact of the pandemic on them and to inform our decisions about what needed to change (and what didn’t) because of it. The results were used to adjust existing policies and create new programs to better reflect our culture, give our people what they need to successfully serve our clients and drive better business results while attracting top talent to the ITA Group team.
Here’s what we learned our team wanted most:
1. Anywhere-Work Flexibility
Survey results showed that after working from home for over a year, our team members valued the extra time with their family, friends and pets. And as restrictions began to lift, they also told us that they liked having the option to work from whatever location best supported their productivity, whether that was home, a coffee shop, a vacation rental or somewhere else. Our team made it clear that they wanted more flexibility and we wanted to give it to them.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace flexibility had gained traction within HR circles, primarily as a workplace incentive to combat the struggle in attracting and retaining talent.
Today, the pandemic has transformed flexibility from a desirable perk into a powerful people practice that many employees (especially top talent) will expect in the future—one that is expected to endure well after COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror.
What Anywhere-Work Flexibility Means for Us:
We adjusted our flexible work options policy to provide flexibility while holding on to the in-person connections that make ITA Group the special place it is. Our new policy trusts and empowers our team members to make the best decision on where and when they work to maximize their productivity and ultimately to deliver the best value to the organization and our clients based on the work that they need to do. We created a “work where you can do your best work” approach because we understand and embrace the importance of finding the right balance between the needs of the business and the personal needs of our team.
2. Gender Neutral Dress Code
The survey also confirmed that our team members had become used to being comfortable while they work and didn’t want to give that up. We took this feedback as an opportunity to re-evaluate and create a more relaxed, gender neutral dress code that aligns with our inclusion goals, better supports our culture and made going back to the office after working from home for such an extended period of time easier for our team.
What a New Dress Code Means for Us:
We moved to a more relaxed and simplified dress code that supports our team members desire to be more comfortable while they work. We got rid of the long lists of what you can and cannot wear and created a policy that empowers our team to make smart decisions for the work they are doing. We trust our team members to know their audience and show up appropriately.
We also made the policy gender neutral because diversity is important to us. Diversity expresses itself in many different ways. Because we believe diversity makes us stronger as an organization, we embrace these differences. Our goal is to foster inclusion while maintaining a high level of professionalism that supports the ITA Group brand. We believe that trusting our team members to make smart decisions about what they wear to work is the key to building an inclusive and productive work environment.
These dress code policy changes not only better support who we are as a company, but they were a huge morale booster to our team. Team members are now able to wear t-shirts, tennis shoes, jeans and shorts which makes it easier to transition between work and personal activities. Our team members appreciate the efficiency of not having to go home to change before going to their child’s baseball or soccer game.
3. Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Survey results also highlighted the many challenges and uncertainties that our team members were experiencing due to COVID-19. Because they asked for additional support, we invested in a more robust Employee Assistance Program. The EAP offers our team total well-being support through in-person and virtual coaching sessions, webinars and events, articles and podcasts and other resources on variety of topics like mental, physical and financial health.
What EAP Means for Us:
Our EAP helps team members manage life’s challenges so they can reach their full potential on and off the job. Our focus is to help people understand and overcome their difficulties; when team members have the psychological safety to ask for and receive the help they need with struggles inside and outside of work, they can better focus on their job and be more productive. Having an EAP is not only healthy for your team, but also for your business’ bottom line.
4. One Experience for All ITA Group Team Members—In-Office & Remote
A positive impact of COVID-19 was the development of a more equitable experience for our rapidly growing remote team. Pre-pandemic we talked about the importance of creating one experience for all ITA Group team members no matter where their home office was based. The pandemic made that a reality. Team members that worked primarily in-office prior to the pandemic now have a better appreciation of remote work challenges and what can be done to minimize them. This increased awareness and a better understanding of virtual technology best practices make it easier to stay connected, efficient and productive in any work environment.
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to loosen and business doors start to re-open, the need to re-evaluate and adjust current business practices and strategies is more important than ever. We knew that to stay competitive, we’d need to embrace change instead of fear it. If you’re also considering this, I encourage you to ask, listen and act on what your team wants, then trust and empower them to do what is best for themselves and the business.
Design an Employee Experience That Works for Your People
Tackling everything above took some time, but in the end it was absolutely worth designing an employee experience that worked for our team members. If you’d like some help building or improving your organization’s employee experience, let’s connect—I’d love to help you get started!