Lessons Learned During COVID-19


2020 will be a year to remember…or forget! While we wind down a year like no other DBA wanted to take this opportunity to review lessons learned and ways we can to move forward.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”. - J.R.R Tolkien

LOCAL LOVE & SUPPORT

Few industries have been hit harder by Covid-19 than Hospitality and Retail.

During the lockdown we have seen restaurants, bars and hotels incur losses laying off employees and having to close their doors permanently.

With the second lockdown starting on December 26, 2020 there is a fear that further closures happen.

Many businesses have been focused on buying local goods and services in an effort to support our community. As a locally family run business with almost 50 years of history servicing the community we grew up in, and the community our kids are growing up in, we understand the importance of supporting one another when it is needed.

Ottawa’s capacity for empathy and good have made us see a silver lining during this pandemic. Ottawa understands that we are all in this together and there is nothing we cannot achieve.

PHYSICAL HEALTH FOCUS QUICKLY TURNED INTO MENTAL HEALTH

Before Covid-19 employees considered themselves lucky to have the ability to work from home. That is until the realization sank in that they might not be going back to their office for a long time and in some cases, ever.

This realization accelerated the feeling of anxiousness and fear of the unknown. Employers not accustomed to a remote workforce had to face the challenges of setting up a remote infrastructure as well as managing employees from afar. To help combat these feelings of uncertainty, employers are implementing Employee Assistant Programs (EAP’s) which allow for 24/7 access to counsellors covering a myriad of issues from financial or marital stress.

Other options include adding additional psychologist coverage or widening the type of providers that are allowed, for example psychotherapists. Connecting for virtual meetings via Zoom or Google Hangouts can help with the feelings of isolation. Taking it one step further, we need to understand the long-term implications of this and how to be better by being proactive instead of reactive.

FLEXIBLE HOURS/BENEFITS…. FLEXIBILITY IN GENERAL

Most employers did not have a structured plan for implementing Flex Hours with many planning on implementing THEM this year. Flex Hours give employees the option of when they start and finish their day. For example, employees could start anywhere from 7am to 9am with the day ending at 3pm or 5pm depending on their selection. Giving your team the flexibility to balance their time with the added duty of home schooling is a great perk for your team.

Also, to assist with the transition to working from home you may want to consider the local company Tehama to assist. Tehama creates virtual rooms and desktops on the cloud that connects remote workers. Find out more here: www.tehama.io

Another option is to implement a flexible benefits plan that allows employees to pick and choose the coverage that best suits their needs. There would be core benefits like Life and Disability coverage with options around what Health and Dental coverage they can select. Each year employees would be allowed to make another selection for the coming year.

With employees working at home, it is still important to take breaks and time for lunch (even get out for a walk!).

ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES ONLY (ASO) IS THE WAY TO GO

ASO is an excellent way to save money on your group benefits.

With paramedical providers and dental offices closed during the pandemic there has been a drastic decline in claims.

Our clients under an ASO model received REFUND CHEQUES from their insurance providers.

DBA is an expert on ASO plans with over 25 years of experience. We have evolved from in-house claim adjudication to partnering with some of the largest Third-Party Administrators (TPA’s) in the country.

ASO plans are designed to self-insure the low-risk portions of your plan, for example Dental coverage. As we like to say, insurers are in the risk business not the transaction business.

Employers that change the way they pay for their plan gain the benefit of reduced administration fees, return of any excess premiums paid, all with no added risk. As we enter another lock down, setting up an ASO plan will mean long term sustainable savings to you and your team!

DIGITAL REVOLUTION

Using digital platforms for onboarding new employees is more important than ever as employees and employers are connecting and working remotely. Some providers have invested heavily in new technology to assist with this transition with others lagging behind. DBA has partnered with companies that can integrate with payroll, HRIS systems and their insurer which eliminates the need for multiple points of data entry. Furthermore, by holding key employee information digitally, changing providers or adding coverage has never been easier; imagine enrolling your entire team with a new insurer in a matter of hours instead of days! This coupled with seamless integration to payroll, banking, HRIS and carrier, will reduce errors and the cost of providing coverage.

PERK BENEFITS

Providing creative benefits to attract and retain employees is always important. Employers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves to attract talented team members. One method is to implement either a Healthcare Spending Account (HSA) or a Wellness Account (WSA), or both! HSA’s provide a tax-free pool of money for employees or their families to use for CRA approved expenses. WSA’s work the same way with the distinction being that WSA expenses are taxable at time of claim, as the expenses are not CRA approved. For example, HSA claims would be dental, vision or psychology and WSA claims would be for professional development, gym membership or child-care.

PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE

With Canada and the world rolling out newly approved vaccinations, the focus is now on other preventative medicines and treatments. Plans can be structured with limited cost to cover vaccines like shingles, but few have done so. By doing an analysis of your groups demographics and coverage, DBA can determine the cost to add these types of coverages. By investing in employees and their families by providing access to preventive treatments, employers will foster a health focused culture.

CYBER SECURITY

Protecting your intellectual property while working remotely may sound like a daunting task. However, there are many ways to protect your company and your clients information. Managing your cyber security, IT operations and understanding how to react to a potential threat or hack are more important ever. Through a partnership with the right company, you can be confident that you are covered. DBA partnered with Field Effects, a local firm specializing in cyber threats, to ensure our client’s sensitive information is protected. Learn more...

GROUP SAVINGS/INVESTMENT

One lesson learned throughout this pandemic is just how quickly the markets can move when dealing with large levels of uncertainty. This year, we have seen some of the best and worst months for investing on record with the change from negative to positive returns happening exceptionally quickly. One needs only look at March and April to see this. The Toronto Stock exchange reduced by 18% in March, only to show 14% gains in April.

This tells us that the best thing to do historically in a pandemic is to keep your funds invested throughout, as the market typically moves quite quickly in a pandemic driven recession, making market timing exceptionally difficult to get right. At the same time, it is important to review your investments to ensure they are best suited to handle a volatile market, and provide you the best opportunity to take advantage of the upside as the market moves away from negative trends.

Please contact DBA for additional information. We are here to help!

Sincerely,
Jen, Ian and Matt