Page 10 - BusinessWest September 1, 2021
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 nesses, especially in the broad healthcare realm, that have made vaccination a requirement for employment, a step taken in the interest of maintaining the safety of employees and cus- tomers alike.
“One of the things we’ve said concerning our coming back to the office is that we don’t know what we don’t know,” he said. “The only thing we know for sure is that things are going to change.”
And with those sentiments, he summed up both the short term and what could be called the post-pandemic world — whenever that arrives. When it does, said Swift, noting that, in some respects, it is already here, it won’t look like the pre-pandemic world.
And that goes for everything from how and where employees work to how people will access healthcare.
With regard to the latter, telehealth will almost certainly continue to increase in popu- larity, he said, adding that while the numbers have fluctuated as the pandemic has waned and surged, the technology has gained a broad level of acceptance.
“I do think you’ll see a lot more movement to leverage the technology that’s out there and technology that’s being developed for care without having to traditionally go back and see your doctor in the office on their schedule,” he explained.
As for the office setting and what it will look like, Swift said things simply won’t go back to the way they were in 2019. Companies have learned that employees can work effectively in remote settings, and thus it only makes good business sense to allow them to continue doing so, either in a fully remote fashion or in a hybrid format
now being tried by many area businesses of all sizes.
“We have some departments that, by and large, were partially remote before and will be partially, or maybe completely remote in the future,” he explained. “The work they’re doing is such that it’s fine remotely, and they’ll stay that way.
“We have not come out with any edicts that people have to be here on ‘x’ amount of days,” he went on. “Because we know that one size does not fit all and there are certain departments and functions that have very different needs than others; we came to the conclusion that an edict was as arbitrary as pre-COVID, Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, in some respects.”
And there’s a competitive aspect to creating flexibility with working conditions, he said, add- ing that Health New England can now hire tal- ented individuals from outside the 413 and even outside the state because they have the ability to work remotely.
As for business strategy and long-term plan- ning, Swift said COVID has certainly made such exercises more difficult. But companies still have to plan, he noted, adding that there must be lay- ers of flexibility built into such plans.
“I think that COVID requires us to plan even further ahead, but be more nimble with those plans,” he explained. “Our original date for returning to the office was Sept. 1; with what’s happened over the past several weeks, we’ve pushed that back. But in the spring, we threw out that date of Sept. 1 as the one we were tar- geting, again with the caveat that everything is subject to change.”
Bottom Line
Swift told BusinessWest that, a few weeks back, his sister called him asking for recom- mendations on res-
taurants in Detroit,
which she would
soon be visiting.
He was able to help her, because that was one of the places he parachuted into while doing his consulting work.
That life has ended, at least tem- porarily, with a permanent assign- ment, one that is a far cry from what
he thought he was originally signing up for back in March of 2020.
going on with COVID, we’ve continued, and increased, the community support in terms of activities, foundations, grants, and actually providing PPE and
hand sanitizer to people who didn’t have the wherewithal and the ability to get it themselves.
Even with everything
         He was, by most
accounts, the first
Health New Eng-
land employee to be
onboarded remotely,
but he certainly
wasn’t the last. His first 18 months have been a learning experience on myriad levels, and in all ways it is still ongoing. u
   George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]
  Where You Matter.
At Health New England, our mission is to improve the health and lives of the people in our communities by providing outstanding service, delivering superior value and acting as a leading corporate citizen. This mission is the foundation that guides us every day, especially during these challenging times.
As your local health plan, we pride ourselves on the meaningful difference we have made in the lives of our members for over 35 years. We look forward
to another 35 years of being here for you every step of the way.
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