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Responding to COVID Fatigue: How We're Supporting Our People

Mary O'Hara details new steps Blue Shield of California is taking to support its workforce

In the face of continuing uncertainty, people are justifiably concerned about how we will persist through what feels like a never-ending pandemic. 

The short answer: we simply do not know. At Blue Shield of California, my commitment to building a culture of transparency, listening, openness, and two-way communication across every level of the organization will never waver — and sometimes that means admitting “I do not have the answer.”

Mary O'Hara1
Mary O'Hara

People are exhausted, juggling both old and new demands during the pandemic – from navigating work and family life to balancing physical and emotional health – all while following ever-evolving public health and safety protocols. Pandemic life is taking its toll.

Depending on what study you read, we know that people’s workdays are anywhere from 48 minutes to 2.5 hours longer than they were before the pandemic. People are simply spent. And while we do not have a firm answer to when the pandemic will end, we do have the power to lessen the strain of extended periods of working from home.

By taking deliberate actions to improve an employees’ wellbeing, it has the power to improve their overall performance and experience. Though invisible, we know and understand that there is a straight line between our employee and member experience — the more we take care of our people, the more they will take care of our members.

We have decided on the following for our 7,500 employees:

  • Permanently adopting “Friday hours” so that the day will end at 2 p.m., essentially, it’s a 37-hour working week
  • Delaying return to offices through the first quarter of 2022
  • Establishing permanent “quiet hours”; meetings should not be scheduled before 9 a.m., during the lunch hour, and after 5 p.m.
  • Adding extra days off this fall, giving employees the full Thanksgiving week off in 2021 without drawing from their PTO accrual. This will allow for a much-needed week of communal rest

We will also continue to offer the following important benefits, which we implemented at the start of the pandemic:

  • Public Health Emergency Leave to recover from COVID-19 or care for a family member with the virus
  • Reimbursement of internet and phone charges to cover some of the work-from-home expenses
  • Ergonomic assessments to ensure safe work-from-home environments
  • Caregiver reimbursement for families: Parenting in a pandemic is hard which is why we implemented a caregiver reimbursement program to help with additional expenses 

Experts predict that the forthcoming “twindemic” of COVID-19 and influenza could be difficult to manage, so we will continue prioritizing our employees’ health and wellbeing. It will always be the guiding principle in our decision-making.

Together, we will come out of this with a better perspective and lessons learned.

Please, everyone, take care of yourselves and stay safe. 



Mary O'Hara is executive vice president, People and Engagement at Blue Shield of California