Start the Year off Right: Preparing Your Business for 2021

Road leading to a sunrise with the words “End 2020, Start 2021” written on the road

A lot happened in 2020, and 2021 is looking like it may be very eventful as well. With progress being made in the way of COVID-19 and new presidential administration, there’s a lot unfolding in the New Year. 2020 paved the way for a lot of changes and 2021 will be the year those changes will take full swing. We’ve rounded up some of the top trends and updates you should be aware of to kick off 2021 on the right track.

Human Resources

This past year’s events have accounted for a major change in human resource management. In 2020, HR professionals were having to address issues they maybe haven’t had to previously—for example, politics, mental health, availability of education and childcare, and social justice. These issues have expanded the role of HR and these practices are likely going to be used well into 2021 and beyond.

One of the biggest trends in HR for 2021 is a greater emphasis on employee mental health and well-being. To ensure a sustainable and well-functioning workforce, employers will need to develop a well-rounded, holistic approach to employee safety and wellness. This could include adding new benefit programs related to mental and physical health, childcare, elderly care, paid time off, and flexible work schedules. Working from home during the pandemic has caused employee burnout, leading some employers to enact a policy around times when employees should disconnect and “unplug,” including when meetings should end during the day.

One aspect of 2020 that will surely remain in the spotlight for 2021 and beyond, is the need to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. After the events of this year, many companies have made the commitment to address DEI in their workplace and do a greater job of promoting it. This led to many companies building a whole team of positions solely based around DEI. Taking this into 2021 and onward, employees will be looking to their employers to continue the work they started with DEI and continue to focus on increasing diversity among employees and leadership, examining and adjusting processes that create barriers to equity (i.e. recruiting and development programs), fostering inclusion and belonging among employees, and preventing and combating subtle and obvious acts of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Safety and Risk Management

There are some trends in workplace safety for 2021 as well. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has already stated there will be more worksite inspections this year. Predictions indicate up to 500 additional worksite safety inspections in 2021 with a focus on construction sites, as well as Site Specific Targeting (SST) inspections—which is a focus on non-construction worksite locations with 20 or more employees where any previous injury was reported.

Another safety and risk management trend anticipated for 2021 is a shift in focus to new environmental regulations and worker safety. A new presidential administration could lead to a change in OSHA’s proposed rules published this past summer regarding occupational exposure to natural and chemical compounds.

Most states will also be looking to implement new policies and regulations surrounding COVID-19. In October 2020, California issued new guidance defining exposure to COVID-19 as an imminent threat to the safety of workers, the necessary steps businesses need to take to ensure the safety of their workforce, and response to notice of an infection. It’s highly likely more states will follow suite and enact their own rules and regulations surrounding COVID-19 in the workplace.

There are also some technology trends that are revolutionizing workplace safety. Wearable smart devices are becoming more popular on jobsites as they can be worn by the employee and collect real-time data that can help alert the employee of heart rate and blood pressure. As the devices become more and more sophisticated, some can read blood alcohol content, blood oxygen levels, and other vital information that can help prevent an injury before it occurs. Businesses will also see a trend in updated personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks tailored to the individual’s face structure, new mask braces designed to fit over a standard surgical mask, and even the SEEUS95 mask—a reusable N95 with a see-through biofilter, resolving the issue of facial expressions hidden by a regular face covering.

Payroll

A new presidential administration can bring a major shift in current policies that will affect small businesses across the country. While it remains to be seen whether the president-elect’s plans will pass, here are some things small businesses might expect under the new Biden administration.

One major shift would pertain to the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP Loan). The strategy would be to make the guidelines for receiving the PPP Loan more specific, and not based on a set budget amount. While the guidelines are not yet determined, the idea is to prevent small businesses form running out of the funds as quickly as they did previously and better assist businesses that don’t have as strong of a relationship with banks and lenders as larger corporations do.

Another major shift could occur in the current tax structure. In general, the president-elect would restructure the current tax plan, increasing taxes on corporations and high-income individuals, and aim to protect tax payers that bring home an annual income of less than $400,000. There is also mention of increasing Social Security tax on the self-employed and corporations for both employee and employer. The full details of the strategy are not yet disclosed and there’s still uncertainty over whether these changes will pass in Congress. However, creating awareness of the president-elect’s plans will help your business prepare in the event these policies do pass.

There are a lot of new trends and changes for 2021. QBS is an industry-leading PEO specializing in human resource management, payroll, and safety and risk management. Our team of HR management professionals keep up-to-date on all the current and upcoming workforce regulations and trends, and can provide all the guidance your business needs to implement them. Our workers’ compensation specialists can guide you on the latest regulations from OSHA and how to adapt your safety policies to better accommodate them. Additionally, QBS has a team of payroll administration experts to help you navigate any new policies set forth regarding payroll loans and tax structures.

Our team is here to be the experts for you, so you can focus on running your business!

Sources:

Human Resource Today- 2021 Workplace Trends

Investopedia- Explaining Biden’s Tax Plan

OrthoLive- OSHA Trends to Watch in 2021

Portland Monthly- What Can Small Businesses Expect Under a Biden Administration