COLUMBUS, Ohio — The health of the Ohio economy is directly correlated to the health of its workforce. The sooner employees can start working from the office, at least part-time, the faster we can figure out new normalcy, according to Kirt Walker, CEO and president of Nationwide Mutual Insurance, one of Ohio’s largest employers.
“We start to have dual roles as employers, right?” asked Walker. “We want to be able to protect people, businesses, and futures with extraordinary care. That’s what our mission is. But the best way to be able to do that was to protect and then inform our associates.”
Walker says on March 11, 2020, Nationwide sent a quarter of its employees home. Four days later, 25,000 people went remote. Now, the company planning on one-third of its workers throughout the United States will be working from home permanently on June 1.
Most Columbus-based employees will remain in a hybrid environment, says Walker.
Walker believes the company’s safety protocols and policies keep the health and well-being of workers top of mind but also keeps their families in the loop.
“Here is what we took away over the last year, you cannot over-communicate at this point,” said Walker. “And here’s what I believe, when voids are left in communication, people will fill the void with the worst possible outcome, and we don’t want that to happen.”
Nationwide is one of the 180 different businesses, corporations, organizations, non-profits, and higher-learning institutions that have founded the Stop the Spread Coalition through the Ohio Business Roundtable.
The Ohio Business Roundtable started in 1992 to better position Ohio’s economy compared to other states. This year could be one of the most pivotal years in the nonpartisan group’s history.
“Our members felt an obligation to have a business community voice too, that business should have a seat at the table [when] talking to their employees, about employees becoming leaders in their social networks, whether it be with their family or with their friends,” said Pat Tiberi, president and CEO of the Ohio Business Roundtable.
Tiberi served as a Republican U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 12th District from 2001-2018. He says the quicker Ohio achieves community immunity, the quicker we can get back to normalcy.
“Take employers who are a part of this, and they inform their employees. There are 5 million people who work in Ohio. Five million, in the private sector, in the public sector, in the non-profit sector. Empower them with facts and let them make decisions. And let them communicate with their family and their friends,” said Tiberi.
Walker believes during a time of misinformation, it’s necessary for workers to make decisions after learning from trusted sources, and Ohio’s businesses have the opportunity to fill the void.
“I think the most important thing to understand about the vaccine is that vaccination is a very personal decision,” said Walker. “We are encouraging everyone to consult with your personal doctor, determine if the vaccination is right for them, and if it is, we are encouraging as many people as possible to get the vaccine when they are eligible. And when we are able to, we will provide the vaccine to all of our employees.”
Tiberi says the Stop the Spread Coalition is available for any organization to join.