New year, new workplaces

When itís time for a fresh approach to the work environment, the Fox Cities Employee Friendly Workplace initiative is here to help

Published Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Entrepreneur magazine ushered in the new year by declaring three topics that will be on business leaders’ minds as we enter 2021: team cohesion, managing people problems, and reconciling remote work (Entrepreneur, Dec. 31, 2020). The thread that runs through all of these? One larger topic on which the Fox Cities Regional Partnership has been keenly focused since even before the pandemic: the employee friendly workplace.

“Through the pandemic, employers are learning that their staff can be productive while working remotely and have more flexibility in their days,” says Jennifer Brown, senior director for existing industry and innovation at the Fox Cities Chamber – the parent organization of the Partnership. “But on the flip side, employers are struggling with new challenges when it comes to supporting issues of morale, team connectedness, and wellbeing. As we get to the other side of COVID-19, workplaces everywhere will be rethinking their priorities when it comes to creating a truly supportive work environment.”

And if it’s time for a fresh approach to the work environment, the Fox Cities Employee Friendly Workplace initiative and certification program is here to help.

“The vision is that all employers located in the Fox Cities region would eventually become Employee Friendly Workplace certified,” Brown says. “Employers focused on supporting the entire employee experience and prioritizing work/life integration will attract and retain more talent to their organization – and in turn, the Fox Cities.”

Employers in Calumet, Outagamie, and Northern Winnebago Counties who wish to achieve certification must demonstrate employee friendly workplace policies and practices in four categories: paid leave and flexible work schedules, health and wellness support, financial support, and perks. Specialists are available to help advise on these topics, and the Chamber has committed to providing more resources on employee friendly workplace topics in the new year—including a free webinar on Feb. 11 entitled “Elevating the Employee Experience.”

To learn more about Employee Friendly Workplace and its certification requirements, visit or contact Brown directly at Cost to apply is $250.

“Employee Friendly Workplace is a new program that was just getting off the ground when COVID hit,” Brown says. “So that slowed us down in some respects when it came to getting the word out, but COVID has also shown more than ever why employee friendly workplaces are so important to so many economic and wellness issues in our community. Taking the time to go through the certification, to really think about your policies and practices, is a new year’s resolution you can make that will not only be gratifying but also fruitful.”

Among the Fox Cities companies that achieved early certification are Jewelers Mutual and Werner Electric Supply, and Brown says she hopes to grow the list in the new year – a “take two” on the program rollout, so to speak.

“Following the seismic shift COVID has created in the workplace, it’s the employers who put in the work to show they are employee friendly who will really reap the rewards in the new year,” Brown says. “2021 is going to be the year to throw out the traditional employee handbook.”