H&R Block CEO: 'You really don’t know what’s coming'

Jeff Jones explains how the company is adjusting to the pandemic.
Posted at 12:00 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 13:03:02-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In this world, nothing can be certain except death, taxes and life with COVID-19, and even that is a bit hazy.

“We’ve all had this experience where you’re driving in total fog. You’re moving forward. You’ve got both hands on the wheel, it’s white knuckle time,” Jeff Jones, H&R Block’s CEO, explained. “You literally can’t see 10-feet in front of you and I think that’s what it’s felt like leading this organization the past few months. You really don’t know what’s coming.”

Like most businesses, the coronavirus has changed day-to-day operations for the approximately 2,000 at H&R Block’s headquarters located in downtown Kansas City.

Jones said the transition to working from home was seamless, but the plan for reentry, not so much.

“None of it has been business as usual. There are people who want to come back to the office. Their home setup isn’t ideal for them. We have some jobs that need to be in the office,” Jones said.

H&R Block officially invited its employees back June 1, but Jones told employees that if their job tasks allowed them to continue to work from home, they do not have to come back unless they feel comfortable.

“We’re going to invite people back based on their birth month,” Jones said as he explained the company’s reentry program. With this method, the company expects no more than 200 people at a time.

Depending on the data, H&R Block could reach full capacity by fall. When employees do return to the office, the new look H&R Block will have signs throughout the building promoting social distancing: six feet of distance, no more than four people allowed on the elevator, areas designated for pickup or drop-off orders.

The goal is to “Keep Calm And Keep Your Distance.”

Jones said predicting what the next six months will look like for H&R Block will be difficult. “Six months from now, we will just have come out of the tax season. It’s been extended since July 15. We’ll be reconciling how our business transformed.”

As most businesses take a hit and even look at layoffs or furloughs, the Power and Light District’s largest employer is not. Jones said they are cutting expenses and have implemented a hiring freeze for the foreseeable future to protect employees — protection that comes after the company posted a 73-percent decline in earnings for its fiscal year. Company leaders said some of that stems from the tax deadline moving to July 15. Jones sees a lot of promise. Website traffic has spiked beyond expectations. They have not had to suspend operations since H&R Block is deemed essential.

“This is where the most creativity had to come to play. At the end of the day, you are evaluated based on your purpose as a company,” Jones said. That purpose continues to evolve amid this pandemic.

H&R Block has been a mainstay in Kansas City since 1955. The Power and Light District’s largest employer has been on Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri, since its founding.

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