Are you prepared for a re-emergence of COVID-19?
Updated: Nov 21, 2021
With nearly two weeks under our belt in “phase one” reopening in many counties and states, one may start to feel like we are returning to normal. However, if the coronavirus re-emerges into summer and fall, due to a decrease in social distancing, increased levels of exposure, and other factors, employers should be preparing for a possible return to remote work and other workplace adjustments.
As an HR professional, I would recommend making plans now. Start by talking about your company’s lessons learned, what worked, and what didn’t? Did your policies support employees working remotely? What about your position descriptions? Did you have the tools to stay connected? Were you able to communicate effectively with one another? Did your customers experience a different level of service? Be sure to include things about access to phone lines, computers, and all other systems needed to accomplish your business. In an Incident Command Structure (ICS) this process is referred to as the after-action report.
Some take-aways for the next possible office shutdown may include:
· Trusting your employees who are working remotely. Surprise! Many are finding out they are working more hours, are more productive and better focus than working in their normal office environment.
· Consistently allow people to telecommute, as needed and approved, to provide greater flexibility and confirm that the company's technology can continue to support it.
· Ensure virtual-meeting platforms are secure and available to everyone.
· Adapt your hiring practices for a virtual world, including interviewing, hiring, and onboarding.
· Communicate an understanding of workplace balance. Many employees are delegating their time between working full time and adjusting to the needs of others in their household including children’s home school schedules.
Providing emotional safety is another lesson HR professionals have learned during the coronavirus pandemic. Supporting your employees with greater flexibility to pause when they need a moment or even their child needs more than a moment. Many employees are afraid to ask for understanding, believing it will be viewed as being lazy or not committee.
I recall when I first started to work remotely almost a year ago, and it was undue pressure I put on myself to skip lunch, show up early, work late. I told myself I needed to demonstrate my dedication and commitment to the team since they are no longer able to see my physical presence at my desk. Maintaining this belief, I started to burn out.
Employers who have provided a sense of flexibility or freedom will continue to see dedication and engagement from their employees. This may mean have staggered work schedules or allowing employees to work at atypical working hours as a necessary solution. It comes down to letting employees know it is OK to not be perfect. To be able to feel stressed and share it. Not having leadership support or emotional safety is why many employees feel disengaged and why company culture may remain toxic in some cases. If you cannot feel like you can bring your true authentic self to work and are unable to share when you are struggling.
Another lesson learned in recent months is that remote hiring and onboarding requires a difference lens for HR and hiring managers. You should begin by reviewing your job descriptions for new skillsets. Ask applicants about their resourcefulness, autonomy, communication styles, and how they collaborate within their team.
Be open to discussing physical contact. Not everyone is keen on returning to the physical workplace. Discuss your team’s philosophy on social distancing, face-covering requirements, flexibility to work remotely, and your various channels of virtual communication.
Create opportunities for social interaction, especially for new employees. As they are coming on board either in a virtual or physical workplace, find ways for them to connect. Some examples could include, virtual or physical weekly stand up meetings, virtual happy hours, and having a little fun through team meeting bingo.
At the end of the day, remember we are human. We are in this together. Give each other grace and understanding. Finding balance in yourself will only be reflected in your focus and dedication to your work.
For more information about after actions reporting and gearing up for a possible return to remote work contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org