Transitioning Back to Workplace Industry Insights SMB Matters HR Essentials

Transitioning Back to the Workplace – Part 5: Looking Ahead and Preparing for the Future

July 14, 2020

As companies move from shelter in place to their new normal, it is important for leaders to remember that shelter in place may happen again. Many speculate that there could be another wave of COVID-19 cases this fall, perhaps at the same time as seasonal flu season begins to peak, and that public health officials could reinstate or renew shelter in place orders. Here are some recommendations on how you can prepare for the possibility of future shelter in place orders.

  • Create a COVID-19 Task Force: Create a cross-functional team with a regular cadence that tackles company issues related to COVID-19. Members should review updates from the CDC and local municipalities regarding shelter in place guidelines and determine how these changes impact the company, employees, and work locations. This team should also review the company’s previous shelter in place response. What worked well? What does the company need to improve on? Identifying what worked well and what improvements are needed now will be critical if employees do need to shelter in place again.
  • Develop A Communication Plan: It is important to think through a communication strategy for various groups of employees now to avoid being caught off guard if shelter in place returns. Think through how your company will communicate with:
    1.  Employees who will transition from working in the office to working remotely.
    2.  Employees who are unable to work remotely and may be furloughed. These employees may not have access to company email or company equipment. How will you check in on these employees and communicate return to work expectations? Who will be responsible for the communication?
    3. Employees who must continue to work in the office based on the nature of their role or their location.
  • While developing a communication strategy for a potential wave, it is also important to examine your current communication strategy related to COVID-19. Companies should send regular communications including COVID-19 updates, process and policy changes, and CDC updates. Providing regular updates minimizes the likelihood of employees being surprised if you need to make changes to the workplace due to COVID-19.
  • Examine your technology and infrastructure: Look at the technology that needs to be in place for employees to work from home effectively. How will employees conduct meetings? Do you need to upgrade conference call capabilities? Are there any privacy concerns with employees working remotely? Now is the time to prioritize and upgrade your company’s technology infrastructure so that employees can transition to remote work seamlessly if required.
  • Job Roles: Now is also a good time to review job duties and job descriptions. Some job duties may have changed since the onset of COVID-19. Update job descriptions to ensure they accurately account for employees’ duties. Evaluate what roles can be done remotely. Are there adjustments that need to be made to duties so that those jobs can be done remotely? Particularly employers who have experienced significant changes in job duties also need to re-examine their FLSA classifications of exempt employees to ensure they still meet the requirements of the exemption.
  • Policies: Companies should also review policies and procedures during this time. Ensure you have a good remote work policy in place as well as an infectious disease policy with protocol for dealing with known or suspected cases of COVID-19. Many companies are using this time to re-evaluate their leave of absence and paid time off policies to ensure adequate for employees to remain in quarantine if, for example, they are exposed to COVID-19 or support family members who may be suffering from the virus. A comprehensive time off policy will keep the employee from returning to work too soon and other employees safe.
  • People Management: As you prepare for the possibility for another round of shelter in place, it is important to think through how you will manage your people. Many employees may have been overwhelmed with work/life balance while sheltering in place and may undergo stress as you shift to a remote environment again. Promote your company’s employee assistance program if you have one in place.

It is also important to evaluate how you will engage your employees while working remotely. Many companies will still need to recruit, regardless of shelter in place orders. Now is a good time to evaluate what changes to your recruitment process need to be made while working remotely. You will need to consider how you conduct interviews and support the new hire onboarding process in a virtual setting.

Companies should also ensure that they have a good foundation of how performance is measured. Many companies were caught off guard when shelter in place was initially implemented and had to determine how they would measure employee productivity remotely and with potentially altered responsibilities and metrics.

Even though the idea of returning to shelter in place can feel overwhelming, it is important to prepare now to avoid being caught off guard.

Follow TriNet’s COVID-19 Business Resiliency and Preparedness Center for critical up-to-date information on changing regulations and their impact on small and medium size businesses.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

This post may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such websites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks on TriNet.com does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.

By Kelly Pacatte

Kelly Pacatte is a senior employee relations consultant with TriNet.

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