By Salina Williams, Senior Consultant
Feldman Daxon Partners recently held a group of interactive webinars with over 70 Canadian human resources professionals collaborating and sharing their organizations’ approaches to returning to work during COVID-19.
The huge shift of creating a remote workforce has now been orchestrated by HR leaders with some surprising results. Organizations that never imagined they could function virtually have done so successfully. Now as the economy slowly reopens there is the unique challenge of redesigning a workplace that aligns with the ever changing COVID-19 reality and health requirements.
Feldman Daxon facilitators put forth two key questions to several groups of HR leaders:
- What steps are you and your leadership team taking to prepare for the re-opening of the economy in light of provincial guidelines?
- As the environment is evolving through the pandemic, what new best practices and initiatives are you considering?
The common themes that came through these rich discussions included the following:
- A number of organizations have transitioned from a very structured 1960s-mentality work environment to a much more flexible work arrangement and found that working remotely can be very effective.
- Many organizations are looking at not going back to the old model of working but are developing a blended model of working from home and working remotely.
- HR is commonly involving staff to determine return to work protocols.
- Plans are actively being worked to bring some employees back into the office environment but not all. Organizations are evaluating positions, seeking a balance with positions that can work from home and those that can work in the office, with special attention given to employees with risks factors (age, health, and commuting times).
- Employees will be brought back to the office using a phased-in approach as changes to COVID-19 regulations evolve. In most cases the dates for re-entry remain undecided.
- Communications have increased and organizations have adopted transparency, providing updates to staff as they evolve, letting them know of some of the physical changes they can expect upon return and as the pandemic dictates those changes over time.
- There is a strong focus on working with new government guidelines and adjusting health and safety practices to meet the new protocol.
- Sanitization programs are being developed for physical spaces, along with policies around how to enforce these new requirements.
- Return to work playbooks are being created for staff and managers. Included are notes for managers and protocols for cleaning and hygiene to enhance trust and create comfort for a safe return to work.
- Many organizations are preparing for the second wave of the virus and are stock piling supplies.
- Many organizations will stipulate that employees returning to work must wear a mask.
- Some companies have created videos to ensure that all employees understand different protocols such as how to properly wear a mask.
- Organizations are taking a hard look at current office space and determining if they still need the same amount of space.
- HR is maintaining a firm focus on promoting mental health for all employees providing education to good mental health practices, access to resources, and facilitated discussions.
Overall, organizations are not in a rush to bring employees back to physical offices until all requirements, plans, and changes are determined. The power of right choices will be very much a part of success.
Through this process HR leaders are discovering their own highest potential while finding the greatest good for all parties they serve. Within the choices that HR leaders make lies the potential for the greater good of society as a whole.
- On June 2, 2020