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Return to Work: How HR Can Navigate the "New Normal"

How to stay compliant, supportive, and productive while navigating the return to work

Elle Mason

by Elle Mason - April 7th, 2021

With the accelerated COVID-19 vaccine distribution, many companies are preparing to go back into the office. This article will serve as a resource for HR managers on how to navigate the new normal, and specifically, how to stay compliant, supportive, and maintain productivity while navigating the return to work.

What factors should you consider before planning to go back to the office / returning to work?

Who is making the decisions? Are they determined in collaboration with employees, managers, leaders and HR teams - or are they decided by one executive? Where employees given an opportunity to provide input, perspective or feedback on the decisions?

What are the safety implications? Have you determined a strategy for managing any ongoing PTO an employee might need to receive their vaccine? Is there a COVID-19 sick leave policy for people showing symptoms? Are employees being encouraged to take sick leave and quarantine or get tested if needed or concerned about exposure or recent symptoms?

Have you considered remote work? Is it feasible for some roles to remain remote to minimize risk? What were the arguments against remote work?

What location logistics need to be planned? Will you prepare the environment for screening (e.g. sanitization; temperature scans)? Will you consider staggering shifts or adding limits to how many people can gather in an enclosed space?

Will this negatively impact your employees? Will returning to work increase their stress and anxiety? How will it affect their morale?

How are you communicating this to your employees? Were they given sufficient time to mentally prepare and physically prepare (make childcare arrangements, etc.)? Were they afforded the opportunity to share their feelings, concerns, or feedback?

Workflows - With going back to the office comes new processes, checklists, and tasks for HR. You may need to create a checklist for returning to the office, or to make sure every employee is squared away with the equipment they need when they’re back. GoCo’s workflows feature automates and streamlines ANY HR checklist you have, so you can easily build a custom digital workflow, assign tasks to people, and track your progress.

Have you considered how to stay productive?

Have there been changes made to how you measure employee success and productivity? Have the current benchmarks been relaxed to accommodate the external events that employees are managing? Have employees been able to provide feedback about the feasibility of meeting the success and productivity standards/

Are employees concerned about a decrease in productivity when returning to the office once accounting for commute time, distractions, and potentially enhanced anxiety - and will you need to take any of these changes into consideration when returning to work and planning for productivity?

How are you adapting to change, more broadly? Have you incorporated any best practices in organizational change management? Are changes communicated in a timely and widespread way? Do reasons, rationale and other considerations accompany the change communications? Are employees able to provide feedback about changes, and at what point in the process?

HRIS - There is no time like now to transition to digital HR processes. Returning to work with the new normal means that lots of business owners and HR managers are looking at their existing processes differently. Having had to navigate the pandemic remotely and away from their employees, the importance of having a digital hub for all employee data and HR needs is crucial. HR platforms like GoCo are a consolidated place for managers to view all team information, report on the data, collect documents, run payroll, and more.

Have you revisited your policies?

Depending on how your company responded to the pandemic, there will likely be policy changes. Have you revisited and revised your policies?

Do your policies maintain the goal of keeping employees healthy and safe? In what ways do they need to be revised to communicate that?

Do your policies reflect the current state of company values? Have you assessed this amongst the teams?

Are your policies aligned with federal, state, and local compliance standards and mandates? Ensure that they've been updated to reflect any COVID-19 related compliance changes?

With GoCo’s Magic Docs, you can easily upload your existing pre-pandemic/pre-new normal policies and Magic-tize them. You can add new custom fields, new e-signature fields, and collect new acknowledgements to ensure your employees are staying in the loop with any updates you may have made to navigate the new normal. Once they sign, you can also keep their info securely stored in GoCo.