As the workforce begins the slow and steady road to recovery, business leaders are faced with the challenge of effectively and safely navigating next steps. The last several months have proven that during these unprecedented times, it is important to rely on best practices to guide business outcomes as well as employee health and well-being.
While it can be tempting to jump back into business as usual to make up for lost time and or possible lost revenue, it may benefit company leaders to take a step back and evaluate what should come next. This can include prioritizing immediate objectives while also taking time to consider the longer-term implications of COVID-19. Below are several suggestions to guide businesses through the balancing act of returning to the workplace.
Update company policies
It is likely that many organizations were pushed to adopt new policies over the last several months, such as remote work guidelines and adjustments to paid sick leave benefits. It is important to evaluate which of these recent changes may need to become a permanent addition to company operations. Consider scheduling time with both leadership and human resource representatives to develop new policies or tweak existing guidelines to better serve teams moving forward. While some changes may have worked to the benefit of an organization, there may be areas that require evaluation and adjustment. Creating detailed policies for times of crisis may help to mitigate confusion or uncertainty should a similar scenario happen in the future.
As offices reopen, it is more important than ever to prioritize the health and safety of all employees. Before allowing employees to return, companies should develop a plan for sanitization, social-distanced work areas and other safety precautions. Once these safeguards are in place, management should share a detailed outline with team members to ensure individuals feel comfortable and safe. Encourage questions and feedback, and alter plans as appropriate to account for the team’s input. In addition, choose trusted sources to reference regarding health updates, such as the CDC or local health departments. Also, consider appointing one or several managers, depending on company size and location, to be responsible for monitoring daily changes, concerns and local advisories regarding COVID. Develop a written plan for monitoring safety and regularly communicate updates to employees to help them stay healthy and feel confident in the measures the company is taking.
During the extended period away from the office, some team members may have experienced an increased level of stress due to workplace changes, overall uncertainty and possible health concerns. To help prevent employee burnout, employers should consider supporting new, motivational initiatives that are centered around workplace culture as teams return to the workplace. Keep employees engaged by offering socially distanced team-building exercises and virtual group lunches. Employers may also want to focus more heavily on mental health and stress mitigation strategies to help foster employees’ overall wellbeing. Encourage managers to get creative and develop safe and healthy ways to reengage connection and team spirit as groups transition back to the office.
Conduct a SWOT analysis
Whether in connection to a pandemic or as a regular company practice, it is important to assess on an ongoing basis what is working well, areas of concern and any needed adjustments. Consider evaluating the areas of success, weakness, opportunity and threats that COVID-19 presented over the last several months. While there are likely areas that can be pinpointed for needed improvement, there may also be areas that did surprisingly well or processes that came out of this time that will improve operations or efficiencies moving forward. Highlighting what worked, as well as what didn’t, can help companies to better position themselves moving forward.
As much as leaders may hope for business to quickly return to its pre-coronavirus state, the SWOT analysis may shine a light on the direction a company should move. The truth is that many industries will see long-term, or even permanent, adjustments to operations moving forward. For some, initial projections and strategies developed in Q1 or Q2 may be outdated or irrelevant. While the rest of 2020 remains somewhat uncertain, it is important to take time now to realign existing strategies to better match the current state of business. This may mean redirecting approaches to customer engagement, product distribution or advertising dollars to better meet the needs of a changing landscape. Innovation and adaptation may help organizations remain flexible and respond quickly to the challenges ahead.
While returning to work may feel anything but normal for quite some time, taking this opportunity to plan, prepare and adapt during the transition back to the office can help businesses reemerge stronger than ever.
Heather Lopez is a human resources manager with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions. For more information about Insperity, call 800-465-3800 or visit www.insperity.com.