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Returning to Work Safely

Managing Your Workforce in the New Normal

By Rieva Lesonskyworkplace

Just when we thought we could all safely return to the workplace, the coronavirus resurged across the nation, leaving America’s small businesses in various stages of reopening.

Although none of us know when the country will truly be open for business, in its guide Navigating the Way Forward: A Guide to Getting Back to the Workplace, ADP reminds business owners they need to develop a plan for navigating the next steps forward and managing their businesses, customers, and employees.

The sooner you create a workable plan that satisfies everyone, the quicker you can hit the ground running once you get back to work.

But realistically, you can’t wave a magic wand on day one and make everything perfect. It’s going to be challenging. And there aren’t one-size-fits-all solutions since a lot depends on your state and local guidelines and the industry you’re in.

To help you figure out the best workforce management solutions for your business, I talked to Jim McGeady, Sr. Director Product Marketing at ADP.

First, McGeady suggests you may need to adjust your mindset since so much is unknown. You need to be agile and ready to adapt to changing circumstances, such as fluctuating employee availability and customer behavior. A key goal should be to make sure everyone is comfortable. And McGeady says, “A lot of the changes the coronavirus ‘forced’ us to adopt, could stick around post COVID-19.” For example, McGeady says many companies that went remote temporarily, or even terminated leases, may decide “they don’t need the real estate” and switch to a permanent virtual operation.

“Changes in the workplace,” says McGeady, “may mean jobs have changed, and you may need to revisit worker classifications. Formerly exempt employees may now be eligible to collect overtime if their duties have changed.”

Returning to Work

McGeady says many small businesses may need to take a “phased approach” when returning to the workplace. Your goal—to create a safe and secure workplace while ensuring business continuity—is of paramount importance. Determine how you will handle the physical aspects, like social distancing, and the emotional ones.

McGeady identifies a number of key considerations:

  • Testing guidelines
    • Will you require employees to get tested before they come back to work?
    • Will you provide testing?
  • In-person meetings?
    • Will you allow in-person meetings at the office?
    • Will you limit the number of people who can attend? Set a time limit?
    • Will you restrict visitors from coming to your offices?
  • Safety
    • Will you require masks to be worn at all times while in the office? (Many states already have this requirement.)
    • Depending on the type of business you own, are there any other personal protective equipment (PPE) or clothing requirements?
    • Will you be stricter about people not coming to work if they are sick?
    • How can these policies be enforced consistently?
  • Attendance
    • It’s essential to establish new guidelines for taking personal time off or a leave, if necessary. Flexibility goes a long way here to improve employee loyalty. Due to circumstances they can’t control (school closings, for example), employees may face last-minutes issues (like childcare) that prevent them from coming to work.
    • Will you introduce a flextime policy? A work-at-home option?
    • Can you stagger employee working hours, so the office is not full all day?

When it comes to managing the work and your workforce on a daily basis, there are many factors to consider to maximize your productivity. McGeady says you may need to revisit your timekeeping methods and rules and optimize employee schedules by conducting a self-assessment:

  • What is your current workforce management process?
  • What are the key activities, and who performs them?
  • Which existing technologies are in use and can more automation help?

Then, he adds, consider these factors when creating your schedules:

  • Who is willing to return to work?
  • Who and how many need to return to work?
  • Are customers willing and able to come back?

Does it seem like you can improve your workforce management processes? ADP has solutions to help establish and operationalize many best practices. Their advice:

Use touchless and mobile solutions to collect time data. Implement technology to bring timecards online, so they can be collected and approved more easily. Consider tracking absences and leaves online, so that record keeping is more thorough and consistent.

  • Leverage online Schedules so they are more visible, and easier to manage, especially now that employee and customer conditions are changing by the day.

And gain insight into potential attendance and overtime issues, and make better decisions with reporting and analytics.

You can find a return to work checklist on ADP’s SPARK website.

Whether you’re ready to go back to work in a few weeks or several months, start developing your back-to-work plan now.

In part three of our three-part series, we’ll focus on business continuity and how to plan for uncertainty moving forward.

In partnership with ADP.

Workplace reopening stock photo by Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock

Getting Back to Business—Safely

By Rieva Lesonsky


Are you one of the small business owners who pivoted earlier this year to remote operation amid the coronavirus pandemic and are now confronting the return to work dilemma? It’s an increasingly common situation these days. Should you stay remote (some businesses are still paying rent for unused office space) or return to your workplace? When trying to make that decision, however, it brings up a host of other questions, including:

Can you return to work safely?

Are your employees ready to come back?

Do you feel confident you can provide a safe working environment for yourself, your staff, your clients and customers?

If you are struggling with these issues, you are not alone. And there are workplace tools and solutions available that may decide between returning to work a bit easier.

I recently talked with David Palmieri, DVP/GM of Product Management at ADP. Palmieri says they started hearing from clients back in the summer who were looking for tools to help them manage the getting-back-to-work process and create an environment where everyone felt safe.

Palmieri points out the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis were unique, and there weren’t any ready-to-go solutions “laying around” that could be immediately implemented. But, he says, ADP and other large companies were facing the same dilemma, so
“we rallied to bring tools to market” and got to work creating innovative solutions that were built right into ADP’s HR and payroll platform.

One of the biggest concerns business owners had was finding out if their staffs were even ready to come back to work. The safer-at-home policies enacted in many cities and states meant many employees were dealing with childcare issues they hadn’t worried about previously. And of course, everyone had healthcare concerns.

Through the RUN Powered by ADP platform, business owners can send short surveys to employees through the ADP Mobile app to assess if they’re ready, both physically and emotionally, to return to the workplace. Staff members are asked to attest to their health status, so employers can better determine who can safely come back to work. Managers can then view who is ready and able to return, and schedule workers based on their availability.

Things as mundane as a time clock became an issue. Business owners weren’t comfortable having their team touch a time clock, potentially spreading the virus. So the challenge of tracking employee time and attendance without touching a device was solved by the introduction of the ADP Time Kiosk solution, which includes an added “touchless” mode with optional facial recognition to log employees in and voice activation to start and end a shift or take a break.

Even with tools like these, you might feel overwhelmed. Part of the innovative toolset includes HR support—in real-time—from a “team of knowledgeable, experienced HR professionals” who are there to answer your questions about the safe return to the workplace.

And it’s not just about you. The Employee Assistance Program is there to provide your employees with support and help, offering access to counseling sessions, legal and financial referrals, consultations, and more.

Palmieri is realistic. He admits at this point, “not that much has changed. It still feels like three or four months ago.” Most people, whether they’re employers or employees, are still stressed. They’re still feeling uncertain. Many businesses are still operating remotely. But, Palmieri stresses, “when things change, they’ll move quickly.”

So it’s best to be prepared. Every small business needs a Plan B (or C) now—just for the pandemic. If you and your employees are still working from your homes, consider what it will take to get you to confidently return to your workplace. Palmieri says it’s about a “mindset.” He’s right. You need to feel secure in your decisions. Your employees need to feel safe. Your clients and customers need to feel heard. Everyone needs to trust one another.

Palmieri suggests this is a good time to explore the tools available to you now and start thinking ahead. Noting that giant corporations like Microsoft and Facebook have told their employees “work where you want,” he says, “the lasting effect of the pandemic might be that more businesses are permanently run remotely.” Or will create some type of hybrid work environment.

Everything remains in flux. But no matter if you’re running your business from an office, remotely, or both, Palmieri says you need a process to manage your operations, and you need the right tools to do it effectively. He adds businesses need workforce management tools offering time solutions and scheduling components. They need professional tools that let them manage tasks, create to-do lists, and enable project management.

Palmieri thinks everything businesses need “should come together in one toolset.” And he notes ADP is a customer-centric company and is committed to creating tools its clients can use. “We’re listening to customer feedback,” he says. “This was all so new businesses didn’t know what they needed. So we’d quickly develop something, and as soon as we did that, they’d say, ‘That’s great. Now I want something that does this.’”

Like entrepreneurs, Palmieri says, ADP is flexible and responsive and developing solutions in various platforms. “We’re deploying these building blocks across all ecosystems. Small businesses are getting the benefit because we’re offering solutions we’re using ourselves.”

In part two of our three-part series, we’ll discuss managing your business in the new normal.

In partnership with ADP.

Safe business stock photo by Gukzilla/Shutterstock