COVER STORY – Return to Work Strategy after COVID-19 0

Return to Work Strategy after COVID-19
As employees return to the office, organizations face new challenges of adhering to state guidelines and reopening plans while making the necessary changes to protect the health of their employees. It is going to be crucial for management to navigate its workforce through such unprecedented disruptions. The article explores key considerations that organisations and HR leaders must consider when designing a return to work plan and reenvision how to operate in this new reality in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Reimaging the workplace is a new buzz in industries now. Previous year we’ve seen many challenges in developing a culture to perform work from home activities. Now situations are in reversing mode and now organizations predict their employees to start out coming to their desk.

Still, some organizations are existing which are allowing their employees to figure from home and a few of them are adopting hybrid culture apart from those two categories of organizations, we’ve some industries which cannot operate business function for much longer in work from home culture and that they expect their employees at the workplace.

To create an amicable environment at the workplace, HR leaders must plan on a certain line of action which is required to form their employee comfortable and safe at the workplace in the post-COVID-19 scenario. These are the following points on which HR leaders must work.

Put Safety First

The organization must make sure that they’re complying with all required guidelines by the state to supply a safe environment to figure. HR leaders need to redesign the sitting arrangement which will now require more space than earlier to keep distance between the desk of each employee. So, in that case, if your organization cannot operate business function without employees, so this restructuring of the workstation will be a new challenge.

The HR department can categorize employees according to the department and their role wise to decide the count of employees required in work from office and remaining can be asked to work from home, which can reduce the expenses and health hazard issue as well. I would suggest investing in buying IT equipment like a laptop, wireless mouse, portable printer, tablets, or mobile phone to manage the business operation from home, which will be in use for a longer period than redesigned infrastructure which will seek restructuring again in coming year post recovery from COVID-19 as vaccination process has started in India.

In that case, investment in changing infrastructure until your business practices bound you to do that will not make any sense, wherein purchased IT equipment will be utilized for a longer period by the team from any location. The organization should invest funds and energy in employee wellbeing and people areas of development which might motivate them to allow their best output whether they are working from the office or home.

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Proper guidelines should be posted on the company’s bulletin board and from time to time HR can send health bulletin via emails to their employee to remind necessary health guidelines and precautions as a reminder. The proper standard operative procedure should be defined in which employees should be advised to avoid using non-public protective equipment, sanitizing hands, and checking the fever of anyone visiting your workplace be it, visitor or employee.

HR should instruct the employee to furnish proper documentation as per state guideline post recovery from corona infection before rejoining the office. Proper sitting arrangement in common areas like cafeteria, meeting rooms and visitor’s room should be designed in a very manner that social distancing policy will be implemented successfully.

Management must work on proper ventilation facility which is required to avoid the spread of corona infection. Especially, once we speak about factory or plant’s worker, we must make all needful arrangement at plant sites like proper health checkup camp for employee’s and their members of the family, counselling sessions for mental wellbeing, and regular health checkup team which may keep an eye on among employees. Management must make sure that they have to have adequate supplies of sanitiser and face masks for the workforce. Workstations, light switches, door handles, windows, meeting rooms & visitor rooms, etc. are sanitized regularly.

I would suggest investing in buying IT equipment like a laptop, wireless mouse, portable printer, tablets, or mobile phone to manage business operations from home, which will be in use for a longer period than redesigned infrastructure which will need restructuring again in the coming months post-recovery from the COVID-19 as vaccination process has already started in India.

Implementing New Work Trend in New Normal

There would be next challenge for an organization to manage the employee’s interaction at the workplace within which a number of them are those that were furloughed, and that they were recalled, a number of them who were engaging from home and few of them who were acting from office only.

Of these employees classifications have experienced different quiet environment in past one year while engaging from their designated location so HR should specialize in proper counselling to those employees so they must not see any difference among them in terms of job assigned to them or their work location or anything which be disparity fact.

There are certain departments like finance, operations, sales, logistics, or service management, which require face-to-face interaction must be trained and educated about health-guidelines and client/customer preferences. Their front-line managers can decide their travel plans to avoid unnecessary business travel by promoting digital platforms for any meeting of individual or group.

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The HR team should team provide in-house training for giving them presentations through video conferencing by removing their hesitation to face clients or customers online. The HR team should be incredibly careful in addressing any grievance reported to them as small incidence is a reason for dissatisfaction among employees, which may create an unpleasant environment on the floor.

There are certain departments like finance, operations, sales, logistics, or service management, which require face-to-face interaction must be trained and educated about health-guidelines and client/customer preferences. Click To Tweet

Management must make sure that their leaders are aligned with revised working policies in a manner that they manage to down the road team accordingly and their actions and words shouldn’t reflect any ambiguity and disparity in any manner. Since leaders manage their team so for them their team’s safety and mental wellbeing should be at the core.

Management Approach in Post COVID-19 Scenarios

Return to Work Strategy after COVID-19 2

Management must make sure that their leaders are aligned with revised working policies in order that they may manage down the road team accordingly and their action and word shouldn’t reflect any ambiguity and disparity in any manner.

Since leaders manage their team, so for them their team’s safety and mental wellbeing should be at the core. Management should introduce a separate department for internal corporate communication which can be a reliable source for communication. This department may be used for reporting directly for any grievance or suggestion or anything which should be notified to management while keeping the confidentiality of the communicator.

Management should be prepared to implement absolute best practices to form employee transition from home to the office easier and safer. During this changing environment, employee wellbeing has become a more valuable term to exercise and focus on.

“Home Office Exit Plan” should be communicated to employees which plan should be transparent and straightforward. Reorganizing policy must be prepared as per the role so only those employees will be asked to figure from office, are really required rest employees are often given the option of labour from home which can reduce load over floor management & also count of employees on the floor will be controlled and managed correctly.

The organization must answer several questions coming from employees for the time after this transformation. Other than this, control over ongoing costs and especially personnel costs are a concern for management that can be dealt with by better workforce planning for which role of HR leaders will enhance and will seek more agility.

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Ankur Gautam is a Strategic Human Resource Specialist with almost 16 years of experience in various HR genres like HR Business Partner, Employee Engagement, Talent Management, HR Analytics, Performance Management, HR Operations, Compliance and Audit, HR Project, and Industrial relations. He has worked in a variety of industries including IT, Consumer durable, Advertising Media, BFSI & Manufacturing. Previously, he has worked with Unicode Systems Private Ltd, Energy and Fire Tech India Private Ltd, Sigma Trade Wings & Sahara India. He holds an MBA in International Business from Pondicherry University.

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