As states and businesses start to reopen, employers are eager to get back to work. But chances are, your workforce—and your HR priorities—have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For HR in particular, there is more to reopening than following CDC and OSHA guidelines for creating a safe workplace environment.
Once your company reopens, your HR and Operations teams will be swept up in day-to-day (or even hour-to-hour) problem-solving activities. To that end, here are ten proactive tasks to tackle now, so you’ll be better positioned for whatever comes next.
- Don’t Assume All Your Workers Are Coming Back
It’s advisable to give workers as much as advance notice as possible when calling them back to work—and to request absolute confirmation that they’re returning. Some workers, especially those at high risk or with young children at home, may opt not to come back at this time. If they haven’t yet used the emergency family and medical leave provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), they may choose to do now. The sooner you know, the better you can plan.
- Review—and If Necessary—Update Your Leave Policies
Everyone in your organization needs to understand how the FFCRA affects the company’s other leave policies. Review your PTO, vacations rollover, and forfeiture rules. Consider revising your bereavement leave policies, if necessary. And of course, communicate all changes and clarifications clearly to workers, along with the reasons behind them.
- Reassess Your Workforce Communication Strategies
With employee anxiety running high, it’s especially important to communicate frequently and transparently with your workforce, particularly about COVID-19 issues. Make sure you have effective communication strategies and vehicles in place, so you can keep workers advised and up-to-date. In addition, encourage workers to ask questions or share concerns, and advise managers to take them seriously and report them up the chain when advisable.
- Prepare for Massive Vacation Requests
Remember all those vacation requests that were abruptly cancelled when shelter-in-place orders were announced? And about all summer vacations your people typically request this time of year? Despite economic pressures, they won’t necessarily disappear because your business was shut down. In order to avoid resentments and conflicts (not to mention even higher levels of absenteeism), make sure you have a detailed PTO approval process in place before those requests come in.
- Look for the Leaders in Your Workforce
The make up of your workforce is undoubtedly going to change post shutdown. Get ahead of it: ask managers to evaluate individual employees for their growth potential. Who can best serve as change champions to help move the company forward in its new incarnation? Who should be tapped for promotions as positions open up?
- Be Ready to Weigh Disability Accommodation Requests
Once you call employees back to work, you may receive a higher number of disability accommodation requests—particularly from workers whose health conditions place them at higher risk of severe illness if exposed to COVID-19. Be poised to conduct individualized assessments and engage interactively with employees to determine if appropriate accommodations can be made.
- Create a Plan to Start Cross-training Employees
Chances are, absenteeism is going to be higher-than-average for some time. To that end, accelerate your cross-training initiatives so workers can step in for one another when required. Make sure your scheduling software allows you to identify employees by their capabilities, training, and certifications, so managers can quickly make appropriate substitutions at the last-minute.
- Ask Managers to Be Flexible and Compassionate
Your frontline managers will most likely be dealing with employees who are grieving, anxious, worried about finances, and/or frantic over childcare arrangements, particularly if you manage an hourly workforce, Encourage managers to be mindful of the added stress their people may be under and flexible in making adjustments accordingly when possible.
- Get the Jump on Anti-Harassment Claims
COVID-19 has passions running high. It’s possible that employees who’ve had the virus or are seen as lax on following social-distancing rules will be subject to potential harassment from coworkers. Consider retraining workers on your anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies—especially managers, who should be ready to nip conflicts in the bud.
- Create a Second-Wave Emergency Plan
There is much we are still learning about COVID-19 and the way it’s transmitted. It’s not inconceivable that businesses will face a second stay-at-home order or individual spikes in illness/absenteeism. Now is the time to develop a plan for dealing with it, including an emergency communication plan, based on everything you’ve been through. We hope it won’t be needed, but better to have one and not use it than need one and not have it.
Clearly, HR plays a key role when it comes to getting companies up and running safely and productively, and these tips are just the tip of the iceberg. For EPAY’s complete HR action plan—detailing everything from hiring and onboarding to payroll as it pertains to your HCM software—download our Get Back to Work Game Plan.