The past two years have been a whirlwind.
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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for creating a safe workplace environment.
Since the pandemic’s beginning, societal standards—especially regarding public health—have shifted significantly. Your HR and operations teams must adjust accordingly. But this might not be such an easy feat. To that end, here are eight proactive tasks to tackle now, so you’ll be better positioned for whatever comes next.
- Review and Update Your Leave Policies: Everyone in your organization needs to understand how the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) affects the company’s leave policies. Review your paid time off (PTO), vacation 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 why you are making them.
- Reassess Your Workforce Communication Strategies: For the successful functioning of any business or organization, it’s important to communicate frequently and transparently with your workforce. Make sure you have effective communication strategies and vehicles in place so you can keep workers up-to-date and informed. In addition, encourage workers to ask questions or share concerns, and advise managers to take any concerns seriously and report them up the chain when needed.
- Prepare for PTO! Something that we have all learned in the past two years is to not take anything for granted—including paid time off. Employees will not let their PTO go to waste and rightfully so. 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 requests come in.
- Look for the Leaders in Your Workforce: The composition of your workforce is undoubtedly going to change as your company and employees thrive. Get ahead of it by asking 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: In light of the pandemic and other everyday illnesses, you may receive a higher number of disability accommodation requests—especially from workers whose health conditions place them at higher risk of post-COVID conditions, or “long COVID.” 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: Absenteeism is something that employers should always keep on their radar, especially after difficult times. To that end, accelerate your cross-training initiatives so workers can step in for one another when needed. Make sure your scheduling software allows you to identify employees by their capabilities, training and certifications so managers can make appropriate substitutions in a timely fashion.
- Ask Managers to Be Flexible and Compassionate: In the midst of an ever-fluctuating economy, your frontline managers will likely be dealing with employees who are anxious and worried about finances, particularly if you manage an hourly workforce. Encourage managers to be mindful of the added stress their employees may be under and flexible in making adjustments accordingly when possible.
- Create a Second-Wave Emergency Plan: Nobody anticipated the international panic we would experience with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not inconceivable that businesses will face future nationwide—or even global—issues that we didn’t see coming. Now is the time to develop a plan for dealing with anything that may come our way, including an emergency communication plan. We hope it won’t be needed, but better to have one and not use it than need one and not have one.
HR plays a key role when it comes to getting companies up and running safely and productively, and these tips will help you get there. Coming up with a complete HR action plan is a great way to set your company up for success in any and every situation.