The black swan has taken a toll on people and businesses all over the world. In this context, many organizations have shifted to remote working as a measure to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Fortunately, the pandemic is now under a certain degree of control owing to the timely strategies undertaken by local, state, and federal agencies, the commitment of the health authorities, and the effective vaccination programs.
With the easing of Covid-19 related regulations and travel restrictions, your organization may be considering returning to physical workplaces – perhaps not full time, but maybe a partial work-in-the-office and work-from-home schedule. Regardless of the makeup the return to in office work and meetings comes with risks and challenges. It’s important that you adhere to the Covid-19 protocols and adopt stringent measures to ensure the safety of your employees and conformance to any local or state mandates.
Hence, returning to the office after working from home would never be as easy as it sounds and in fact, you cannot just simply announce the re-opening of the office and continue work as usual. In this context, a back-to-work checklist could be an excellent guide to streamline and take control of the new normal HR tasks in a post Covid-19 environment.
While the perfect return-to-work checklist would be distinct for each organization, the following is a sample HR checklist that you could use as a checklist template in planning, managing, and optimizing the transition from remote to the physical workplace.
Prior to Return
It will be natural for employees to have concerns of commencing in-person work during a pandemic time. Hence, it is the responsibility of the organization to ensure maximum safety at the workplace and HR Managers have a crucial role to play in communicating with the employees and helping ensure a safe and planned transition back to in-person work.
You also need to pay attention to the concerns raised by the employees at this stage and address them diligently. The following checklist may guide you in getting the workplace and the employees ready to facilitate the transition back to the office. These HR Covid-19 checklists can be utilized and customized for each department or small group in order to ensure each team’s unique situations are addressed.
You can find this HR Checklist for Preparing an Office for Employees Return in the HR workflow checklist templates section of Manifestly.
GETTING THE WORKPLACE READY
- Have the HVAC system checked to ensure proper ventilation
- Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors if possible, and using fans.
- Devise a daily cleaning plan with upgraded standards, and decide the allocation of cleaning responsibilities to relevant parties.
- Get an adequate level of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) ready and place sanitizers at appropriate places in the workplace.
- Restructure the workplace with a new layout to meet the social distancing requirements as stipulated by the health authorities.
- Display health and safety signs in the common areas of the workplace, demonstrating best practices.
SCHEDULING AND NEW WAYS OF OPERATING
- Segment the workforce and prepare a roster to bring employees back in phases, since having all of them at once could be risky.
- Devise a rotation or shift basis plan with separate time intervals for lunch breaks.
Update HR policies to match the roster, with due consideration to employee attendance, lunch breaks, leave, travel, etc.
- Create a separate plan for employees coming from high-risk areas and those with a higher vulnerability such as older employees and pregnant women.
- Arrange a plan for transportation of employees to the workplace safely.
- Establishing physical distancing measures within the workplace:
- Staggered shifts and lunch/rest breaks.
- Rotating weeks in the office and working remotely.
- Moving workstations to increase separation distance.
GETTING THE EMPLOYEES READY
- Conduct an employee survey to get their suggestions and ideas in returning back to work.
- Determine how to handle employees who are unwilling and hesitant to return to work.
- Update employee records with current emergency contact numbers.
- Communicate the organizational decisions and plans concerning the employees’ return to work.
- Conduct a comprehensive pre-return workshop to educate the employees about the best Covid-19 safety precautions they have to take when returning to work.
Managing the Return
Besides getting the workplace prepared, HR Managers will also have to ensure the physical and emotional health of returning employees. In fact, you need to pay attention to all critical aspects of HR Management including work scheduling, grievance handling, work-life balance, etc. Employees should be guided and supported in coping with the change.
You can find this HR Checklist for Managing the Return of Employees to the Office in the HR workflow checklist templates section of Manifestly.
- Bringing back employees in stages according to the pre-planned roster.
- Provide PPE including masks, face shields, gloves, and sanitizers.
- Provide access to hygiene products such as soap, tissues, and face wash.
- Restrict the number of people in meeting rooms and common areas of the work premises.
- Update visitor policies to restrict visitors to the work premises.
- Have constant communication with employees to update them on the status of the pandemic and the organizational news.
- Devise an exposure-response plan covering the areas of contact tracing, and isolation.Create a team to monitor the workplace and identify any triggers and events related to Covid-19.
- Educate the employees about how to respond in case they come in contact with an infected person or showcase any Covid-19 related symptoms.
- Make arrangements to help get employees vaccinated.
- Constantly recall the necessity of adhering to safety measures instilled in the workplace.
- Maintain a stress-free work atmosphere with minimum distractions to restore employee productivity.
- Constantly boost employee motivation through workshops and constructive feedback.
- Encourage social interaction through contactless games and other fun events.
- Adjust KPIs for employees as a means of encouraging them.
- Monitor employee performance continually to ensure that they are on track and that they do not deviate from the organizational goals and objectives.
- Set up a helpline so that employees can directly communicate with HR supervisors or Managers concerning any problems they are facing.
- Introduce a mental health hotline to assist employees who are struggling with work-related matters and those who are scared to return to work.
- Train employees to manage stress, and to stay focused at work.
- Continue learning and development programs consistently.
MONITORING AND CONTROLLING
- Monitor the stock of PPE available in the office, and procure supplies well in advance.
- Monitor whether cleaning and disinfecting are done according to predetermined standards.
- Continuously monitor whether employees are following the safety measures adequately.
- Get feedback from employees about how they feel about returning back to the office and get their suggestions to improve.
Preparing for Future Closure of Workplace
The contemporary business world is full of surprises and the pandemic has reinforced the uncertainty prevailing in a globalized environment. Hence, it is prudent that you mold your organization to overcome the potential adversities in the future.
In the context of the current pandemic, HR Managers should proactively plan to face a possible closure of the workplace in the future. The following is a sample HR checklist to get prepared for the future.
- Devise a team to monitor the pandemic situation continually, even after employees have resumed work in the office.
- Devise HR policies for remote working.
- Update technology and organizational systems to facilitate more efficient remote working.
- Train employees about the best practices in working from home.
- Prepare employees to shift back to remote working at short notice, in a potential closure of the workplace.
- Consider shifting to a hybrid workplace with a distributed workforce to benefit from long-term cost savings.
- Continuously upgrade HR policies in response to the dynamics and uncertainties in the external environment.
- Devise a comprehensive BCP (Business Continuity Plan) to proactively prepare to face any future emergencies.
It is evident that Covid-19 has materially altered the way we work and function as a business. Thus, it is important to understand that the returning workplace will never be the same as it used to be. In fact, this is the new normal and certain changes are sure to last for a long time. In this context, having a holistic HR checklist for employees returning to work after Covid-19 can be a great way to ensure a smooth transition.