The COVID-19 pandemic has put into effect a shift that many experts already agreed was on the horizon: the emergence of a fully digital (remote) workforce. In an effort to protect employee health and maintain regular business operations, many companies are now developing strategies to address both remote and in-office needs. In fact, employee surveys show that even before the virus outbreak, over 80% of individuals wanted to work from home, whether in part or full time.
As you develop and refine your own company’s plan, consider framing your solutions under two main categories: your timeline (when you do it) and your tactics (how you do it). Communicating and executing according to this plan will help your employees adapt to this newly adjusted way of business.
For the Employees In-Office
Many large technology and manufacturing companies have had to learn balancing a system in which part of the employees are working from home, while others are in office. As a dominant purchasing platform, Amazon has made significant changes to their warehouse and operational facilities after initial criticism for a lack of process.
Allowing packages to be prepared and shipped on-time while maintaining employee safety has now become their primary focus. Many of their new initiatives can be scaled to fit small and medium size companies, including:
- Implementing process updates for social distancing and personal space cleaning procedures.
- Distributing protective gear, like masks, face shields and gloves.
- Developing in-building traffic flow procedures to limit contact.
- Regular, professional cleaning of the building, in addition to janitorial services (even the New York Stock Exchange underwent a recent deep cleaning).
Other large companies like Apple have also announced that specific departments will be returning to their offices with similar procedures in place to keep their employees safe.
According to research from SERVPRO companies are very concerned with sanitation and cleaning, citing that “these actions and higher standards are becoming the new norm in nearly every industry worldwide and will pave the way for the future of hygienic standards in business overall.”
For the Employees at Home
Companies that are shifting to a majority remote employee model should consider that providing a safe work environment is still their responsibility and is just as important as it was before. With timelines for a return-to-office extending based on research, it’s time to evaluate what benefits we need to provide to those who aren’t within our physical walls.
For companies like Twitter and Facebook, the return to the office will be left up to the employees themselves. Jennifer Christie, Twitter Head of HR, recently wrote in a blog post that while, “opening offices will be our decision, when and if our employees come back, will be theirs.”
If you’re planning to adapt this same approach, consider implementing a few tactics to support your employees at home:
- Provide mental health resources and support (see Adobe’s “Emotional Wellbeing” program).
- Create online exercise and wellness programs, like exercise videos or nutrition education.
- Pay for home WiFi costs where relevant.
- Outsource your IT support to improve response times and avoid exhausting your current resources.
Keep in mind that the tactics we develop to support employees at home can and should be provided to all employees, regardless of location. While some benefits may only apply in specific use-case scenarios, ensuring that all individuals are given the resources they need to succeed is key.
Kathie Patterson, Chief Human Resource Officer for Ally Financial said in regard to their employee plan that, “this pandemic has shown how critical it is to embrace our humanity, be understanding and caring — and that holds true for companies, too. Make sure ‘human’ is prioritized in Human Resources…everything we do is through the lens of care and support.”