Welcoming team members back to work post COVID-19

From the pages of In Business magazine.

When organizations prepare to reopen, they will face new challenges. With guidance from federal, state, and local authorities, employers can put in place measures to effectively transition to a “new normal.” Employers should consider the following steps:

Step 1: Make the call to restore operations. Determine who will be part of the decision-making. This includes feedback from employees through surveys, committee involvement, or individual conversations. Next, develop your implementation strategy: all at once or staggered based upon department, shift, location, or client demand.

Step 2: Recall and rehire employees. Review the different legal and human resource aspects of bringing back furloughed, laid off, and terminated employees. Recognize that employees may earn more on unemployment. Be sensitive to the personal or financial stress the pandemic has had on them. Build in adequate time for employees to prepare for their return.

Step 3: Schedule effectively. With social distancing in mind, assess the best scheduling strategy: assigning different shifts or workdays; varying by job classification; or continuing telework in whole or in part.

Step 4: Plan for enhanced workplace cleaning and safeguards. Review current cleaning and disinfection practices and establish new protocols for sanitizing during and after the workday. Order sufficient cleaning supplies now, including products for employees’ individual use.

Step 5: Evaluate safeguards. To ensure employee health, critically assess necessary modifications to the work environment, equipment, and space utilization. Put in place new protective gear, behavioral changes, and new parameters for employee gatherings and interactions with clients, customers, and vendors.

Step 6: Assess employee health. Decide if and how you will screen and test employees’ health. Be mindful of legal, financial, and practical limitations, as well as your culture.

Step 7: Address employee concerns and needs. Before employees return, communicate all post-quarantine changes and expectations. Monitor employees’ wellbeing and morale consistent with your culture. Implement your recovery plan in afair and equitable manner.

Step 8: Anticipate employee leave requests. Employers covered by new federal leave laws could face employee requests for paid sick and family medical leaves. To obtain payroll tax credits, retain supporting leave documentation.

Step 9: Train supervisors and managers. Train managers and supervisors to support and monitor employees who are dispersed and/or under stress from the pandemic.

Step 10: Look back, plan ahead. Review what went well and what did not during the stay-at-home period. Address necessary changes now to be better equipped later.

Surviving the shared experience of COVID-19 provides leaders and employees a reserve of strength to draw from. Now is the time to come together as a true team.

Jane Clark, CEO and managing partner of Lake Effect HR & Law, wrote this with input from colleagues Sheila Conroy, partner, and Jenn Lindberg, HR advisor.

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