Everyone in business, and indeed in the world, asks the same question: When will things get back to normal?

The real questions for organizations are:

  • What should we be doing now?
  • When the time comes, how should we ease back into normal operations?
  • What can we learn from this experience to improve our operations, especially when it comes to human resources knowledge, whenever things get back to normal?

This pandemic has a number of valuable lessons for organizations when the time comes to reopen. Some of these are best practices for human resources pandemic planning that some organizations were already following. Others are insights that organizations have learned after pivoting to a remote workforce.

Whether putting new technology or new ideas to work, here are some thoughts many organizations can apply now and in the near future.

Remote Productivity

Many managers believe that employees are less productive when they’re not in the office. Surprisingly, the reverse is true. Here are two interesting data points:

A recent study by Vouchercloud, a U.K. money-saving site, found that the average worker is productive for only two hours and 53 minutes per day. On the flip side, a two-year study by Stanford University found that employees were far more productive at home. The study showed average productivity gains of 13%, which is almost equal to one full day of work per week. Remote employees also took fewer sick days and breaks.

The organization that tried the two-year experiment also saw significant savings in office rent and other expenses. In their case, the entire workforce was in the office one day per week, and half worked from home during the other four days.

In many organizations, employees who have had their first taste of working from home may want to continue telecommuting even after offices and businesses reopen. Organizations should strongly consider it.

Steps to Reopening

Guidelines from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), as well as our observations, support these recommendations for restarting business operations:

  • Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan. The plan should include preventive measures to protect workers, partners, vendors and clients.
  • Implement a screening program to ensure that employees aren’t sick and that sick employees are safely quarantined.
  • Be prepared to make difficult financial decisions. These could include no raises, no bonuses, no 401(k) matches this year, reduced hours/salaries, or other changes.
  • Revalidate who essential staff are, and consider multiple shifts or alternating workdays to limit employee exposure to one another.
  • Verify that all outsourced services/partners are back online and able to meet their commitments to the organization.

Best Practices for HR

Human resources knowledge is critical and professionals can begin to implement several strategies now that will help their organizations both during and after this pandemic.

  • Help managers communicate more effectively. Open communication is especially important in keeping workers engaged and productive.
  • Create and enforce social distancing at work. Avoid face-to-face meetings, and encourage eating lunches at desks or away from others. Try to avoid public transportation.
  • Add or revise policies on sick time, quarantine time and other situations related to infectious diseases.
  • Maintain adequate documentation on employees who are taking advantage of federal leaves to ensure tax credits.
  • Work with managers to review employees’ goals for the year and ensure they are still realistic. Adjust where appropriate. That includes bonuses as well.
  • Continue to recognize employees who excel. Celebrate employees who are finding creative ways to be productive or engage their colleagues.
  • Create a longer-term plan to keep teams working together when located remotely. We anticipate more remote workers post-coronavirus.

Keys to Working Remotely

At this point in their human resources pandemic planning, organizations should accept that many jobs can be accomplished from home. Employees are going to challenge the need to go to a workplace if they can connect with their colleagues and customers via technology.

The key is to use technology, such as video conferencing and chat apps, to foster teamwork and communication. A second key is to empower employees to make real-time decisions and to manage the responsibility for certain operations.

Most importantly, provide leadership that is inspiring, empathetic, and trustworthy. Trust and integrity are going to outweigh knowledge, educational credentials, and charisma for many organizations. And, needless to say, provide robust health insurance at a reasonable cost to all employees.

Finally, acknowledge—and really mean it—that work/life balance is necessary to engage and retain the best talent. People in this crisis are losing loved ones. They are not going to return to a work style in which their families are supposed to be second in their priorities.

As always, the Lindenberger Group has contributed human resources knowledge to organizations in many industries, plus implemented and managed best practices for their operations and employees. Please contact us for valuable insights on improving your efficiency, productivity, and morale.